Top 10 Sports Stories of 2013: Ronda Rousey makes history

1) Ronda Rousey becomes UFC women’s pioneer — When 2013 was in its dawn, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey was just under two months away from making history at UFC 157.

Three days before 2013 ended, Rousey put a resounding exclamation point on the year with a victory at UFC 168 that was riveting, dramatic, dominant and controversial. In many ways, it was emblematic of Rousey, as she’s long been regarded as a complete package; possessing the phenomenal skills and athleticism, beauty and intellect and the brashness to be not just an Ultimate Fighting Championship titlist, but a mainstream star.

In between defeating Liz Carmouche on Feb. 23 and Miesha Tate on Saturday in two highly anticipated UFC women’s bantamweight title matches, Rousey put together a year like no other.

Having become the first woman to sign a contract with the UFC as a fighter, Rousey was subsequently crowned the first-ever UFC women’s 135-pound champion. The road to her first defense against Carmouche in the first-ever women’s bout in company history saw Rousey take on more media than any fighter — male or female — before. From HBO to Time Magazine, everybody wanted an interview with Rousey and she obliged. As fight time rolled around, many wondered if all the distractions would hinder Rousey, but the Glendale Fighting Club-trained grappler emerged still undefeated with a first-round armbar win over Carmouche. And history had been made.

Not long after, Rousey would coach opposite archrival Tate on “The Ultimate Fighter,” marking the first time in the show’s history that it would feature female coaches, in addition to female fighters. Not long after taping of the show concluded, Rousey was off to film “The Expendables 3” alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham and then went on to film “Fast and Furious 7” with Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker. All this while trying to stay in fighting shape for an impending bout with Tate.

That bout came and went on Saturday night, with Rousey winning via third-round armbar. Though it was the first time an opponent had extended Rousey past the first round, it was still a dominant performance. Throughout much of the fight, the fans had clearly sided with Tate, thanks in large part to how the two were perceived during “The Ultimate Fighter.” But boos for Rousey were deafening when she refused to shake Tate’s hand after the bout.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Rousey, at the post fight press conference, of the boos. “I’m aware of the role I was in.”

It was also announced on Saturday that Rousey already has her next opponent in line, as she’ll face Sara McMann, who is also undefeated and also a former Olympian, on Feb. 22 back in Las Vegas.

“I’m in the best shape of my life now, so it’d be the perfect time,” said Rousey, a former United States Olympic bronze medalist in judo who now has an 8-0 mixed martial arts record. “This is what I love to do.

“This is what I love to do, I’m meant to do it. I feel like I could fight again tonight.”

Whether she’s wearing a black hat or a white one, it’s clear Rousey’s star continues to rise and, though it might be hard to fathom that 2014 could be bigger than 2013, she has most certainly made a name for herself by overcoming obstacles and conquering new challenges.

“Yeah, going and doing those movies did make it much more difficult, which I did on purpose,” Rousey said. “I don’t do this for a living to do things that are easy. I need to keep finding ways to challenge myself. And that’s what I needed to do to make this more of a challenge for me.”

2)Championship drought quenched by Nitros — Glendale High boys' water polo was on the wrong end of history in 2012. The 2013 Nitros wrote themselves into not only program but school lore when they snapped a historic championship drought and captured the school’s first CIF title since 1989.

A year after dropping a three-goal, fourth-quarter lead and watching a Pasadena Poly program celebrate its first championship in three tries, Glendale found redemption in a 13-11 victory over Los Altos in the CIF Southern Section Division V title game on Nov. 23 in Irvine.

The Nitros found themselves in the driver's seat to start the year and never relinquished their place atop the division. While fifth-year Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook relied on the dominating presence of senior big man Arman Momdzhyan again, what put the Nitros over the top was their balance at both ends of the pool.

