By MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — Northern Michigan crowned three state champions in 2012.
One was a repeat. Another was the first in school history. And the other came completely out of nowhere.
The three state championships rank No. 6 on the Record-Eagle Top 10 sports stories of 2012.
Traverse City West hoisted the first state title in February, when the Titans upset rival TC Central to win the Division 1 girls ski title.
"It was a little unexpected, but one of those things that was really cool to see," TC West coach Ed Johnson said. "We didn't walk into it thinking we were the best ones here."
The Trojans had won Big North Conference and regional titles over the Titans. However, at the state finals at Nub's Nob, the Titans emerged victorious. West finished with 70 points, Central 73.
"I think it worked to our advantage to go in with that approach," Johnson said of being an underdog. "I think we actually had an advantage, because we didn't have that high of expectations. The athletes didn't feel that pressure. We were there to do our best and we were hoping to come out in the top three. Everyone was able to go out and perform at their best, because they didn't feel the pressure like they had to."
Almost a year later, the Titans will look to repeat this winter.
"We lost a pretty good core group last year," Johnson said. "(Monica) Hessler is back, Morgan Culp is back. Most of the team is ready. Most of the guys and girls went to Austria with us for 10 days at the end of November to do some incredible skiing and training. They're ready to race."
In June, Lake Leelanau St. Mary's boys golf team made history by becoming the first state championship team for the Eagles.
St. Mary's captured the Division 4 crown with a two-day total of 624 at Michigan State University's Forest Akers West. That was five shots better than runner-up Kalamazoo Hackett (629).
The Eagles did so with four seniors — Paul Bardenhagen, Joe Pendergast, Ian Duvall and J.R. Duvall — and freshman Joel Sneed.
"We had four seniors on the team who wanted to go out like this," Bardenhagen said in June. "And then we added a great freshman in Joel. He's an incredible talent for his age. It's pretty unreal.
"It's almost picture perfect."
The final state championship wasn't a team, rather an individual. St. Francis senior Isaiah Schaub won his second straight Division 4 wrestling title, taking the 135-pound bracket with a 51-1 record.
Schaub became only the second Traverse City wrestler to win back-to-back titles, joining Larry Haughn from TC Central who did it in 1977-78. St. Francis had only had one state champion prior to Schaub and became just the sixth for TC.
"Knowing that I'm one of a select few of many wrestlers, I guess it's nice to know I'm good at what I do," Schaub said after winning his second title.
For his career, Schaub finished with a 205-17 record. He's currently wrestling at Augustana College in Illinois.