Cramer named Middleton's top male athlete of 21st century

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
From left are former Middleton athletes Luke Meeteer, Parker Van Buren, Ryan Groy, Casey Cramer, Nick Toon, Shane Adler, Brooks Braga, Michael Owen, Danny Mazur and Kevin Meicher./Times-Tribune photos by Mary Langenfeld

The task was daunting.

The Times-Tribune recently asked a 16-person panel to rank the best male and female athletes to pass through Middleton High School in the 21st century. Any athlete who competed in the 21st century was eligible to be nominated and their exploits across their entire career were considered, even if a portion of their playing days came in the 1990s.

The panel consisted of past and present coaches, local sportswriters and community members who have seen countless Cardinals’ events.

There were no set criteria outlined. Beauty was in the eye of each beholder.

If one voter thought a multi-sport athlete with solid production across the board rated ahead of a one-sport athlete who excelled at their craft, that was their prerogative. If another voter prioritized team success, that was fine, too.

Nearly 60 boys and 60 girls were nominated for consideration, and after the votes were tabulated, each field was trimmed to a top-20.

The Times-Tribune published the top 20 girls earlier this month, and the boys list of Nos. 11-20 last week. The top 10 boys are listed below and concludes our ‘Stars of the Century’ series.

We hope you’ve enjoyed looking back at many of the individuals who have helped make Middleton athletics shine this century.

 

1. Casey Cramer (football, basketball, track and field — 2000)

Today, more than 20 years after Cramer last put on a uniform at MHS, he’s the gold standard for excellence inside the building.

Cramer was a three-sport standout whose work ethic was that of legend. He parlayed his physical skills and passion for greatness into a college football career at Dartmouth and a five-year NFL career for a handful of teams.

“Casey, without doubt, was the best leader of any team that I coached,” former Middleton defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka said of Cramer. “He was not afraid to lead, even if it meant that it might not be popular with all his teammates. He led by example, and practiced every day, every play like the game was on the line.” 

Tara Franklin, who coached Cramer during track and field season, agreed.

“Casey was one of the hardest-working athletes we ever had on the team,” Franklin said. “I used him for an example all of the time. Very dedicated, very talented, extremely kind and amazing kid who has grown into an exceptional man.”

Tim Simon, who also coached Cramer in football, echoed many of those sentiments.

“What is most memorable about Casey is that he ‘set a new standard,’ ” Simon said of Cramer. “What I mean by this is no disrespect to any athletes who came before him or after him, but he ‘set a new standard’ in so many ways.

“The level of his work ethic in the weight room, the level of his work ethic on the playing field, the level of his competitiveness, the level of his courage to be a leader were all things that he did better than pretty much everybody before and after him at MHS. He had one speed and that speed was all out, all of the time. He never took a play off in a game, he never took a rep off in practice, he never took a rep off in the weight room, and he was arguably the best leader we have ever had.”

Cramer’s greatest accomplishments were on the football field, where he was the Big Eight Conference’s ‘Receiver of the Year’ as a senior in 1999. Cramer was also named second-team all-conference at middle linebacker that season and handled the Cardinals’ punting duties.

“I think that shows the respect Casey has as a blocker,” former Middleton coach Kurt Gundlach said of Cramer winning ‘Receiver of the Year’ honors. “If you were giving an award for pass catcher of the year, it might be different. But all I know is what he does for us as a blocker makes him the best I’ve ever coached.”

As a junior in 1998, Cramer was named first-team all-conference at tight end and was named honorable-mention all-league at middle linebacker.

“Casey is really one of a kind,” Cabalka said. “We’ve had a lot of great kids, but Casey’s unbelievable. He’s everything you could want in a football player and a person.”

Cramer had a magnificent career at Dartmouth where he still ranks second in school history with 185 receptions for 2,477 yards and 21 touchdowns as a tight end. Cramer led all college tight ends with 72 receptions for 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns as junior in 2002 and was named to three different All-American teams. He also posted 11 career games with 100 yards, or more, of receiving while at Dartmouth.

Cramer was a seventh-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2004 and he played with five teams before retiring after the 2008 seasons. Cramer’s biggest moments came with Tennessee in 2006 when he blocked a punt and recovered a fumble against Washington and was named the NFL’s Special Teams Player of the Week.

“He gave 100% with everything he did and he made his teammates better,” Cabalka said. “His great intelligence and determination was what made him the player that he was in college and the NFL.”

