The Nebraska Sports Council has announced two Lincoln teens – trap-shooter Aaron Lafler, 19, and wrestler Chance Fry, 14 – were two of four individuals to be named the 2014 Cornhusker State Games Athletes of the Year. Other honorees were open-water swimmer Sharessa Gutierrez, 33 of Omaha, and multi-sport athlete Dave Waggoner, 67 of Kearney.
The four honorees were chosen as the best among 13,460 competitors in the 30th annual Cornhusker State Games, held July 18-27 in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities. Criteria for the awards includes: CSG achievements, attitude/sportsmanship, other achievements and special circumstances.
Athlete of the Year Awards, sponsored by Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, will be presented at the Council’s awards banquet Oct. 30 at the Del Ray Ballroom in Lincoln.
Lafler started shooting trap as a 4th grader and began competing in the Cornhusker State Games as a 7th grader. Now 19, he has won 19 CSG medals including two more in the adult competition in 2014.
Lafler’s trapshooting accolades include a 2011 individual state championship in the 16-yard event and leading his squad to the 2013 high overall team championship.
According to his nominator, Trapshooting Director Dave Tunink, Lafler is well known in the shooting community for being humble and helping younger shooters.
Fry racked up six wrestling gold medals and four iron man awards, bringing his four-year CSG medal count to 20, which could be as high as 26 had he not broken his collarbone and missed the Games in 2013.
He was the only wrestler in 2014 to win gold in all six disciplines, including advantage, freestyle, takedown, scholastic, Greco and beach. CSG Wrestling Director Craig Hellwege praised Fry’s character, saying he is “always humble and well-liked among the wrestlers, even though he stands out as a tough and skilled competitor.”
Waggoner teamed up with his 12-year old granddaughter Ashley to win the gold in the family rec doubles division of CSG Badminton. He also earned a silver in rec men’s doubles and a bronze in rec mixed doubles. The 67 year-old learned of his award while in Rapid City competing in three sports—badminton, pickleball and pocket billiards—in the South Dakota State Senior Games. He also picked up three medals there.
Gutierrez won three gold medals in the CSG Open-Water Swimming competition and was first overall in both the 3K and 5K races. Open-Water Swimming Director Sue Nutty, who nominated Gutierrez, said Gutierrez had competed the past 10 years in the CSG pool swimming events and moving to longer distances and swimming in open water is not always an easy transition. She called Gutierrez’ swimming “inspiring to watch.”
CSG Male (Lafler), Female (Gutierrez) and Youth (Fry) Athletes of the Year have been nominated for national awards issued by the National Congress of State Games at its annual symposium, set to take place Oct. 13-15 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The E. Lee Todd Senior Athlete of the Year Award is unique to Nebraska. Local awards are determined by a selection committee of sports officials and journalists.
The Nebraska Sports Council conducts the Cornhusker State Games and next year’s version, the State Games of America. Learn more at NebraskaSportsCouncil.com.