Travis Wannemuehler gets a second chance at a state title this fall. This time it will be in a different style of football.
Wannemuehler, one of the nation’s top Class of 2013 soccer prospects who has committed to North Carolina State, is the starting place-kicker at Mater Dei (Evansville, Ind.). Friday night, Mater Dei faces Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.) in the Class 2A football state final.
Earlier this fall, Wannemuehler scored 21 goals and added 14 assists while leading Mater Dei to a state runner-up soccer finish to Canterbury School (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
“I’m hoping for a different outcome this time,” Wannemuehler said.
“Before the game, I’m sure I’ll be anxious,” he said. “I think this will be real nerve-wracking, especially since there will be four to five times more people at the football game than the soccer [state final].”
Wannemuehler, who plays for Indiana United in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, added football to his resume this fall at the urging of a friend. Wannemuehler responded by converting 10 of 12 field goal attempts and 61 of 64 extra points this season as Mater Dei has rolled up a 13-1 record.
Despite the impressive statistics, Wannemuehler said it’s not an easy switch between sports.
“Kicking a football is not the same as kicking a soccer ball,” he said. “But the hardest part was getting adjusted to the helmet and pads – that took a good couple of weeks. I still wasn’t used to it at the first game.”
Wannemuehler also had a mental aspect of football to conquer.
“In soccer, I don’t come off the field,” he said. “In football, I play for 15 seconds, then sit out 30 minutes and then come back and do my job for five seconds.
“On the soccer team, I was a leader and it was a huge responsibility,” he added. “Now, I just do a job for the football team. My job might not be too important, but one miss could cost us a game.”
Wannemuehler admitted pulling double-duty as a soccer and football player this fall has presented plenty of challenges. For starters, it meant long days. School starts at 7:20 a.m. Following school, he’d attend football practice from 4:30 to 5 p.m. and then soccer practice from 5 to 7:30 p.m., often arriving home each night at 8 p.m. He also said there was a point in the season where his father was “on me for my grades.” He also got injured during a soccer match, which forced him out of the lineup for seven matches. However, while the injury sidelined him for soccer, it did not affect his place-kicking, and the school’s trainer cleared him to continue with football. “It got hectic, a lot of soccer people got on my back about that.”
Still, Wannemuehler persevered.
However, his football career may be coming to an end sooner than later.
Wannemuehler said he has no interest in pursuing football in college, and his commitment to the Indiana United club team next school year may prevent him from playing either soccer or football at the high school.
“I would love to keep kicking,” he said. “But it depends on what the Academy decides. If we go to a 10-month [club soccer] schedule, I won’t be able to play any sports in high school.”
Update: Wannemuehler converted a 34-yard field goal and two extra points, however, Mater Dei lost to Bishop Luers 41-17 in the state final.