Cramer’s hard work helped him become a standout on the basketball court, as well. Even though Cramer’s skill set was more suited to football, he averaged 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a senior and was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference.

“I think Casey was a real pain for others to play against, but there isn't a kid or a coach out there who wouldn't want him on their team,” former Middleton basketball coach John Boyle said. “He was our warrior, a perfect competitor really. When he was on the court, he wanted to tear your head off, but he was the perfect gentleman. He was a treat to coach.”

In track, Cramer reached the state meet as a senior, where he finished eighth. He also developed into a terrific hurdler thanks to — you guessed it — his relentless work ethic.

“Casey was not very flexible, but he was a hurdler,” Franklin recalled. “His trail leg and ankles were always banged up and bloody because his flexibility did not come natural. But he worked harder than anyone I know to improve his flexibility on a daily basis and it definitely paid off.

“Casey was another one of those athletes who was last to leave the track. He worked so hard at the hurdles and then would go over and stay to work on the discus forever.”

Today, Cramer serves as a pastor for children and families for a church in Nashville, Tenn. And even though it’s been two decades since Cramer competed at MHS, coaches still bring up his name with great regularity.   

“Many of us coaches who were here when he played still use him as an example to our current players who we are now coaching 20 years later,” Simon said. “He was obviously a tremendous athlete, but his overachieving attitude is what led him to be an All-American his junior year at Dartmouth, and then on to the NFL. 

“He gave us coaches a saying that we still use today, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard!’  But more applicable to him would have been, ‘A talented hard worker beats everybody.’ ”

 

2. Shane Adler (baseball, football, basketball — 2010)

It didn’t matter if Adler was performing on a diamond, a field or a court. He was typically putting on a show.

Adler had a marvelous, three-sport career at Middleton where his greatest exploits probably came in baseball.

Adler become the first-ever freshman to play for former manager Tom Schmitt. Adler was a first-team all-state player as a junior, earned second-team all-state honors as a senior and later played at Indiana State.

“Shane stepped on the field as a freshman and played like a senior and continued to produce and be a leader for four years,” Schmitt said. “His passion for baseball has been unmatched at MHS. His ability to carry us on the mound and at the plate in the Big Eight was noticed by opposing coaches and players.”

Adler was the Big Eight Conference’s Player of the Year as a junior in 2009 when he went 10-1 on the mound with an 0.88 ERA and five shutouts. Adler allowed just 40 hits in 72 innings that year and also hit .371 with three home runs, three triples, four doubles, 27 RBI and had a .584 slugging percentage. He also led the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals that year.

As a first-team all-conference performer in 2010, Adler went 10-1 with a 1.75 ERA, allowed just 40 hits in 64 innings and held foes to a .195 batting average. Adler also had five complete games, two shutouts and one save that year.

At the plate, Adler hit .444 as a senior with a .519 on-base percentage and a .589 slugging percentage. He also led the team in hits (40), RBI (31), doubles (7), had two home runs and stole 12 bases without being thrown out.

Adler was named first-team all-Big Eight as a sophomore when he batted .373 with a .537 slugging percentage and a .556 OBP. He was also honorable-mention all-conference as a freshman.

“Another advantage Shane had on opponents was he thought the game so well,” Schmitt said. “He had great skills, but his attitude and humble demeanor made him the player he was.

“His desire to get better each day set him apart from a lot of kids who had size and talent as young athletes. Those others rested on their laurels, Shane worked to become an All-State player. As talented as he was, it was awesome to see him grow into a great young man.”

Adler was also a standout football player who earned honorable-mention all-conference honors at quarterback his senior season. Adler was also a first-team all-Big Eight punter his final year.

“Pure and natural three-sport athlete,” former MHS football coach Tim Simon said of Adler. “He was also a player who teammates looked up to, which shows how well he led others. Baseball may have been his favorite sport, but he was very gifted at everything. He had great hand-eye coordination.

“I think his athleticism was best shown as he would seamlessly transfer from football right into basketball and then again from basketball right into baseball. After spending months on the football field, he would show up for the first day of basketball and immediately be one of the best basketball players on the court. It just goes to show you that you don't have to skip a school-sponsored sport and pay thousands of dollars to play club sports to be a great player. You just need to work hard and play a wide variety of sports.”

In basketball, Adler was named honorable-mention all-conference as both a junior and senior. Adler helped lead Middleton to the sectional finals as a senior, where the Cardinals were edged by eventual state runner-up Madison Memorial, 56-54.

