By Mike Deak
AKRON – Sometimes you find out really interesting details when you least expect them. I learned there was two degrees of Kevin Bacon to myself and Sidney Wagner, and I was just in town to see a basketball game.
Rewind to February 5, 2021. Tippecanoe Valley’s girls basketball season had just ended, and with it, the outstanding prep career of Sidney Wagner. As Valley was emerging from the lockerroom at Wawasee High School following a one-point overtime loss to NorthWood at the sectional, the usual tears and hugs were ensuing for the Viking players and supporting crews. Wagner was among them, receiving consolation just moments after missing the final shot of her Valley career.
Her mood would change shortly after in my announcement to her that she had received the IFN Girls Basketball Player of the Year honor. As the proceedings wrapped up, my conversation shifted to head coach Chris Kindig. As we walked out of the Hardwood Teepee, he offered along the lines of, ‘Did you ask her about her motocross career? She’s quite the rider.’
I stopped dead in my tracks as the Kindigs headed to their snow-covered cars.
I had no idea. Where have I been?
Fast forward to early May, and I finally got to sit down with Wagner to ask about the motocross. I did some quick ‘modern research’ hitting up some social media pages to see what all Wagner had done. It was within the details of what Wagner told me about her family that brought my childhood in line with her childhood.
Wagner’s family owns and runs Red Bud, which for anyone growing up in northern Indiana, even if you don’t like dirt track racing or motocross, you at least likely heard the TV and radio commercials of the guy saying the entire commercial an octave higher than normal dropping Hall of Fame names like Mike “La Rockin'” LaRocco and Ricky Carmichael were coming to race at the famed course in southwest Michigan.
“My whole family, this is their thing,” Wagner said. “My dad, my uncle, they’ve been riding since they were kids and I came up riding, too. My mom’s side of the family, they own Red Bud. So, like, I was always up there and that’s where it started. When I was three, we had a track in the backyard and that’s when I started to ride a lot. The rule is you have to be four to start your first race. As soon as I turned four, I started racing.”
So the Valley audience reading this is going to be, ‘Uh, hello, where have you been?’ So as God as my witness, I knew Wagner rode, but I didn’t know the part about Red Bud. So I asked a couple questions and just listened.
“I raced with the boys, I didn’t race with the girls, so I was expected to go out there and do good,” said Wagner with that drip of swagger in her voice. “I was the one who beat all the boys. Also, I went to nationals three times. Down in Tennessee, I finished third once, which put me third in the country for girls. Everyone local knows what you do and who you are, so it was kind of a thing.”
So as her riding career grew, complete with sponsorships and a viral video of her clearing the triple jump on an 85CC at Red Bud, Wagner was well on her way. But she also was becoming a star in basketball, and was forming a lifelong bond with Sophie Bussard, who was ready to pass the torch to Wagner as the next alpha in the Valley program.
What to do?
“That’s one of the reasons why I faded out of it, there’s no future in girls motocross,” Wagner dished. “Even if I went pro in it, there’s no money. I don’t know if I had the speed, even if I trained, to run with the guys, but no girl has ever done that. That’s a big reason why I quit. Riding isn’t going to get you into college. It won’t make you any money. So going into high school, I had to focus and decide on what was going to be my next step.”
While Wagner still rides in the backyard and the family is still heavily involved with motocross, Sid decided basketball was the route to the next stop on the tour. So earlier this year Wagner announced she signed with Trine University to continue her basketball and academic careers. While the WNBA is also about as remote an option as getting into men’s motocross, having basketball as a jumpoff to a good education is her current gear shift.
But is her racing suit being hung up for good?
“Oh heck no!,” she emphatically stated. “(Trine) haven’t told me no, or yes, we never really talked about it. I told them. If I’m busy, I won’t be able to ride. I’m scared if I wreck or something then I could hurt myself and then I’ve got bigger problems. But they never said no.
“With me, I don’t want to give it up, I just got a new 2020 Husqvarna, but my dad and my brother, they are super big into it and ride all the time. Before high school, I rode all the time and it was my passion. It just came down to high school ball and that was what I chose to focus on. Once I get out of college, I’ll still ride, just probably not like I used to.”