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chris murphy/daily globe In this file photo, WHS's Mitch Weg goes up for a shot in the sub-section championship versus Fairmont at SMSU in Marshall this season.

WHS's Weg ready to support new coach in the wake of a tragedy which took his son

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sports Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

MARSHALL -- It is only through experiencing losing that the taste of victory can truly be relished.

There are strike outs between home runs, missed shots between goals and fumbles between touchdown celebrations. There are dogpile celebrations and times where eyes are left staring at the scoreboard, wondering what went wrong.

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Just like a boxing match, life will answer a punch with another punch. It's the reaction to the punches which separates people.

Southwest Minnesota State University basketball coach Brad Bigler, 33, was delivered a harsh blow Saturday night.

A head-on crash Saturday at 9:25 p.m. on Hwy. 29 and County Road 41 in Pope County has left Bigler critically injured and his infant son dead.

According to Minnesota State Patrol, Bigler's wife, Heather, 29, was driving an SUV north when a southbound pickup truck, driven by 38-year-old Dana Schoen, of Starbuck, crossed the center line on the two-lane Hwy. 29.

Heather Bigler attempted to swerve, but the vehicles hit head on, leaving Heather with noncritical injuries, Heather's grandmother, Sharon Schuler, in critical condition, Brad Bigler with critical injuries and Drake Bigler, 5-month-old son of Brad and Heather, dead.

According to the Star Tribune reports, Schoen, who was convicted of gross misdemeanor drunken driving in 2005 and for drunken driving in 2000, has been charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of DWI. Records show he also has convictions for reckless driving and speeding.

Brad Bigler was in critical condition Sunday afternoon at Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., according to Director of Athletics Chris Hmielewski, who also confirmed that Bigler suffered broken ribs and a broken scapula. Bigler was stabilized as of Monday.

"With all the things the Bigler family went through last year with the passing of Brad's mom, to have another accident is truly tragic, heart-wrenching," Hmielewski said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bigler family."

Brad Bigler has gone blow-for-blow with life in the last 14 months. Last year, he lost his mother in a kayaking accident. Bigler then, in his third year as the head coach of SMSU, led the Mustangs to their first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament championship and the school's third appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament this past season. One of his biggest wins came in February over St. Cloud State. After leading SMSU to its first win over a top-25 team in nearly two years, Bigler got back to Marshall 10 minutes before Drake was born.

Bigler may be down now, but Worthington's Mitch Weg, who is heading to SMSU to play basketball in the upcoming season, is certainly in his coach's corner.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard," Weg said. "I was just up there last week for a camp for little kids and his kids were there on the last day.

"It's crazy. You hear about that stuff, but it's never really people you know."

Even though he's only a freshman, Weg has plenty of experience in the leadership role, serving as the backbone of the state qualifying Trojan basketball team this past season.

"As a team, we just have to be there for him," Weg said. "We need to go the extra mile and make his job a little easier.

"I'm going to go there and work as hard as I can and just show my support and be there for him."

Ellsworth's Casey Schilling and Southwest Christian's Zack Huisken are headed to play basketball at Augustana College in the upcoming season, nearly 100 miles away from SMSU. Schilling and Huisken, however, prove the camaraderie in the spiderweb that is the athletic community knows no distance.

"Brad is a great guy," Schilling said. "It's crazy to think that something like this happens to someone who recruited you. My decision came down to SMSU and Augie.

"For Mitch (Weg), it's really traumatic, but you have to just keep working. All you can do is pray as much as possible and get better so your team is ready to go. It's too bad when something like that happens to a good guy like Brad. He'll come back from this."

Huisken echoed his teammate's sentiments.

"Personally, if it happened to my coach, it would be scary with all the emotions coming into the season," Huisken said. "You don't quite know what to say. There's no words to describe the pain, so you just do anything you can to help out and that's the best thing you can do as a player for him.

"I was devastated. I had only talked to him a few times because SMSU wasn't at the top of my list, but, even if you don't know the man, you don't wish that upon anyone."

Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.

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