The Road to Uihlein started Tuesday.

Boys soccer teams across Wisconsin started the season with the ultimate goal of reaching the WIAA state tournament, which will be held at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. To get there, you need talent and there is plenty of it in the state.

Which players are among the cream of the crop? Everyone will have an opinion. Here is ours.

Ryan Amond, Bay Port

The junior forward/midfielder rang up 10 goals and nine assists in 12 games to help the Pirates win the Fox River Classic last spring. “He understands how the game is played at a young age,” Pirates coach Travis Herber said in an email. “There is no doubt in my mind that this young man could play professional soccer someday if he continues to grow each year.”  

Jacob Bakalinsky, Homestead

The junior central midfielder emerged in a big way last season, showing an ability to play physical and win 50-50 balls despite not possessing great size. He posted five goals and three assists for a team that finished second in the North Shore Conference and reached the regional final.

Ray Beilman, Elkhorn

In the past two seasons the junior forward has helped the Elks win Southern Lakes titles and reach two state tournaments. He posted 36 points in each of those years. The difference in 2020 was that he needed just 11 games to reach the total rather than 21.

Lucas Biederman, Hudson

With the senior in goal last season, the Raiders reached the state tournament for the first time in 13 years. Thanks to his quickness and instincts he makes plays in such a fashion that the opponent doesn’t get the rebound opportunities that cost many keepers. In advancing to the Division 1 semifinals, he allowed one goal in nine games, recording a 0.13 goals-against average and .976 save percentage.

Bryce Boldt, Waupaca

The four-year varsity player can get double-teamed and knocked to the turf and he just keeps plugging away. That unflappable nature led to some huge moments in 2020. He posted three hat tricks and finished with 17 goals and five assists in just 11 games. “The ball just seems to stick to his foot,” Waupaca coach Jeremy Koehler said in an email.

Enzo Bova, Arrowhead

The three-year varsity performer is an attacking midfielder who helped the Warhawks reach the state tournament last season. His unassisted goal in the state semifinals was the difference in a victory over Elkhorn. On the play Bova showed his athleticism going to the air to win a 50-50 ball before displaying his finishing touch. He finished the year with 15 goals and seven assists.

Gunnar Busch, Wauwatosa East

The senior midfielder’s elite foot skills, great vision and ability to create scoring chances caused coaches in the Greater Metro to name him first-team all-conference even though his team didn’t have great success. He finished with 11 goals and five assists in 2020.

Estevan Colin, Delavan-Darien

The four-year varsity performer is one of the state’s most prolific scorers. The senior forward entered the season with 81 goals and is coming off a junior campaign in which he helped the Comets reach the Division 2 semifinals by leading the team in scoring with 27 points (11 goals, five assists). What will he be able to do with a full season under his belt? As a sophomore, he had 53 goals and 10 assists.

Teig Driessen, Seymour

Blessed with the ability to beat defenders with skill and physicality, the senior midfielder recorded 19 goals and 14 assists last season to help his team win the Bay Conference title. “(He) is a very well-rounded player and excels at every position,” Thunder coach Todd Messner wrote in an email.

Mitchell Dryden, Whitefish Bay

The senior midfielder is fully recovered from the broken leg that prematurely ended his junior season, so watch out. There might not be a more gifted scorer in the state. Before the injury he recorded 27 goals and nine assists in just 11 games. He started the season just three goals short of 50 for his career.

Tomas Garcia, Madison West

The Regents senior has the ability to play any where on the back four but settled into the center back spot last season. He has the strength and tenacity required of a defender, but what West coach Patrick Bauch feels separates him is the ability to distribute the ball whether he is on the run or not. He scored three assists in a very limited spring season.

Nikita Gladkov, Muskego

The Warriors senior forward doubles as a place kicker for the school’s football team. On the pitch, his coach Chris Logan says his motor and work rate as well as his one-on-one skills make him special. Gladkov recorded 11 goals and four assists last season and is currently receiving interest from Division I programs. 

Aidan Glancey, Whitnall

The senior midfielder’s speed, dribbling and finishing make him a candidate for the Woodland Conference player of the year and all-state distinction.  

Ben Grimm, Whitefish Bay

The senior forward ranked third in the North Shore Conference in goals scored last season with 14 but also led the team in assists (13). That production, which came in just 13 games, beat his freshman and sophomore seasons combined.

Miguel Gonzalez, Marquette

The senior midfielder dominates the game without posting eye-catching stats. Hilltoppers coach Steve Lawrence says Gonzalez controls the midfield for the team, doing the little things required of a midfielder such as reading plays and reacting quickly.

Langdon Gryglas, Arrowhead

The senior, who is entering his third year on the varsity, has been a workhorse in the defensive midfield and an invaluable member of a team that was the Division 1 state runner up last season. The Brown University recruit finished his junior season with four goals and one assist.

Asher Harris, Oconomowoc

You have to be a cool customer to man the goal and the senior was very calm under pressure last season when he helped the Raccoons win the Classic 8 title. The team allowed just two goals in league play and posted six shutouts. His size – he is 6-foot-3 – helps separate him from the crowd and gives him the tools to cover a lot of ground in the goal. He posted a 0.71 goals-against average last season.

Toren Holtz, Mosinee

The offensive player of the year in the Great Northern Conference, Holtz had 23 goals and six assists last season. Statistics, however, tell only part of the story. Coach Joseph Carlson also lauded Holtz’s communication and enthusiasm, which have helped his teammates raise their play. ”Where ever he goes things get better,” Carlson wrote in an email.

