The year 2023 was golden for Rockwall athletes

Jan. 11—The year 2023 was golden once again for Rockwall athletes.

It was also a big year for three local athletes who are now professionals.

Rockwall wrestler Jarrett Stoner, Rockwall high jumper Claire Lowrey and the Rockwall boys gymnastic team all won state titles. So did Rockwall-Heath pole vaulter Dyson Wicker.

Here's some highlights of 2023:

Stoner won the 190-pound weight division to lead the Rockwall Yellowjackets to a ninth-place team finish at the University Interscholastic League state wrestling tournament.

Stoner won his first three state matches in falls, pinning Briton Johnson of Clear Lake, Ben Lourens of Dripping Springs and Ryan Rainey of Arlington Martin. He then outpointed Isaiah Francis of Coppell 9-6 in the finals.

Jake Moon of Rockwall also placed third in the 144-pound class.

Nathan Burchfield of Rockwall-Heath was fifth in the boys 126-pound division.

Megan Edwards of Rockwall was fourth in the girls 114-pound division.

Audrey Willess of Rockwall placed fifth in the girls 185-pound class. — Lowrey and Wicker stayed focused through lengthy weather delays before winning their gold medals at the state meet in Austin.

Lowrey won her third medal at state but her first gold by clearing 5 feet, 10 inches to win the 6A high jump.

She had tied for second at state as a junior and was third in the high jump as sophomore.

Wicker made good in his first state meet, clearing 17 feet, 1/4 inch to win the 6A pole vault by nearly a foot. — Rockwall's Yellowjackets repeated as the boys state champions, while the Rockwall Lady Jackets finished second and the Rockwall-Heath Lady Hawks were third at the state high school gymnastics championship.

Trey Lopez led the Jackets, finishing second in the all-around with a score of 114.35. Joshua Smelser was fifth at 109.45. Rockwall's Lady Jackets placed second to San Angelo Central in the girls team standings and Heath was third.

Cecilia Paredes of Heath was first in the all-around in the compulsory competition with a total of 39.90.

Haley Finley of Rockwall was fifth in the all-around compulsory (39.20) and Kayla Virag of Heath tied for sixth at 39.175. — It was a big year for former Rockwall Jacket wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

After earning all-America honors at Ohio State, Smith-Njigba was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the 2023 National Football League draft.

The rookie wound up third on the team in receptions for the season with 63 for 628 yards and four touchdowns. He was also the first rookie receiver since 1960 to catch two winning TD passes in the final minute of the fourth quarter. — Rockwall-Heath standout Jett Williams, who was a first-round draft pick by the New York Mets in 2022, had a very productive season in 2023 with three different minor league baseball teams.

The infielder-outfielder was named the Mets' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America and the Mets' Minor League Player of the Year after batting .263 with 13 home runs, eight triples, 22 doubles and 45 stolen bases. His on-base percentage of .425 led the Mets' minor leaguers. — Former Heath HawkDeShon Elliott moved on to his third NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, and ranked second on the team in the regular season with 82 tackles, including 53 solos.

He starts at safety for the 11-6 Dolphins, who'll open the playoffs on Saturday at Kansas City.

Elliott previously played for the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens. — Former Rockwall-Heath quarterback Josh Hoover became the starting quarterback at Texas Christian University in 2023. He was 185-of-298 passing for 2,206 yards and 15 touchdowns for the 5-7 Horned Frogs. — Ex-Rockwall quarterback Braedyn Lock played in five games for the Wisconsin Badgers football team in 2023, going 76-of-152 passing for 777 yards, and five TDs. Wisconsin, 7-6, lost 35-31 to LSAU in ReliaQuest Bowl. — Abigail Hood finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly to lead Heath at the UIL state swimming and diving championships. — Three players who led 31-11 Rockwall to district, bi-district and area volleyball championships, have earned top honors on the All-District 10-6A team.

Gabi Ashcraft, who set for a team-high 1,325 assists for Rockwall, was named the district's Most Valuable Player. Ashcraft also ranked among the team's defensive leaders with 346 digs.

Harley Krause, who led the Lady Jackets with 408 kills for the season, was named the Outstanding Attacker in 10-6A.

The Outstanding Defensive Player award went to Rockwall's Sophia Armstrong, who led the Lady Jackets with 519 digs.

Rockwall-Heath's Reese Ruecker was named the district's Outstanding Libero. — Rockwall and Heath finished first and second in the District 10-6A football standings in 2023 at 6-0 and 5-1.

Rockwall then beat Wylie 50-10 and Waxahachie 46-43 in the first two rounds of the playoffs before falling 77-48 to Westfield. The Jackets finished the season with an 11-2 record.

Former Rockwall coach Rodney Webb returned to Rockwall County to coach Heath, which beat Sachse 56-42 in the bi-district round before falling 62-24 to eventual state champion Duncanville at the area round of the playoffs. — Rockwall and Heath wound up tied for first place in the District 10-6A girls soccer standings at the end of the 2022-2023 season, tied at 11-1.

Rockwall beat Rowlett 8-0 and Duncanville 2-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs before falling in two overtimes to Wylie East.

Heath beat Wylie 1-0 in the first round before falling 1-0 to Mansfield.

The Jackets finished second in the boys 10-6A standings at 8-2-2. — Rockwall and Heath finished first and second in the District 10-6A baseball standings in 2023 at 11-1 and 10-2.

Rockwall got past Naaman Forest, Mansfield and Lake Ridge in the first three rounds of the playoffs before falling in three games to The Woodlands. The Jackets finished at 36-9.

Heath beat Wylie, Mansfield Legacy and Midway in the playoffs before losing in three games to Cypress Woods. — Rockwall and Heath tied for first place in the District 10-6A boys basketball race for 2022-2023 at 10-2.

The Rockwall Jady Jackets tied for second with Mesquite Horn at 9-3.