The WSN15 series will celebrate the 15th Anniversary of WisSports.net by looking back at the top players, teams, and moments of the past 15 years (2003-2017).
The Top 15 Players countdown is not a recruiting ranking and not indicative of what the players did after high school. It is a ranking of the top high school players, the impact they had for their team, and the dominance they displayed while in high school.
Not only does Ladysmith's Mike Newkirk belong in the list of the top high school football players of the last fifteen years, he may be at the top of the list when it comes to all-around athletes.
We'll get to his football exploits in a minute, but his accomplishments in wrestling and track & field are just as impressive. On the mat, he went unbeaten in winning the Division 2 state heavyweight wrestling title as a junior, finishing 42-0. He repeated as a state champ the following year in 2004, going a perfect 47-0 to claim the Division 3 championship.
That 2004 season also saw him take home the Division 2 state title in the shot put with a heave of 60 feet, 1/2 inch.
The explosiveness, balance, and competitiveness of those two sports was certainly on display on the football field as well.
Newkirk would earn WFCA Honorable Mention All-State recognition on the defensive line as a junior. The following season, in 2003, he really broke out.
In helping the Lumberjacks to the state semi-finals, he carried the ball 268 times for a state-best 2,628 yards with 37 touchdowns. His yardage total as a senior was fourth-most in state history at the time, and still remains in the top fifteen. As a 6-2, 240-pound running back in small-school northern Wisconsin, it was downright unfair for opposing defenders trying to stop him. For his efforts he was named First Team All-State by the WFCA and the organization's Offensive Player of the Year.
Newkirk was still a terror on the defensive side of the ball, earning WFCA First Team All-State honors as a defensive lineman. He would finish his career with 185 tackles and 22 1/2 sacks.
As a running back, Newkirk racked up 4,242 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns in his career, though the Lumberjacks did not make the state finals during his time, losing to the eventual state champions both his junior (Somerset) and senior (Brillion) seasons.
Newkirk would go on to play at the University of Wisconsin, beginning his career as a middle linebacker. He quickly transitioned to the defensive line, playing in the rotation as a freshman and sophomore. He transitioned to a starter as a junior and senior, earning Second Team All-Big Ten recognition in 2008, finishing his Badgers career with 208 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks.
#15 - J.J. Watt, Pewaukee
#14 - Jayme Wells, Kimberly
#13 - Travis Frederick, Big Foot
#12 - Travis Beckum, Oak Creek
#11 - Sam Santiago-Lloyd, Brookfield East
#10 - Garrett Groshek, Amherst
#9 - Leo Musso, Waunakee
#8 - Blair Mulholland, Kimberly
#7 - Gabe Carimi, Monona Grove
#6 - Ben Hempel, Franklin
#5 - Mike Newkirk, Ladysmith
#4 - Eric Brunner, Greendale
#3 - John Clay, Racine Park
#2 - Josh Oglesby, Saint Francis
#1 - Melvin Gordon, Kenosha Bradford
For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)wissports.net.