Ryan Karst, Brookfield East

One reason expectations are high for the Spartans is the return of their center back. The combination of his speed and size with his physical play and awareness make him a special player.

Carson Kelly, Fond du Lac

The Cardinals standout is able to adjust his game to the players he teams with. In a very limited alternate fall season – he played five games – he recorded five goals and four assists. When commitments with his club team prevented him playing, the team lost each time. “He’s a leader and field marshal on the field,” Fond du Lac coach Ian Larson said. “He’s a player that in games I don’t have to coach. I give him instruction and how we want to play that game and he gets it done on the field.”

Cole Kettner, Waunakee

The senior forward is set to make a return from a knee injury that sidelined him during the alternate fall season. Prior to that he was a prolific scorer who recorded 12 goals and 24 assists as a sophomore. Known for is ability to distribute the ball, Kettner has added size, speed and strength to his game.

Jakob Kidd, Superior

The senior forward played just eight games last season but recorded 16 goals and five assists. His average of 4.6 points per game was slightly better than his sophomore season when he used his great field vision and anticipation to post 35 goals and eight assists. He started the season with 59 goals and 17 assists (135 points) in just 37 matches.

Denis Krioutchenkov, Shorewood

The Greyhounds senior forward is one of the state’s most prolific scorers. A starter on the school’s state championship team in 2019, he broke out during the alternate fall season when he recorded 34 goals and seven assists in 12 games and led Shorewood to the state semifinals. He’ll play at Division I Davidson next year. “He lives and breathes soccer,” Shorewood coach Kyle Konkol wrote. “There are not many days he is not on the field working on his game. His presence alone inspires other players to be better.” 

Johan Lopez, Baraboo

An electric performer with an eye for the goal, the junior forward recorded 30 goals and five assists last season to help the Thunderbirds win a Badger Northwest title. According to coach Tyler Lang, Lopez plays with a tenacity and strength that allows him to maintain possession while running at opponents. He entered the season seven points shy of his 100th point.

Sam Magner, Marquette

The reigning kings of the Greater Metro posted four shutouts in league play with the help of their star defender. Great at reading the game and tenacious, coach Steve Lawrence says the senior continued to improve his strength and speed during the offseason.

Aidian Martin, Menomonee Falls

An attacking midfielder for the Phoenix who can shoot with both feet, this senior led the team in goals (14) and assists (17) and earned first-team all-conference distinction in the well-respected Greater Metro Conference. Falls coach Scott Stein loves how Martin sees the field and wants to make his teammates better. He doubles as the kicker for the football team and hit two field goals for the team in Week 1.

Alan Mendez, Delavan-Darien

The senior center midfielder’s vision and unselfishness helped the Comets reach the state semifinals in Division 2 last season. In 13 games he netted seven goals and six assists.

Zach Nichols, McFarland

The Rock Valley Conference player of the year led the Spartans to the Division 2 state title during the alternate fall season last spring and to state runner-up finishes as a freshman and sophomore. He capped his junior campaign with two goals and three assists at the state tournament. A handful of Division I programs are recruiting him.

Kevin Ramirez, De Pere

With three goals in the season opener Tuesday, the senior forward/midfielder is off to a fast start. Redbirds coach Martin Valenzuela praises his relentlessness when it comes to creating opportunities for the team. The result last season was 20 goals and nine assists in 17 games.

Cooper Re, Kimberly

The senior midfielder combined speed, technique and a high IQ for the game to record eight goals in nine games during the alternate fall season. He will play at UW-Whitewater.

Andrew Rhode, Brookfield Central

Rhode sat out last season, but his return could be big for the Lancers. He was an all-state selection as s sophomore when he helped the team win the Division 1 state championship. He is also a Division I basketball prospect.

Valentin Sandoval, Marquette

The senior forward’s quick feet and creativity helped him score 10 goals and record five assists for the Division 1 state champion. With state player of the year Gabe Anguil lost to graduation, more opportunities could come Sandoval’s way this year.

Matt Schutt, McFarland

The next goal the Spartans goalkeeper gives up to a Rock Valley opponent will be the first he has allowed in conference play. The senior has a scoreless streak of three seasons going and helped the team win the Division 2 title for the alternate season after runner-up finishes as a sophomore and junior. This past season he recorded eight shutouts, including a run of three straight from the sectional semifinal through the state semifinals. He is receiving interest from Ivy League programs.

Will Smith, Whitefish Bay

The junior defender is poised for a big season for a Blue Dukes squad that will make a strong run for the Division 2 title. Coach Rob Dubinski believes he came be one the best in the state.

Devin Stoltenberg, The Prairie School

Hawks coach Corey Oakland calls the senior a “modern keeper”, the type of player who is an outstanding goaltender but also a strong field player who would excel at whatever position he plays. He posted a 0.48 goals-against average with 13 shutouts last season. He didn’t give up a goal during a postseason run that ended with a Division 3 championship. That is a state record record shared by a handful of players.

Decker Storch, Waunakee

The senior central defender’s great closing speed allows him to cover ground quickly and makes it difficult for opponents to maintain long possessions. The Warriors also give him the freedom to bring the ball forward when chances present themselves. He finished the alternate season with four goals and one assist.

Preston Ten Dolle, Oostburg

The Flying Dutchmen won the Big East title and reached the sectional final with the help of this senior forward who has a gift for finding the back of the net. He posted 21 goals and two assists.  “He doesn’t let himself get outworked and he plays with no fear,” Oostburg coach Ryan Ten Pas said.

Sam Walton, Homestead

The senior midfielder has been the top playmakers for the Highlanders over the past two seasons. A year ago he scored four goals and seven assists for the North Shore runner-up.

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