Adam Degenhardt

For the second consecutive year, Rexrode and Wesling win Athletes of the Year.

Rexrode, Wesling repeat as Athletes of Year

May 23, 2023

Hitting 1,000 points just part of Wesling’s legacy

In Baldwin’s basketball playoff game this year, senior James Wesling started the game with two three-pointers, putting him over 1,000 points in his high school career.

His thoughts going into the game were more focused on the game itself. But when he hit the milestone, he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders.

“It felt awesome and sort of a relief after making the first two shots,” Wesling said. “I was able to just play the rest of the game just trying to win.”

He would end up scoring 42 points in a tough playoff loss to Central Catholic. And he put up other stellar numbers throughout the season, leading him to be named the Purbalite Male Athlete of the Year for the second straight year..

Wesling’s excitement over reaching 1,000 points was short-lived, as that playoff game was his last one in a Highlanders jersey. Losing such a close game didn’t sit well with him.

“I felt terrible after the loss,” he said. “It all hit me at once – the feeling of hate after losing and the realization that I would never play for Baldwin again.”

“I would do anything to play one more game for this school.”

Wesling said some of his other favorite memories from his senior season were the senior rec game and all of the time he spent with teammates before practice.

He said he was thankful for those teammates.

“There were some games where I was not playing like myself, but my teammates were there to carry some of the load both offensively and defensively,” he said. “I never would have been the player I was without the help of my teammates.”

“They would trust me even through my tough times to take big shots in big moments,” he said. “It really would help me get my confidence back.”

Sophomore Matt Schenk said Wesling was a great role model and helped start a big change for Baldwin basketball.

“Without James I wouldn’t be the player I am today, and without him our team wouldn’t have even been close to as good as we were,” Schenk said.

Teammate and fellow senior Christian Forgacs saw how Wesling’s leadership affected those around him on the court.

I hope that I helped get the team started on a run for the history books. I hope that I turned the tide for Baldwin and hopefully they can do what I was never able to achieve.

— James Wesling

“His leadership qualities set him apart from many other athletes,” he said.

Wesling hopes that his efforts at Baldwin laid down a foundation to put Baldwin basketball back on the map. The Highlanders have never won a WPIAL championship and have not won the section since 1986.

“I hope that I helped get the team started on a run for the history books,” he said. “I hope that I turned the tide for Baldwin and hopefully they can do what I was never able to achieve.”

Forgacs said Wesling deserves all the recognition he has received.

“It was amazing to see all of the hours of work he put in come through for him,” Forgacs said. “He is a great guy on and off the court.”

Schenk agreed.

“You wouldn’t want to see this award go to anyone else,” Schenk said.

Forgacs has been playing baseball and basketball with Wesling for 10 years and their relationship on and off the court runs deep. Throughout the recruitment process, both athletes helped each other on the tough decisions.

“We have a connection because we are some of the only players going to college for our sports,” he said. “We can relate to each other and we had each other’s back during the recruiting process.”

James’ brother, sophomore Nate Wesling, also plays basketball. James said he hopes his younger brother continues the family legacy at Baldwin.

“I hope that my brother is a better player than me,” he said. “I want to watch him surpass me in every aspect of the game because I want him to succeed in the game we both love.”

“I feel that I did my job as an older brother, to set a good example for him and hope that he strives to surpass the goals that I achieved.”

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Rexrode overcame injury to win WPIALs again

Just before sophomore Abby Rexrode’s gymnastic season was set to start, she suffered what she feared could be a season-ending ankle injury.

“It was a week before my high school season started. I was at a competition for my club team Premier USAG and I finished my event, but fractured my ankle during it,” Rexrode said.

The early injury made her nervous and she doubted whether she would get to participate in any Baldwin gymnastics competitions this year, she said. Rexrode let the injury heal itself by resting it, but she was motivated to get back as soon as possible.

“Even injured, I would come to practice and attempt what I could,” Rexrode said.

Not only did Rexode make it back to compete, but she once again won WPIALs. Because of that accomplishment, she has been named the Purbalite Female Athlete of the Year for the second straight year.

Two of Rexrode’s teammates, sophomores Sophia Ross and Anabelle Herrle, saw Rexrode’s dedication through her injury.

“I have seen Abby fight through injuries, but even through these injuries she has always had an uplifting attitude and cheered on her team,” Rossa said.

Rexrode is not the type of person to take a full rest, Herrle said.

“She always went to practice and did the little things. She always stayed conditioned to stay strong,” Herrle said.

Soon Rexrode was back and performing at her best as she finished the season with another WPIAL title.

“It feels great that the hard work is starting to pay off. It really feels amazing,” Rexrode said.

Rexrode won WPIALs and states last year. This year she competed at states, but finished fifth all around, though she did take first in bars.

“I feel like this year was the better year, because the scores went up in my events and my routines went smoother,” Rexrode said.

On a team level, Baldwin combined with Thomas Jefferson to form one team, unless the two were scheduled to compete against each other.

I just like to stay positive and if something goes wrong, I just try to move on from it. I try to block it out and tell myself that I have put in the practice and I can do this.

— Abby Rexrode

“I like it because we all support each other even though we are from different schools,” Rexrode said. “Even when we would compete against each other, we would cheer each other on.”

In her first two high school seasons, Rexrode has achieved an immense amount of success. Her positive attitude is important.

“I just like to stay positive and if something goes wrong, I just try to move on from it. I try to block it out and tell myself that I have put in the practice and I can do this,” Rexrode said.

Another component is her ability to relax before competitions.

“The bus rides were a time where I could relax and have fun with my teammates before my competitions,” Rexrode said.

Her favorite memory from the year came when “we won the competition to secure the section win, and that was against Pine Richland,” Rexrode said.

Throughout her busy season, Rexrode has had a positive effect on her teammates.

“Abby never gives up and that has taught me to not give up,” Rossa said.

Herrle, who has competed with Rexrode since she was 5 years old, agreed.

“Her confidence boosted my confidence with her continuous support,” Herrle said.

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