Along the way, Weidner had a career day as he delivered 35 points and 12 assists in q quarterfinal win over Friends (Kan.).
“The thing that has changed the most about my game has been my ability to pass,” Weidner said. “I have really grown to love passing and distributing the ball. I was fortunate to have (Tonagel) as my coach. He is extremely competitive, and we relate and work so well together. I am not sure I could have developed so much anywhere else.”
Weidner didn’t have to go it alone. Second Team All-American RJ Mahurin, a 6-foot-8 post player from Rockville, transferred from Indiana State and ruled the paint for the Wildcats. Other key cogs included junior defender Zac Vandewater (Whitko), junior guard DJ Bettinger (Richfield, Ohio) and freshmen Lane Mahurin (RJ’s brother), Nate Bubash (Munster) and Bob Peters (Cayahoga Falls, Ohio).
“We were one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation, but we were able to put the defensive aspect with it, and that really sealed the deal for us,” Weidner said.
Tonagel called it a special group, especially for the way it celebrated its finest hour.
“I will always remember after we won and they were celebrating, they stopped and formed a circle for a prayer. That really impressed me that this team kept everything in perspective.”
Before nationals, IWU was considered a contender, but not the dominant favorite to win it all.
The Wildcats entered the tournament with extra incentive. Weidner felt a loss to Bethel in the Crossroads Conference tourney spurred him and his teammates a little further.
“We lost at home to Bethel in an overtime game,” Weidner said. “That was a huge moment for us because we knew that was the last we could have all year. That loss really got the guys motivated.”