Hundreds of student-athletes who compete for members of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference are waiting on pins and needles to see what decision the league makes regarding 2020 fall sports.
Two of those athletes are Oregon High School graduates who hope to square off on the gridiron against each other.
Hunter Schultz, a 2017 OHS grad, is a rising senior and right guard at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The 6-foot, 285-pound Brooklyn native played in one game as a sophomore, but started all 11 games last season. He helped UWO average 350 yards of offense last season – 183.4 rushing and 165.7 passing.
The Titans shared the WIAC title with UW-Whitewater last fall, as both teams went 6-1 in conference play. UWO finished the season 8-3, falling 38-37 in overtime to Central College in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
Typically, the Titans train four times per week in the spring – three days of lifting and one of conditioning drills. All organized spring training and the team’s spring game were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of the guys live in Oshkosh year-round, but we haven’t had the opportunity to work out as a full team,” Schultz said. “We’ve been doing as much as we can this summer, like going to the field to train or going to a gym that just opened back up here.
“We even set up a small gym in my apartment. It’s been about doing the most with whatever equipment we can get our hands on.”
On July 14, five University of Wisconsin institutions canceled intercollegiate sports on satellite campuses for 2020-21 – UW-Green Bay’s campuses in Manitowoc, Marinette and Sheboygan and UW-Oshkosh campuses in Fond du Lac and the Fox Cities. Golf, soccer, basketball and volleyball were the sports affected. Seventy UWO students at the Fond du Lac and Fox Cities campuses participated in sports last school year.
The Titans’ 2020 football schedule has already been impacted prior to the WIAC’s decision.
The season opener at Indiana Wesleyan University originally scheduled for Sept. 5 was scrapped because the NAIA will not allow its member football schools to begin competition until Sept. 12. UWO’s nonconference home game against Salisbury University –originally scheduled for Sept. 12 – has also been canceled.
The Titans now have seven scheduled games against its conference foes, with the season opener set for Oct. 3 at home against UW-Platteville. Schultz said the team will start a limited but organized training camp Aug. 10.
While Schultz’s career in the WIAC is nearing its end, Brady Gagner’s is just starting at UW-La Crosse. The 2020 OHS grad had his senior baseball season at Oregon wiped out by the pandemic, as well as a football camp at UWL in June.
“Our coaches have been good about getting us workouts and keeping us updated,” Gagner said. “But it’s been difficult at times when I want to lift. I don’t have all the necessary equipment at home and I don’t really want to go to a gym.”
Gagner verbally committed to the Eagles in early January after being named honorable mention all-Badger South Conference as a defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder also played left tackle and served as the Panthers’ punter last fall.
Gagner plans to begin his La Crosse career as a stand-up linebacker. He recorded 54 tackles (13 solos), team highs with four sacks and three forced fumbles and tied for the team lead with one fumble recovery in his final season at Oregon.
UWL went 7-3 last season, finishing third in the WIAC with a 5-2 mark. The Eagles are currently scheduled to play an eight-game season that begins on the road Sept. 12 against the University of Dubuque, which will have two of Gagner’s former classmates – Jack Daguanno and Adam Yates.
La Crosse’s season opener against Concordia College (Minn.), which was originally scheduled for Sept. 5, was canceled when the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference canceled all nonconference games. The Eagles’ nonconference home game against Dakota State, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 19, has also been scrapped.
Gagner said he will move into his dorm room on Aug. 12. His first college camp begins the following day.
“We have an idea of what things are supposed to be like, but it could all change,” Gagner said. “It’s been hard mentally to think about all the cancellations. We’re already such a digital society, but it’s hard missing out on social interaction.”