While Momdzhyan scored a game-high six goals in the CIF title bout versus Los Altos, junior Manuk Piloyan had the biggest tally of the match. Two of Piloyan's four goals came in the fourth quarter, including the final goal of the game with 1:04 to play. Defensively, Daniel Sarkissian continued to anchor the Nitros in goal, with 12 saves, in the championship-clinching win.

Momdzhyan was named the CIF Southern Section Division V Player of the Year and Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player, as he led the area with 169 goals. The Nitros finished 22-8 and 8-0 in league for their third straight undefeated league title.

3) Dramatic turnaround at St. Francis – Coming off one of its most trying seasons, St. Francis High’s football team produced one of its most successful years in 2013: starting on an eight-game winning streak, taking third in the Mission League and finishing at 10-3, 3-2 in league.

The Golden Knights advanced to the CIF Southern Section Western Division semifinals for the first time in eight years and stacked up well against some of the best competition in state, with all three of their losses coming against Western Division finalists Chaminade and Gardena Serra in league and in the postseason.

After posting playoff wins over Culver City (45-28) and Camarillo (42-21), St. Francis saw its banner year end in a hard-fought loss to Serra (22-14).

Veteran St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds was confident his team would produce a better record than its 4-7, 1-4 in league mark from 2012 — as the Knights dropped four games by a touchdown or less. Still, it would have been hard to predict St. Francis' success, which came on the backs of senior quarterback Ty Gangi and two-way starter Joe Mudie, a running back and defensive back, who played in front of jampacked stands all season long.

While Gangi carried some hype into his final high school season, he was better than could have been expected. He threw for 2,882 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions on 189-of-342 passing for a 100 quarterback rating. He ran for 12 more touchdowns and 421 yards on 117 carries, and also caught a touchdown. Mudie produced 1,962 total yards from scrimmage (1,350 rushing, 612 rushing) and 19 touchdowns (14 rushing, four receiving, one kickoff return).

While Gangi and Mudie consistently grabbed headlines, receiver Dylan Crawford and tight end John Carroll put up impressive numbers in the passing game. The Golden Knights paved their way to success with balance and a deep cast, including a sturdy offensive line and strong defense that held opponents to 21.7 points a game.

4) Redemption song for Crescenta Valley — While the last two years were bitter for the Crescenta Valley High girls' water polo program, it may have only stood to make 2013 even sweeter.

Coming off consecutive heartbreaking losses in the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals and the departure of six-year coach Pete Loporchio in the summer of 2012, the Falcons got back to work under first-year leader Brent Danna. From Day One, Danna and the Falcons were not shy about their intentions of championship or bust.

Thankfully, the latter never really appeared to be an option for Crescenta Valley, as the Falcons dominated nearly every team they came into contact with and finished 32-2. The Falcons spent most of the year ranked No. 1 in their division, won the Pacific League title with an 8-0 record and posted a 50-19 advantage on the scoreboard in four playoff games before capping their year with a 10-5 championship win over Riverside Poly on Feb. 23.

While Crescenta Valley had two pillars in senior goalkeeper and All-Area Girls' Water Polo and All-CIF Southern Section Division V Player of the Year Gabriel Isacson and Pacific League Most Valuable Player Shannon Hovanesian, it arguably boasted the most well-rounded team in the area. There was depth to spare for the Falcons, who had All-Area players Elissa Arnold, Katie Benson, Ashley Taylor and Breana Lawton on the roster.

5) Stengel Field takes center stage — Long after the baseball season had come to an end, Stengel Field remained on the radar of the greater Glendale area, including the city council and school district.

Questions about the condition of the 64-year-old building and field were raised at the conclusion of the Crescenta Valley High baseball season. Original plans were to shut down the field to perform maintenance in July, which would cut short the Glendale Angelenos summer collegiate season.

While the Angelenos got in a full campaign after the plans were pushed back, they did so after Stengel Field's bleachers were condemned, which limited seating to the first two rows. Even with the concerns about the conditions of Stengel, the Glendale Unified School District entered a joint-use agreement with the Glendale City Council to take over the maintenance and operation of the field.

