Wenger top soccer player in nation Duke junior wins Hermann Trophy
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Andrew Wenger and Andrew Luck could share a unique bond.
That is, besides their first name.
Both have the potential to be selected first overall in their respective professional league drafts this year.
Wenger, a 2009 Warwick High School grad and a junior at Duke University, is considered one of the top two players in the Major League Soccer draft.
Luck, a senior quarterback at Stanford University, is the popular choice to go number one in the National Football League draft in April.
Wenger, who turned 21 on Christmas, will get the first crack at it today (Thursday) when the 2012 MLS SuperDraft is held in Kansas City, Mo. It will be shown on ESPN2 and ESPN3 beginning at 12 p.m.
A three-time All-ACC First Team recipient, Wenger has given up his final year of eligibility with the Blue Devils by recently signing a contract with Generation Adidas, a corporate sponsorship program that helps top college players enter the draft early. Written into his contract is that he will stay in school at Duke through the spring semester, which will leave him just four credits shy of graduating.
"Every year, MLS offers this program called Generation Adidas to college underclassmen, ahead of the draft, because there are teams in MLS that are interested in their services as players," said Wenger, who is currently taking part in a training camp with the U.S. Under-23 National Team. "So I was offered a Generation Adidas contract, which gives me the opportunity to finish up school later, but also an opportunity to enter the professional ranks here in the United States a bit early … I’m a professional player at the moment. I’m just waiting for the draft to figure out what team I will play for."
The Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps have the first two picks in the draft, and Darren Mattocks, a sophomore forward at the University of Akron, is considered to be one of the top two players available along with Wenger.
According to latest MLSsoccer.com 2012 Mock Draft, experts Simon Borg, Jason Saghini and Travis Clark all have Wenger going second to Vancouver.
In discussing Wenger’s professional future, Borg states, "The Generation Adidas signee who is said to be the most complete soccer player in the SuperDraft falls to the Whitecaps, who pick up a starter."
Wenger, though, is keeping a level head about the whole process.
"The Montreal Impact have the first pick and they said they’ll either pick myself or Darren," Wenger said. "And the Vancouver Whitecaps have the second pick and they said that they’ll pick the one that isn’t selected. But who knows? All these people can change their minds with the combines going on right now. People could change their mind, trades could happen, so you never know."
Of course, trades could also happen prior to the NFL draft involving Luck, who was the runner-up to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting.
Last Friday in St. Louis, Mo., Wenger received the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for men’s soccer, taking home the Missouri Athletic Club’s prestigious Hermann Trophy, presented to the best male and female players in NCAA Division-I soccer.
According to the Duke University website, Wenger becomes the sixth Blue Devils player to win the Hermann, behind Joseph Ulrich (1982), Michael Jeffries (1983), Thomas Kain (1985), John Kerr (1986) and Ali Curtis (1999). Indiana and Duke are now tied with the most Hermann Trophy winners in history.
"Looking at some of the past winners," Wenger said, "it was quite an honor knowing that it was elite company to be in."
Wenger can now add the Hermann Trophy to his mantel along with some other esteemed honors, including the National High School Player of the Year and two-time NSCAA/High School All-America selection at Warwick, and ACC Freshman of the Year (2009), ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2010), ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2011), CoSIDA Academic All-America First-Team and three All-ACC Academic Team honors with the Blue Devils.
"I think (the Hermann Trophy) is probably the highest individual honor I’ve ever been awarded. But at the same time, I much rather would have been on a team at Duke University that would have won a national championship," Wenger said. "So it’s quite an honor, but still, I wish we would have been able to achieve something collectively. But not to say that I didn’t achieve the Hermann without the help of my teammates over the past several years."
Wenger had the distinction of winning something collectively at Warwick, as he helped the Warriors’ soccer team take home the 2005 PIAA State championship under coach Dale Stoltzfus. Stoltzfus has continued to follow Wenger’s career at Duke, and when reached for comment about his former star winning the Hermann, he said, "I continue to be very proud and happy for Andrew and how well he has been able to stay focused and work extremely hard toward his dream. The continued success does not surprise me because of his strong family support and how good of a student-athlete he was during his four years at Warwick."
He finished his career with the Warriors by scoring 45 goals and 39 assists for 129 points, and Wenger continued that scoring touch with the Blue Devils this past fall, leading the ACC with 17 goals and 42 total points. He also finished fourth in the country in points and sixth in total goals, while helping the Blue Devils advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before suffering a 2-1 OT loss to the University of New Mexico.
In his previous two years at Duke, Wenger anchored the Blue Devils’ defense from his center back position.
"The coaches just thought that we didn’t have any true forwards this year and they were pleased with the way I played there, so I ended up playing there," Wenger said. "I feel pretty comfortable anywhere on the field, wherever the coaches need me to play, depending on the team."
Not only did Wenger become just the second player from Duke in the past 25 years to win the Hermann Trophy, but he also had the distinction of becoming the first recipient to be coached by a former winner (Kerr). Wenger credited Kerr and associate head coach Michael Brady for a lot of his success.
"They’ve been phenomenal over those past four years," Wenger said, "helping me mature on the field and also off the field. Especially this year, both of them were prolific goal scorers in their own right when they used to play and they helped me to pick up on the little things here and there within the box to score a couple more goals. I think that really helped me this year to be more clinical in scoring goals."
The 6-0, 185-pound star is listed as a defender on the roster for the U.S. Under-23 National team, which began training camp on Sunday, Jan. 8 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. They will train there for 11 days before traveling to Costa Rica on Jan. 18 to play two matches against local club teams.
This camp marks the team’s third gathering as they prepare for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. from March 22-26. They will face Canada, Cuba and El Salvador there, and the two finalists from the tournament will qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer. More WENGER, page A3