The void means something to Curt Wullschleger, which in part defines why he is the right man for the job to fill it.
North High’s old gymnasium is lined with tradition, including that produced by the boys soccer team. A state championship, won in 1989, looms the largest, and several regional accomplishments are noted, but the collection is devoid of one title: the City League.
And that bothers Wullschleger.
“I’m a North High grad from ’97,” Wullschleger explained. “My sister and brother went to North. Both of my parents did. Aunts, uncles, almost all of my family has gone here. Every time I walk into the gym, in my mind I think, ‘I’ve got to get on that banner.’ ”
Driven by the motivation only a graduate could have, Wullschleger now feels like he has what he needs for North to ascend to the top of the City League. The Redskins open their season at the Titan Classic, starting Monday against Maize.
Earlier this month, Wullschleger had more than 120 players try out. North graduated 13 seniors, yet, improbably, has even more this season. Wullschleger said he has so much depth at every position, picking the best 11 and where to play them has been painstaking.
“But it’s a good problem to have,” Wullschleger added.
A prime luxury of that will be the option to sub heavily without a dip in talent, as North wants to impose its frenetic pace for 80 minutes on the opposition. Creative attacking players such as seniors Juan Barron and Dohnovyn Jackson are primed to thrive.
And when Wullschleger tells his players to play freely, he means it. The style he wants to foster relies more on adapting to his players than his players adapting to a style.
“I enjoy it a lot,” senior Juan Barron said. “We all have really good chemistry, so we know what we’re doing out there. We’re always talking on the field, so it works for us.”
A drawback of this style was evident last season, as many of the goals North allowed were by lack of discipline by Wullschleger’s own admission. Playing a wide-open game is tantalizing to his players, but can only be successful if they improve their discipline.
“We have got to be able to find that right balance this year,” Wullschleger said. “Pressure, covering, and balance on the backside, being able to hold your position and hold your shape. Those are the things that we have to get better at.”
The talent is there. The right coach is there. And the opportunity is there, as traditional powers Northwest and Kapaun Mount Carmel look to be rebuilding.
North’s opportunity is now, and Wullschleger knows it.
“It has to be now,” Wullschleger said. “We’re knocking on the door and it’s our time to break through.”