The move was made after an outpouring of support from students and families in the district, namely those at Crescenta Valley High. The matter brought out student-athletes, parents and minor league baseball player and former Falcon Trevor Bell.

While a joint-use agreement is in place, the long-term future of Stengel Field is not. The city council voted to demolish the building with plans to put in temporary aluminum bleachers for 1,000 people until the school district can fundraise enough money to build a new stadium, which could take up to three years.

6) Storybook season for Flintridge Prep — As the postseason wore on, it became a question of what two already storied Flintridge Prep cross-country programs could accomplish next. The Rebels dominated the Prep League and stretched their run all the way to the national stage.

It started in familiar territory for the Rebels, as both the boys' and girls' squads produced individual and team Prep League champions. Individually, the brother-sister duo of Alan and Sarah Yoho turned in championship runs in 15 minutes, 18 seconds (tied for all-time league best) and 18:52, respectively.

Prep swept the top-four spots — Jack Van Scoter (second, 15:46), Tyler Fong (third, 16:30) and Nikhil Poole (fourth, 16:38) — for its 21st league title over the past 22 years on the boys’ side. On the other side, the Rebel girls won their first league title since 2006 with a 26-40 upset of two-time reigning champion Mayfield.

It was more of the same at the CIF Southern Section Division V Finals, as Flintridge Prep became the first school to sweep both titles in two years and first to do so in the division in six years.

Alan Yoho became the first-ever individual Southern Section champion in the boys' program with a time of 15:10, with Van Scoter taking runner-up again in 15:19. Even without the services of Sarah Yoho, the Rebel girls won a Southern Section crown after taking four of the top-10 spots, with Natalie O'Brien (fourth, 19:04), Ashley Lara (fifth, 19:11), Maia Cohen (ninth, 19:28) and Lacy Coan (10th, 19:29) earning those positions.

While Prep's boys' squad fell short of its third championship with a fourth-place finish at the CIF Division V State meet, Alan Yoho became the Rebels' first individual state champion in 15:11 at Fresno's Woodward Park. Van Scoter continued to run strong, too, with a third-place time of 15:41. The Rebel girls took third in consecutive seasons, led by Coan at 18th (19:40).

Alan Yoho's magical runs continued, as he shed his 88th ranking at Nike Nationals and placed ninth in 15:14 at Portland Meadows Course in Portland, Ore.

7) Young Tae Seo wraps up historic career — If any other swimmer in the area produced a final CIF Southern Section performance like Young Tae Seo did in 2013, he or she would have been thrilled. The stellar Crescenta Valley High athlete was disappointed with the laundry list of accomplishments he pieced together in his senior year, though.

The Naval Academy-bound talent won two CIF-SS Division II titles and set records in the 200-yard medley relay and 200 individual medley, with respective times of 1:33.47 and 1:47.80. Seo went on to finish runner-up in the 100 breaststroke (55.25) and 400-freestyle relay (3:04.14), while the Falcons also came in second to Los Osos, 285-234.

Seo walked into CIF coming off a legendary performance in the Pacific League Finals. In all, he racked up 10 Division II and 15 Pacific League titles in his career and currently holds seven of 11 league records after he won four league titles and set three league records in his final showing in the Pacific League.

Just like the previous three seasons, Seo was named the All-Area Boys' Swimmer of the Year a few months later and then voted the James H. Jenkins Male Athlete of the Year in consecutive seasons to help cement his legacy at a school that's housed its fair share of local legends.

8) Unexpected ending to Falcons turnaround — It appeared the Crescenta Valley football team was on pace for one of, if not its finest seasons yet, but out of nowhere the season came to a screeching halt.

On the heels of a 5-5 run in 2012, the Falcons opened 2013 at 4-0 and went undefeated through their nonleague schedule for the first time in 11 years. It wasn't just that CV won, but how it did so.