In that loss to the Spartans, Adler had a potential game-winning, three-pointer that was halfway down. But the ball spun out as time expired and Memorial escaped.

“There was a little rumbling that Shane might just focus on football and baseball after his sophomore year,” Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “I went to him personally to let him know what a great experience he would have with basketball and how much of an important part he would play for our team and his teammates. I don't know that I've ever done that with any other player, but I knew he was going to be a special athlete and a leader for us.

“Shane was a natural in everything he did. On the court he could score, rebound, and defend. And he was a competitor. He hit the deciding shot in a sectional semifinal win in a big upset against Madison East. The next night in the sectional final against Madison Memorial he took the same corner three-point shot as time expired that would have sent us to state.

“I don't know that I've ever seen a shot go that far down and spin back out. He and I have talked about that a lot. To me, it's never whether that shot goes in or not, it's having the courage to take the big shot at the biggest moments and Shane would be at the top of my list to take it.”

 

3. Nick Toon (football, track — 2007)

Toon had a magnificent football career at Middleton, then played at the University of Wisconsin and for the New Orleans Saints.

Toon, a wide receiver, was a first-team all-state selection in 2006 after earning second-team honors as a junior in 2005. He was also a two-time, first-team all-area return specialist.

Toon had 51 receptions for 799 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. He also had 17 returns for 430 yards that season and intercepted two passes.

As a junior, Toon caught 26 passes for 425 yards and six touchdowns.

Toon was named to the inaugural All-American Offense-Defense Bowl. He was also a team captain as a senior.

During Toon’s four years at Wisconsin, he caught 170 passes for 2,447 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was then a fourth-round draft pick by New Orleans and spent three years with the Saints.

“Nick's accomplishment in high school, college, and the NFL speak quite directly to his pure gifts,” former Middleton football coach Tim Simon said. “But what people may not know how his work ethic got better and better as each year went on. He always had the vision of playing college ball, and by his junior and senior year you could see his desire to play at the next level.

“He did not just rest on his natural ability. He pushed himself hard on and off the field. I will also always remember how he always drew double teams from the opponent's defense — and in some instances, he drew triple teams. On the football field he was explosive, yet graceful. He had soft hands and had an incredible catch radius. If the football was thrown anywhere in his vicinity, he went and got it.”

Toon was also a track standout who was on Middleton’s state qualifying 400- and 800-meter relay teams as a sophomore. He also qualified for state that year in the triple jump.

Toon gave up track and field, though, to concentrate on football.

“He had so much potential but didn't stay with it,” former Middleton track and field coach Tara Franklin said. “Nick had a natural presence about him that made others want to be around him. His skills, speed and his ability to jump well also came very natural to him.”

 

4. Brooks Braga (football, basketball, baseball — 2009)

Braga was a dynamic three-sport athlete who excelled at everything he did.

Braga was a first-team all-state running back as a senior when he rushed for 2,183 yards, 39 touchdowns and averaged 7.6 yards per carry. Middleton reached the state semifinals that year, but lost to eventual champion Mequon Homestead.

Braga, who didn't play football as a sophomore, finished his career with 2,893 yards and 45 touchdowns.

“He worked hard at all three of his loves — football, basketball, and baseball,” former Middleton football coach Tim Simon said. “He was extremely gifted in his running and jumping ability, had extraordinary hand-eye coordination, and flourished on the big stage in crunch time.

“His amazing athletic ability was stunning at times, as he would make plays on the football, basketball or baseball arena, and people's heads would turn in disbelief — even his teammates and coaches. He was fast, powerful and would have a burst of explosiveness that would stun opponents.

“He was just a pure, natural, and rare talent. His work ethic and leadership skills were always easy to see. His gifts were easy to see as he would so easily transition from football to basketball to baseball and would be the best player on the field or court day one of practice.”

Braga was also a three-time all-Big Eight Conference baseball player, earning first-team honors as a junior and senior and second-team honors as a sophomore.

As a senior in 2009, Braga batted .371, had a team-high 32 runs, a.570 on-base percentage and a .483 slugging percentage. As a junior, Braga earned second-team all-district honors after batting .368 with a .507 on-base percentage and a team-high 13 stolen bases.

And as a sophomore, Braga batted .375 with 14 RBI, a .475 OBP and a .458 slugging percentage.

