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DES MOINES — Joe Wieskamp sat in Section 107 of Wells Fargo Arena last March watching the state basketball tournament with his father, younger brother and several buddies.

All Wieskamp could think about was getting an opportunity at some point to be a participant and not a spectator on the state’s biggest stage.

The Wieskamp-led Muscatine basketball program earned that chance Tuesday night.

Even though it was short-lived, a 62-50 loss to top-seeded Iowa City West in a Class 4A quarterfinal, it was fitting that No. 21 got to end his illustrious high school career at the state tournament.

“He’s been the face of the state for the past couple of years,” West junior Patrick McCaffery said. “To score that many points (2,376) is just ridiculous and he’s meant a lot.

“He’s easily one of the best players in this state’s history.”

Wieskamp struggled with his perimeter shot (0-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line), but accounted himself well with 29 points, 11 rebounds and three steals on 13 of 24 shooting.

He willed the Muskies back from a double-digit deficit to within a point after three quarters. Most of that was him dropping his head, knifing his way through West's defense and plowing his way to the basket.

"I thought I did a good job attacking the basket and finishing, but at the next level I've got to be a multiple-way player," Wieskamp said.

Muscatine just didn’t have enough horsepower to get over the threshold against a West team that is accustomed to winning on the state stage and has plenty of athleticism.

West threw multiple defenders at Wieskamp, an Iowa signee, throughout the game as has been the case all season.

In the final eight minutes, McCaffery and West cranked up its defense to force turnovers and recorded some runouts to finish off Muscatine (16-9).

The Muskies received a state participation trophy afterward. Wieskamp came forward to collect it from a state official, hoisted it over his head as he looked to a large purple and gold fan base.

Muscatine brought six pep buses and had nearly one half of the arena filled. It showed how much this meant for the community to be back at state following a 16-year absence.

They have, in large part, Wieskamp to thank.

Wieskamp won’t have the state championships attached to his name like some of the other all-time greats in Iowa like Harrison Barnes, Marcus Paige or Matt Gatens.

Still, he remained loyal to a community and single-handedly turned a downtrodden Muscatine program into a state tournament team. After a seven-win season in his freshman year, the Muskies won 15, 15 and 16 games each of the past three seasons. They played in three consecutive substate finals.

“I’d like to say we put our program on the map a little bit,” Wieskamp said. “We got fans in our community excited this season, and we turned this into a winning program. It was something for people in the community to look forward to on Tuesday and Friday nights.

“I’m hoping that can continue.”

Wieskamp closed with 2,376 points, sixth on Iowa’s all-time list. He also snared 908 rebounds, a figure among the top five all-time in Iowa 4A.

It is quite remarkable given he had little offensive help and was the focal point of every team’s defense.

“He’s been a pleasure to coach,” Muscatine’s Gary Belger said. “He has great poise, a winner, a champion and a gentleman.

“To me, he’s the best player the state has ever had. Anybody that sees the game will know that, and I certainly think he can follow that up with four great college seasons.”

One respected state journalist never had seen Wieskamp play until Tuesday night. Afterward, he summarized it succinctly: "He's the real deal."

Wieskamp's game had the admiration of one of the state’s all-time great coaches in West’s Steve Bergman, too.

Bergman was asked if he was happy Wieskamp got to show his talent at the state tournament.

“He seems so humble,” Bergman said. “He’s just awesome, a hard worker, the best demeanor I’ve ever seen. So, yeah, it was good. But I didn’t want him to play more than one game, though. That was the goal.”

In the coming weeks, Wieskamp will shift his focus to getting his game and body prepared for the rigors of college basketball.

McCaffery said Wieskamp has star written all over him at Iowa.

"An All-Big Ten player, a difference-maker in the program," McCaffery said.

First, Wieskamp wanted to savor the closing high school chapter with his teammates.

“This was everything I wanted this season,” he said. “We were hoping to do a little bit more and make a little run here, but at the end of the day we had a great season.

“It was a cool experience to say we got to play here. It lived up to the expectations.”

And so did Wieskamp’s high school career … and then some.


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.