High School Sports

Nashville’s Tyler Wall earns Class 1A Player of Year honors

Nashville High School senior Tyler Wall never played a down of football during his four-year athletic career, but he couldn’t help but get caught up in Hornetmania last month as the football team advanced into the Class 2A state semifinals.

“Looking back it would have been kind of fun to be out there with all of my buddies,” Wall said last week. “And then this year when they got to the semifinals, I just think it would have been a lot of fun to be part of that.”

While the Hornets postseason ride will long be remembered by Wall, his athletic career also had its share of excitement.

A member of the highly successful Nashville golf team which reached four straight Class 1A State Golf Tournaments, Wall earned three state medals — including a fifth-place individual medal from the 2014 state finals and a pair of third-place medals in the team competition as Nashville placed third at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington in both the 2013 and 2014 state tournaments.

“Four state tournaments in four years. I don’t know too many kids who can say they’ve done that. Tyler is just a great kid and he’s had a great career here as a member of this golf team,” Hornets coach Jason Guest said. “He came in as a freshman with good fundamentals and was able to play right away and he just continued to improve as time went on.

“He works hard on his game, but he’s also spent the time in the weight room to improve his strength as well. He’s a kid who I never had to get on about working on his game or practicing. If anything I had to tell him to tone it down from time to time because I was afraid he would get burnt out.”

Perhaps one of the favorites to win the state title this season after finishing with a 36-hole total of 151 to place fifth as a junior, Wall enjoyed another solid season, earning all River-to-River Conference and all-south honors. And while his tie for 18th place at the state tournament was a disapointment to him, there is little doubt that Wall is deserving of the Metro-East Golf Coaches Association/News-Democrat Player of the Year honor.

Wall played at the bottom of the Nashville lineup during his freshman season which ended with the Hornets placing sixth in the state tournament. But it was before Wall had ever hit a golf shot in a match that he was motivated to try and be the best.

“My freshman year I remember my coach asked me what my goals were. I remember I told him that my goals were to be an all-state player,” Wall said. “I don’t think he believed that I waas capable of achieving that goal because I remember he asked me if I thought it was a realistic goal. That motivated me more then just a little bit.

“I had a good sophomore year and then I just started to play almost constantly after school and on weekends. I mean if it was 25 degrees with snow on the ground I would be out there playing or at least on the practice range hitting golf balls. I just fell in love with the game.”

After placing fifth as s junior and helping the Hornets place third in the state finals for the second year in a row, much was expected from Wall who shot a 76 at regional and a 74 at the Anna-Jonesboro Sectional.

But after a first round 86 at Prairie Vista Golf Course any hopes of a state title and even a state medal were gone.

“I had a couple of rulings that didn’t go my way and had to take some penalty strokes,” Wall said. “It was very disappointing. Players from the south struggle a lot at the state tournaments because of the bent grass and the speed of the greens. I just had a bad day hitting into the greens and then I had a bunch of 3-putt greens,” Wall said. “The greens are hard as rocks and it is similar to putting on cement. Players form the south just aren’t used to that and it’s a big disadvantage.”

Wall followed his 86 with a respectable 77 and climbed up the scoreboard to place 18th overall.

Wall plans on attending SIU-Carbondale after playing two years at Rend Lake College in Ina.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean