By Craig Marx, Editor
Antigo High School athletics made their mark on the 2016 calendar year, particularly in the Great Northern Conference, where the boys’ hockey, baseball, and football teams all came away with conference titles to show for.
Antigo hockey capped off a 20-3-1 season and a GNC title with a bid to the state tournament in Madison. The Robins lost their first game of the big dance 5-1 to Eau Claire Memorial, but was able to graduate 13 seniors from one of the most dominate teams in recent history. The storied playoff run included the ultimate moral victory as well, as Antigo was able to break what was seemingly a perennial curse of postseason losses to Wausau West, edging the Warriors 3-1 in Wausau for a sectional title.
Though the strength of the conference itself has caused its programs to revamp its schedules for competitive reasons in 2017, Antigo went undefeated in the GNC last season at 14-0, finishing ahead of Mosinee and Northland Pines (both 11-3) who tied for second place. Within the conference, Antigo compounded an incredible 104 goals scored to just nine allowed, including the top two point scorers in the conference in Alex Nagel (48 points on 24 goals and just as many assists) and the returning Tyler Husnick (45 points on 19 goals and 26 assists).
With less than ten goals allowed to all seven GNC opponents combined, now-senior goaltender Ben Bartletti was tops in the conference in both goals allowed average (0.74) and save percentage (.941) on the year.
Moving into the spring, the baseball team also captured its second consecutive GNC title as Antigo compiled the most runs ever in its team history – 241 – despite a 3-2 loss in the regional finals against Wausau West to end the season.
Antigo baseball produced 149 runs during its conference schedule, more than twice as many as the second place team, Mosinee (66), in that category. Collectively, the team compiled a .382 batting average against its GNC foes in 2016.
Hunter Kirsch, Nick Greening, and Collin Meinert led the offense with mind-boggling batting averages – .516, .455 and .444, respectively. Greening also was atop the earned runs average category with an ERA of 0.54 in 26 innings pitched.
The football team also joined the GNC title party in the fall of this past year, sharing a piece of the pie with Merrill and Medford. The 2016 campaign marks the second year in a row that the Robins have had a claim to the conference title, one in each of Coach Tom Schofield’s first two years at the helm.
Schofield was named the GNC Coach of the Year while Hunter Cornelius and Mitchell Schroepfer were named to the all-conference’s first team. Six players were given second team recognition, including Marcus Schroepfer, Hunter Kirsch, John Schlieve, Will Dixon, Justin Koszarek and Matt Winter, with Luke Berner, Adam Schmidt and Mike Zabrowski receiving honorable mentions.
The Robins finished the year 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the GNC as the team overcame multiple injuries to win its first playoff game in nearly five years in a convincing 56-20 win over Fox Valley Lutheran in the first round of the WIAA postseason. Antigo would go on to be defeated by Notre Dame 35-0, losing to a Triton team that did not lose a game in the playoffs until a 24-14 defeat at the hands of Catholic Memorial in the Division III state championship game.
The success of the these conference title teams is a testament to the coaches, support and medical staff, parents, and the athletic director and his assistant for helping motivate these young athletes to be competitive student-athletes with a sense of sportsmanship and respect for their particular game. The future looks bright as well as AHS sports and activities roll into 2017.