“Look up ‘athlete’ in the dictionary and you would see a picture of Brooks,” former Middleton manager Tom Schmitt said. “He had natural talent in three sports and loved to play the game. 

“He was a very talented baseball player who had tremendous ability to barrel the ball to all fields. Once on the bases he gave opposing teams a headache with his speed and instincts on the base paths. It was fun to watch Brooks develop in our program and as a great running back on Friday nights.”

Braga was also a three-year letter-winner in basketball who earned honorable-mention all-conference honors as a junior and senior.

“Brooks had tremendous balance and quickness, traits that allowed him to excel on the basketball court, as well as on the football field and the baseball diamond,” Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “He had a strong inside-out move that was difficult to stop with his quickness and strength, so we opened up the court and ran some dribble drive with his abilities in mind.

“He really had a complete game with the quickness to defend, the strength to get to the rim, and the ability to knock down three-point shots and key free throws. Brooks was also a team-first guy, being that ‘pass-first score-second’ type of point guard that every successful team has to have.”

 

5. Luke Meeteer (baseball, football — 2011)

Meeteer received three first-place votes from the panel, and it’s easy to see why.

Meeteer earned back-to-back first-team Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association All-State honors his final two years at MHS.

As a senior, Meeteer batted .515 with a .566 on-base percentage, scored 28 runs and had 23 RBI. He also earned first-team honors from the WBCA in District V and in the Big 8 Conference for a second consecutive season.

As a junior, Meeteer batted .462 with a .548 on-base percentage and .615 slugging percentage. He scored 31 runs, had 15 RBI and stole 24 bases that season.

Meeteer then enjoyed a terrific career at UW-Milwaukee where he was named first-team All-Horizon League as a freshman and a senior, and notched second-team all-conference honors as a sophomore and junior.

Today, Meeteer is an assistant baseball coach at Milwaukee School of Engineering.

“This young athlete just kept developing into a ‘freak of nature’ by being dedicated to his vision of the athlete he knew he wanted to be and could be,” former Middleton manager Tom Schmitt said. “Luke took his God-given ability to run, dedicated himself to working out, practiced with his teammates and matured into a two-time, first-team All-State baseball player. 

“Luke was able to turn games around with one at-bat, one touch of the football or one time on the bases. He was a tremendous student/athlete who made MHS a better place. He had a very humble and hungry attitude to make himself and the team better each time he competed. It was a pleasure to have had the opportunity to coach a young man like Luke.”

For a stretch, it looked like Meeteer would be an NCAA Division I football player.

He was an all-state cornerback who gave a verbal commitment to Wisconsin after running the 40-yard dash in 4.37 and 4.39 seconds during UW’s football camp.

But Meeteer suffered broken vertebrae his senior year and chose baseball.

“You have two wings coming off your vertebrae, and both of them snapped,” Meeteer said at the time. “So, it’s a very unstable backbone. They took a look at it and the doctor said it’s probably not going to do well with football.”

Meeteer was a dynamo on the football field.

As a junior in 2009, Meeteer matched up with No. 1 wide receivers all season and earned first-team all-Big Eight Conference honors at cornerback.

Meeteer finished the year with 59 tackles, 12 passes defensed, two interceptions and one forced fumble. He also averaged 22.0 yards on punt returns and was named second-team all-Big Eight as a return man.

As a senior, Meeteer had three interceptions, averaged 38.3 yards per kick return and had two return touchdowns. Meeteer was named first-team all-Big Eight, first-team all-region and honorable-mention all-state.

“He had the offers to play both DI football and DI baseball,” former Middleton football coach Tim Simon said. “If that doesn't speak to his athletic ability, I don't know what does.

“He had pure God-given talent. His work ethic in the weight room was amazing as well. Too bad baseball and track happen at the same time, because he would have participated in the state track meet as well. Fast and quick, strong and explosive, great hand-eye coordination and graceful. He literally could play just about any position on the football field -- and often did. 

“Shutdown cornerback, diving catches at wide receiver, explosive running back plays, diving baseball catches, hit for average and power — he could just do it all! He was also a great and much respected leader. When you take his natural gifts and combine them with his great work ethic in the weight room and on the field, amazing things are going to happen.” 

 

6. Ryan Groy (football, basketball, track and field — 2009)

Groy had a magnificent football career at Middleton, played for the University of Wisconsin and has been in the NFL since 2014.