It started 2-0 for the first time in more than a decade when it edged San Marino in a shootout, 56-53. The Falcons then got their signature win in Pacific League action when they pulled out all the stops for a 48-47 overtime win over eventual CIF Southern Section Southeast Division semifinalist Burbank.

While CV went 8-2, 5-2 in league and stacked up with the best competition in the Pacific League and Southeast Division, a heartbreaking 24-17 loss to Burroughs in the second week of league proved to haunt the Falcons when it came time to decide the at-large teams for CIF.

Burbank, Burroughs and Crescenta Valley finished in a three-way tie for second place in league, with the Pacific's top-three teams moving on to the playoffs. The Falcons lost out on a coin flip to determine the final automatic playoff team and were then turned down for the final playoff spot by CIF in favor of a 5-5 West Covina team that was in a three-way tie for third in the Hacienda League.

The CIF Southern Section committee deemed Hacienda League the toughest in the division and the Pacific League the weakest and awarded the postseason appearance to West Covina based on strength of schedule in the formula it uses to determine at-large entrants.

The Crescenta Valley football community was equally outraged and distraught, as the likes of quarterback Brian Gadsby, lineman Davo Hakobian and all-around talent Kevin Hello were simply left at home wondering what could’ve been.

9) Repeat run for Crescenta Valley — There was a lesson to be learned in 2013: Do not underestimate Shawn Zargarian and his Crescenta Valley High boys' basketball team.

In 2012, the Falcons reached the CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinals and the CIF State Division I tournament but were expected to have a down year after they graduated four-fifths of their starting lineup and returned just one significant piece.

Cole Currie filled in as CV's go-to option at point guard and was flanked by surprise junior Nick Springer. While that duo served as the backbone, a team-first focus with role players like Eric Patten, Berj Krikorian, Kris Jabourian, Elliot Wilson and Ryan Schloessmann led the Falcons to consecutive campaigns in which they reached 20-wins, advanced to the CIF semifinals and state.

Crescenta Valley went 23-9, 11-3 in the Pacific League for second place and posted playoff wins over Paloma Valley (80-42), Edison (63-51), Millikan (68-54) before falling on the road to El Toro (68-38).  

10) Tologs take on CIF — In 2012, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy swimming took back the Mission League. A year later, the Tologs cemented their place in the competitive league and enjoyed their best finish in CIF Southern Section Division I since being bumped up from Division II in 2009.

Sacred Heart relied on a deep roster for success a year ago, but became the frontrunner for most of the season in 2013, with underclassmen talents Kirsten Vose and Kate Herrill leading the way. The Tologs took seventh in Division I after not cracking the top 14 the previous four years.

Vose reaped the highest honors of the group, with a dramatic victory in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:02.57 for a victory by .28 of a second. She also took sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:05.63) and was also a key part of the Tologs championship 200-medley relay team.

Sacred Heart did not start the first race of the day well and was in eighth place after the first 50 yards, but made up ground down the stretch – most notably Herrill's 22.82 sprint down the final 50 – for a victory in 1:44.26.

After the medley relay, Emily Balog and Katie Altmayer joined Vose and Herrill for another fourth-place finish in the 200-freestyle relay (1:36.12) later on, while Herrill improved on eighth seeds in the 50 free (23.66) and the 100 breast (1:03.81).

All the success was paved for in the league finals, where the Tologs won six of 11 events and set five school and three meet records. Vose, the eventual All-Area Girls' Swimmer and News-Press Female Athlete of the Year, won four league titles and had a hand in all three meet records.

Honorable Mention: Glendale Community College’s Grace Zamudio wins three junior college state titles in track; Trevor Bell has minor league resurgence with Cincinnatti Reds organization; Glendale High’s Michael Davis makes it back to state in track and field; Glendale Fighting Club’s Marina Shafir makes noise in mixed martial arts ranks with two first-round amateur wins; Boxer Vanes Martirosyan falls in first world title bid.


Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World