First things first. Christian Huelsman will soon become one of the top 10 all-time goal-scorers in Ohio high school soccer history. When his career ends in October or November, he’ll probably rank in the top five or six — good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
But that’s not at the top of the priorities list for the leading scorer in the history of Wellington’s boys soccer program. To be sure, the senior forward has to stop and think about what he’s accomplished in a career now in its fourth season.
“I had 103 goals at the end of last year,” he said after practice on Monday. “And I had, uh … I guess 11 … no, I guess I have 16 so far this year.”
That’s 16 goals in five games, through which the Dukes have gone undefeated, and 119 in a career just over three seasons long.
“I mean, a lot of people think it’s a big deal but it’s not,” Huelsman said. “I try not to think about it that much, because once I start thinking about it, it gets in my head. It’s fun to talk about it with people sometimes, because I have this God-given talent. It’s a wonderful thing to have, but I don’t like to harp on it.”
That’s all soccer fans need to know about that side of Huelsman, the most prolific goal-getter in Lorain County since Chris Dore (128 career goals), who graduated from Lorain Catholic in 1995, and Billy Waters (144), who graduated in Lorain Catholic’s final class, 2004.
Put it all aside. The fact is, Wellington this season has one of the best soccer teams ever to play in Lorain County, probably one of the best in Ohio.
The Dukes are there because of the 1-2 scoring punch provided by Huelsman and his senior teammate Greg Stawicki. And because they have one of the top defensive units in the county, anchored by senior co-captains Zak Ziegler and Keith Smith.
“In my opinion, our defense, in our conference, will stop anybody,” Huelsman said. “Since we’re playing Division II come tournament time, they’re going to be playing against some bigger forwards who have skills like me and (Stawicki). But we play against our defense every day, so they’re going to be ready for it.”
Which is true, but let the defense tell its own story.
“We’re a strong defense,” said Ziegler. “We have strong forwards and that strengthens us because we practice against them every day. It’s something we’ve worked on. We might not be the strongest, but I believe we’re tough enough and we communicate well. So overall, I think we’re a pretty tough defense.”
The Dukes are undefeated in five games to this point, which supports Ziegler’s notion. And it’s his notion, and that of others, that Wellington’s offense and defense are successful each year for a reason.
“We’re running,” Smith said. “In the offseason, we condition and some of us have over 300 and 400 hours of working: conditioning, open gyms, lifting, playing two indoor sessions down at Lodi. Pretty much everybody shows up for that. We want to win the conference and the district. We’ll do anything to make ourselves better.”
Which they’ve done. And while they’ve been doing it, they’ve been doing something else — creating targets on their own backs. Everyone, it seems, wants to beat Wellington.
“We think it’s a big target, because everybody wants to beat us, especially in our conference,” Huelsman said. “We have to make it smaller by being prepared every time we take the field. It’s always been a big target. In all my four years here, everybody’s wanted to beat Wellington.”
Which must be a cumbersome psychological burden.
“No, it’s not a burden,” Smith said. “We take it as a compliment and a sign of respect from other teams. We look at it from game to game. We know they want to beat us, but we want to beat them just as bad.”
The Dukes have succeeded year in and year out because of their strong defenses and, in recent seasons, because of the scoring punch of Huelsman and Stawicki.
“Chris and I are working hard,” Stawicki said. “We take extra time out of our lives to practice shooting, getting touches on the ball. We also play club ball, we travel and play different places and look for more competition, better competition.
“Me and Chris work really well together,” he added. “Sometimes we don’t even talk, because we know what we’re going to do. I look in his eyes or he looks in my eyes and we’re like, ‘Go, OK, let’s go.’”
And so Wellington succeeds year after year. Why?
“Dedication and hard work and a lot of heart,” Stawicki said.
“How hard we work,” Smith said. “We condition.”
And so Wellington is a contender every season, although the Dukes have never gone farther than a regional final. They were stopped by Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, 2-0, in a Division III regional semifinal last year at Canton Central Catholic.
But this is a new season and, in some ways, a different team. A good team. Just how good is it?
“I was a little worried this year because we lost a couple guys (Mark Mazzone and Dan Bogan),” Huelsman said. “They had key roles on this team and I was worried about those two spots. But we’ve filled them very well and we’re stepping up from last season. We went far last year, but we’re stepping up.
“We conditioned really hard during two-a-days, we can run teams — just run ’em like a basketball game,” he said. “Some teams just run the other team till they drop, and that’s what we do. That’s one of our biggest assets. We have a lot of experience on this team and that’s key.”
Coach Bill Little is on the same page.
“We’ve got skills on this team and we’ve got a lot of heart,” Little said. “We should be successful. But we’ve moved up to Division II, and (Elyria Catholic) also moved up. But they moved EC to the Brunswick district so they go down and play Medina Highland and those schools. They have to drive right by us to get there.
“But we have a lot of good leadership,” he said. “These four (co-captains), every one decided to be a team leader and it works. All the way around. On the field and off the field.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.