As a sophomore at MHS in 2006, Groy was an honorable-mention all-Big Eight Conference player. The following season, Groy had 87 pancake blocks, didn't allow a sack, and was a first-team all-region and all-conference player.

And during Groy’s senior season of 2008, he was a first-team all-state player after posting 150 pancake blocks.

“What is amazing about Ryan is his unbelievable natural athletic ability,” former Middleton football coach Tim Simon said. “What is very important to note is that he is not just a ‘big guy who can play football.’ He played basketball for a few years and did track as well. 

“His sophomore year in basketball, he was 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds and was more graceful and gifted then many of the opponent's guards. He was a deadly shooter from inside of 15 feet, shot almost 70% from the free-throw line, and could run and jump with amazing speed and power. His vertical jump was almost 30 inches. And don't ever challenge him in a game of golf like I did his senior year. One time I did and he shot a 75 and made me look pretty bad.” 

After redshirting at UW in 2009, Groy started six games in the 2010 and ’11 campaigns. By 2012, Groy won the Badgers’ left guard spot and also shifted out to left tackle when injuries struck the line.

In 2013, Groy started 13 games at left guard and anchored an offensive line that helped UW set single-season school records in total offense (480.8 yards per game), rushing yards (3,689) and average yards per rushing attempt (6.62).

Groy finished his career playing in a school-record 54 games. He also started 33 games at left guard, left tackle, center and fullback.

Groy went undrafted, but caught his first big break with the Buffalo Bills in 2016. There, he stepped in at center when injuries struck and started seven games.

Groy was Buffalo’s starting center in 2018 and played with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019.

“In the weight room, he was on a mission,” Simon said. “He would push himself so hard. He was also a great leader, both by word and by example.

“When you combine his natural athletic ability with his amazing work ethic, it was no surprise to see him block one or two defensive players in the same play and then race alongside the running backs as they ran down the field, running past the opponent’s linebackers and safeties.”

Groy also played two years of basketball and threw the shot put and discus as a senior for the track and field team.

“Ryan was a motivator and someone who the other throwers looked up to,” former Middleton track and field coach Tara Franklin said. “He worked hard at trying to learn a new skill late in his high school years. He did help influence those around him in a positive way and was always fun to be around.”

 

7. Michael Owen (volleyball, basketball, tennis — 2010)

It didn't matter what season it was. Owen was turning heads with his remarkable accomplishments.

Owen was a four-time letterwinner, a three-year starter and three-time Big Eight Conference first-team selection at outside hitter in volleyball.

As a senior, he was a co-captain and earned Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association All-State first team honors. He was also named the Big Eight Conference Player of the Year and earned team Most Valuable Player honors.

Owen earned second-team All-State honors as a junior when Middleton was ranked No. 1 or 2 most of the season. That Cardinals team lost to Milwaukee Marquette in the state semifinals.

Owen was also a co-captain as a sophomore.

Owen finished third in career kills (846) in the rally scoring era, was third in blocks (159), sixth in aces (85) and in the Cardinals’ top-10 in career passing.

Middleton won four straight Big Eight Conference titles and qualified for state all four years of Owen’s varsity career.

After high school, Owen continued his education and played at Harvard. He went to Nebraska as a graduate assistant coach for the women's volleyball team and won a national championship. He is currently an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio). 

“I think in baseball they call the top players ‘5-tool athletes.’ Well, Michael Owen was definitely a 5-tool volleyball player,” former Middleton boys volleyball coach Ben White said. “No matter what position I put Michael at, he would have been one of the top players in the state.

“Michael always played his best matches in the biggest games. He was a complete gamer. He was very competitive and always wanted to win.”

Owen was also a three-year letterwinner and two-year starter at forward in basketball. He was a co-captain and earned All-Big Eight Conference honorable mention honors as a senior, when the Cardinals advanced to the sectional finals.

He earned Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Academic All-State honors as a senior.

“Michael was one of those players who was a perfectionist,” Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “Details mattered to him and it was important to Michael to lead by example by being fundamentally sound and team-oriented. He was definitely a ‘speak softly’ kind of player who did his talking with his aggressive play, especially on the boards. He also had the ability to score both inside and outside. I remember it all coming together for him in a game at Beloit where he hit for 28 points, missing only one or two shots the entire night from the field and free-throw line combined.

“Michael was more of an analytical player than an emotional one, and was extremely humble, especially in accepting praise. I remember his teammates going crazy for him in the locker room after that Beloit game and him reacting with the biggest smile. When you see teammates genuinely excited and happy for the individual success of a teammate, in this case for Michael, you immediately recognize just how respected that person is." 

