This is the start of a series of blogs on some of Wisconsin’s greatest all-round prep stars. Over the years 1,000s of students have played several sports during their time in high school and some in different seasons in the school year. Even in this day of specialization, some players still excel in more than one sport. Here are a few who have really been the best of the best:
In 1912 two former Wisconsin high school football players were part of the great United States Olympic team. A team that was led by the greatest all-round athlete in the first half of the 20th century, Jim Thorpe. Thorpe won the gold medals for capturing the decathlon and the pentathlon. The King of Sweden called him the greatest athlete in the world. Jim Thorpe is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. Thorpe also played professional baseball. Those two Wisconsin stars that were Olympic teammates of Thorpe, Arlie Mucks of Oshkosh and Ralph Fletcher of Delafield St. John’s were great multi-sport stars in high school.
Arlie Mucks was a man among boys in high school as he was an all-state football player at the tackle position, a center on the basketball team, a solid hitting and fielding first baseman as well as a state champion discus and shot putter. He was considered the first American high schooler (He had just graduated from Oshkosh just weeks before the Olympic games) to compete on the international stage. He placed 6th in the discus event. He would go on to play football at the University of Wisconsin. Listed at 6’4.5 and weighing 250 pounds he was huge for his era.
Ralph Fletcher had graduated from St. John’s in 1910 but his athletic feats at the school were outstanding. He lettered 17 times in six sports…football, basketball, baseball, track, fencing and crew (rowing). Named as the school’s top football player in the school’s first 45 years (1884-1927) Fletcher competed in the Olympic sword competition. Fletcher first attended the University of Chicago and then moved to the University of Mississippi where he quarterbacked the football team to a 6-3-1 record in 1913. Graduating in 1914 he returned to St. John’s where he stayed until his death in 1952 acting as the school’s athletic director. He was the football coach from 1914-27 (14 seasons and a 65-25-8 record and directing the 1914 mythical state championship), basketball coach from 1914-28 (14 seasons and a 126-46 record), baseball coach from 1915-28 (14 seasons and a 142-52 record). He also coached track in 1920. Like Mucks, there seemed to be nothing Fletcher couldn’t do and do well in any sport. They are mentioned to indicate how far back many great multi-sport stars go.
This past June, Tom Oates, sports columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal profiled some of the top multi-sport Wisconsin athletes. Specifically, he profiled the nine players who earned first team AP all-state honors in both football and basketball in the same year. Those listed with dual honors were:
Pat Richter of Madison West in 1958 and 1959
Rick Brown of Dodgeville in 1963 and 1964
Dan Moeser of Stoughton in 1963 and 1964
Jerry Tagge of Green Bay West in 1967 and 1968
Kurt Spychalla of Schofield D.C. Everest in 1968 and 1969
Bob Falk of Madison West in 1971 and 1972
Tim Stracka of Madison West in 1977 and 1978
Donald Hayes of Madison East in 1993 and 1994
Jonte Flowers of Madison LaFollette in 2002 and 2003
There have been 13 athletes who made first team AP all-state in one sport and second team in the other. They are:
Pat Harrington of Green Bay East in 1964 and 1965…2nd team in football and 1st team in basketball.
Bob Koch of Marshfield Columbus in 1965 and 1966…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
Dennis Gutzman of Green Bay West in 1966 and 1967…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
Gary Loose of Neenah in 1966 and 1967…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
Gary Anderson of Madison LaFollette in 1969 and 1970…2nd team in football and 1st team in basketball.
Greg Bohlig of Eau Claire Memorial in 1969 and 1970…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
William Stewart of Milwaukee Rufus King in 1970 and 1971…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
Jeff Lund of Antigo in 1973 and 1974…2nd team in football and 1st team in basketball.
Mike Jirschele of Clintonville in 1976 and 1977…2nd team in football and 1st team in basketball. Mike signed a professional baseball contract.
Anthony Pieper of Wausaukee in 1992 and 1993…2nd team in football and 1st team in basketball.
Jim Secretarski of Hartland Arrowhead in 1993 and 1994…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
Jon Krull of Marshall in 2002 and 2003…1st team in football and 2nd team in basketball.
Johnny Davis of La Crosse Central in 2019 and 2020…2nd team in football and 1st team in basketball.
A special note should be made about another star, Mickey Vandehey of Auburndale. In 1963 he earned 2nd team honors in football and in 1964 he was named to the 1st team in basketball. He signed a major league baseball contract after graduation. A special profile on Mickey will come in a future blog.
Those listed above are just the tip of the iceberg of all-time greats. Next time, a profile on an early 60’s great, Thorp’s Gary Bandor.