Owen was also a standout tennis player who teamed with Alex Horner as a senior and advanced to the second round of the WIAA Division 1 individual state tournament.

Middleton was runner-up at the Division 1 team state tournament during Owen’s junior year. The Cardinals qualified for the state team tournament and lost in the quarterfinals his senior year.

 

8. Kevin Meicher (wrestling, football — 2019)

Meicher is arguably the finest wrestler in school history.

Meicher finished his brilliant career with a state title at 126 pounds in 2016, second-place finishes at 152 pounds in 2019 and at 138 in 2017, and a fourth-place showing at 152 in 2018.

Meicher posted a remarkable career record of 181-14 for a .928 winning percentage. Meicher went 37-2 as a senior, 48-3 as a junior, 49-6 as a sophomore and 47-3 as a freshman.

Today, Meicher wrestles at the University of Minnesota.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to just compete here,” Meicher said after the 2019 state tournament. “I was able to get through high school without any major injuries. I’m grateful for my family and friends and their support. That meant a lot.”

Meicher was also a two-time all-conference football player.

As a senior in 2018, Meicher earned first-team all-conference honors at both cornerback and as a utility player/return specialist.

Meicher finished his senior season with 44 tackles, 10 passes defensed and three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. He also had one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Meicher also had two touchdowns in the return game in 2018 and five over the last two seasons.

As a junior in 2017, Meicher was named honorable-mention all-conference. Meicher had three interceptions that year, including one that he returned for a touchdown, and five passes defensed. He added 19 tackles, two forced fumbles, and led the conference in punt return average (29.0) and touchdowns (two).

“Kevin's athletic ability was put on display immediately in high school,” former Middleton football coach Tim Simon said. “Right after a dominating freshman football season, he went into wrestling and won a state championship! His multi-sport ability was on display his freshman year and it carried all the way into college as a collegiate wrestler. 

“On the football field he could play, and did play, safety, cornerback, running back and wide receiver. He could have started at any of those positions. His work ethic in the weight room and on the football field and wrestling mat were unparalleled his junior and senior years. He was naturally gifted. 

“He was fast, tenacious and tough, explosive and strong, and had amazing body control and balance. All of those traits combined with a great work ethic allowed his athleticism to shine in all his competitive arenas. He loved to compete. He was a great leader and his teammates always looked up to him as he would lead by word and by example.”

 

9. Danny Mazur (football, swimming, track and field — 2003)

Mazur was a sensational swimmer who helped lead Middleton to top-three finishes at three WIAA Division 1 state swimming and diving meets. He was also an all-conference linebacker in football.

Mazur helped Middleton finish third at the 2003 WIAA Division 1 state swimming and diving meet. That year, Mazur was eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke, 20th in the 200-yard medley and was part of Middleton’s fifth place 200-yard medley relay team.

As a junior in 2002, Mazur also helped Middleton finish third at state. Mazur was part of the Cardinals’ second place 200-yard medley relay team and was seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke.

As a sophomore in 2001, Mazur was ninth in the 100 breaststroke, was on Middleton’s seventh place 200-yard medley relay team and helped the Cardinals finish fifth as a team.

Mazur was also 12th in the 100-yard breaststroke as a freshman when Middleton finished second as a team.

Mazur was also a standout linebacker who earned first-team all-Big Eight honors as a senior in 2002.

“Always the leader, always hustled, was a great student of the game and a very smart player,” former Middleton defensive coordinator Tom Cabalka said of Mazur. “Because he spent so much time studying film he pretty much knew what plays could be run out of the formations the opposing team gave us. He was a great communicator on the field and he made our defensive unit better because of it.”

Mazur also competed in track and field.

 

10. Parker Van Buren (volleyball, basketball — 2020)

The 6-foot-9 Van Buren ranks among the finest volleyball players in school history. He also became a terrific basketball player who earned all-conference honors as a senior.

Van Buren’s greatest accomplishments were on the volleyball court, where he earned first-team all-state honors as a senior in 2019 and was a second-team all-state selection as a junior in 2018.

Van Buren, a Loyola (Ill.) recruit, broke the school single season kills record and led the state in kills with 503 as a senior. He also finished second in school history in career kills (906).

Van Buren’s 52 aces in 2019 were the second-most for a single season in Middleton history and his 79 career aces ranks ninth all-time. Van Buren had a remarkable .467 kill percentage (kills — errors/attempts) and he was also named Middleton’s MVP.

As a junior, Van Buren was named Middleton’s MVP after finishing the year with 359 kills and a stellar .382 kill percentage.

“Parker's hitting ability is unmatched,” former Middleton coach Ben White said. “Due to his height and his athletic ability the ball he hits is a very heavy ball and comes at angles that people aren't used to defending. He had some unbelievable matches his junior and senior year.

“I will never forget watching the Waukesha West match (in 2019) online as he completely took over and led us to a ‘Tosa East Invite championship. What's scary is Parker's best volleyball is yet to come. Parker has the ability to be dominant in college and beyond. I cannot wait to watch him continue his career.”

Van Buren also developed into a force on the basketball court.

As a senior, Van Buren was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference after finishing second on the team in scoring (11.9), first in rebounding (7.2) and first in blocked shots (0.8). Van Buren shot 55.7% from the field and averaged 1.0 steals per game.

“Parker was the classic late-bloomer who grew darn near a foot over his high school career, and as successful as he was for us the past two years I can't imagine what he would be able to do on the basketball court if we had him for one more season,” Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “Volleyball was of course Parker's No. 1 focus, but there is also no doubt in my mind that he would have been a very solid and successful collegiate basketball player, as well.

“We changed a lot of what we did offensively to get the ball inside to him this past season, and when he got the ball down low there really wasn't much that anyone was going to do to be able to stop him. Parker is also at the top of the list when it comes to doing things the right way — how he approaches school, communication, practice, leadership. He is definitely ready for all the demands of what a college athlete experiences, and Loyola could not be getting a better person joining their volleyball program.”

 

BEST OF THE REST

Middleton has had several terrific athletes this century.  The following standouts all received votes in the Times-Tribune’s poll of MHS’ top-20 male athletes.

Listed below is where those stars finished in the polling, the sports they played and the year they graduated from Middleton.

11. Luke Schafer (football, basketball, baseball — 2014)

12. Alan Roden (baseball, basketball — 2018)

13. Tim Owen (volleyball, basketball, tennis — 2001)

14. Storm Murphy (basketball — 2017)

15. Aaron Hohlbein (soccer, basketball — 2003)

16. Perrin Haage (cross country, track and field — 2016)

17. Cody Markel (football, basketball, tennis — 2016)

18. Ernest Winters (track and field, football — 2014)

19. Derek Rongstad (basketball, football — 2014)

20. Eric Hagstrom (golf, basketball, football — 2012)

21. C.J. Fermanich (football, basketball — 2017)

22. Ricky Reusser (cross country, track — 2003)

23. Tyree Eady (basketball — 2017)

24. Caleb Easton (cross country, track — 2019)

25. Zach Koerber (football, track and field — 2005)

26. Ben Brummel (wrestling, cross country — 2009)

27. Tyler Guse (soccer — 2005)

28. Jed Hohlbein (soccer — 2001)

29. Will Hudson (basketball — 2007)

30. Jake Cain (football, wrestling, track — 2013)

31. Ross Hellenbrand (football, baseball — 2006)

32. Drew Haack (football, baseball — 2012)

33. Brennan Schmitt (football, basketball, baseball — 2016)

34. Jack Hagstrom (soccer — 2014)

35. Kayden Lyles (football — 2016)

36. Tone Boyle (basketball — 2006)

37. Bradan Allen (soccer — 2015)

38. Gus Newcomb (cross country, track — 2017)

39. Emmet Herb (golf — 2016)

40. Derek Waleffe (soccer — 2018)

41. Danny Zimmerman (golf — 2004)

42. Connor Zimmick (volleyball, basketball — 2014)

43. John Breunig (football, basketball, baseball — 2007)

44. Jaime Hofer (football, track and field — 2011)

45. Andy Keeler (track, volleyball — 2014)

46. Johnny Strnad (basketball, baseball — 2006)

47. Kyle Brodd (football, track and field — 2002)

48. Shamus Terry (baseball — 2000)

49. Luke Lengfeld (swimming, football — 2007)

50. Brett Skibba (football, hockey — 2011)

51. Jake Bunz (hockey — 2013)

52. James Caldwell (volleyball — 2015)

53. Eric Smith (football, hockey — 2011)

54. Dane Maier (volleyball — 2009) 

55. Sam Niesen (swimming — 2009)

 

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