Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

The Eighth Man Sportsman of the Year for 2014 should be obvious.

He is more than an all star on the pitch. Sportsmanship can be found at his core and his strong work ethic has contributed greatly to the success of his teams. He is respected by both his teammates and his competitors and never lets a loss bring him down. These is truly no one else like him.

The Eighth Man Sportsman of the Year is Drew Wasikowski.

Wasikowski has had the benefit of captaining Texas A&M University to a No. 1 ranking going into World Cup VI and VII. He shines in fantasy tournaments. He is a nice, friendly guy, a proven leader and an outstanding player who makes plays on offense and defense that look even better than his famous face. He is that player that will one day be deemed a legend.

However, this award is not for the “Star of the Year.” It is not even for the “Player of the Year.” There is nothing about winning this award that is easy or obvious. It would be simple to compare résumés to determine the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, but the deserving candidates stand out for what shows up between the lines of the résumé. But that only makes Wasikowski’s case stronger.

The year 2014 is one Wasikowski will remember and will be remembered for. The highs were high, but the lows made sure to balance those out. Wasikowski and Texas A&M won their first regional championship in February in a dominant fashion. However, World Cup saw Wasikowski’s Texas A&M career end in the middle of a game with a high ankle sprain and the loss of a finals appearance. Shortly after Wasikowski’s low, however, came another series of highs. He was selected to Team USA and named captain; successfully proposed to former teammate and notorious cutie pie Nichole Galle; and then proceeded to help Team USA bring home the gold. At Southwest Fantasy yet another low hit. Wasikowski was knocked out of the tournament by a car accident, but he still showed up the next day to support his team. That low would be a minor blow though, as he finished off 2014 by joining Lone Star Quidditch Club and becoming a key cog in a team that would finish the fall undefeated with a 20-0 record.

Credit: Drew Wasikowski

Credit: Drew Wasikowski

All this after Wasikowski was contemplating retirement following World Cup VII. This sterling career nearly ended with the former Aggie getting carried of the field in the midst of the loss to his greatest rival team.

Maybe it was the way it almost ended that brought Wasikowski back. Maybe he loves the game too much to leave it this soon. Maybe it is his hunger for a championship. No matter what the reason, Wasikowski is back on the field in 2014 on a different team and in a different role but in a similar situation.

“No one person has to take the entire organization on their shoulders, though Wasikowski probably could,” said Kody Marshall, captain of Lone Star Quidditch Club.

Now Wasikowski fills a role similar to his days as the babyface just starting his Texas A&M career, but his skill has very noticeably improved, according to Becca DuPont, his teammate of five years.

Credit: Kati Polaski‎

Credit: Kati Polaski‎

“He used to be the small kinda skinny running circles around you at the hoops and now he’s a threat in several ways,” DuPont said. “He’s just as fast; he’s gotten incredibly strong. He’s a good passing threat and his knowledge of the game has grown tremendously since we started out. Drew is always working to improve himself, and it’s definitely shown.”

He remains an integral scorer and defender, but the burden of captaining the team and taking de facto responsibility for success and failures is no longer his.

“There’s a little bit less pressure this year not being Aggies,” DuPont said.

However, that lack of pressure does not deter their desire to win.

“He has a drive to win that compels him to push hard when the game is on the line, and that drive is infectious and causes all of his teammates to push just as hard,” Marshall said.

Lone Star’s 20-0 record to start the season is no new territory for Wasikowski. Since the start of the 2012-13 season—when official games began to be recorded accurately—Wasikowski’s teams have a 60-1 record outside of World Cups. Let that sink in for a second. That is a .984 winning percentage. Now add the World Cup games, which include losses to eventual champion University of Texas, and it is still a nifty 72-3 (.960 percent). Wasikowski and Texas A&M turned Lone Star teammates DuPont and Kifer Gregoire have experienced more pre-World Cup success than any other players. It is unfair to compare quidditch to professional sports, where your Reggie Millers and Dan Marinos are remembered for getting so close to a championship but never winning a ring. However, the other thing Wasikowski and his teammates can undoubtedly claim they have experienced the most is utter heartbreak. These three enter 2015 on the number-one ranked team once again, knowing that will only make the fall harder. World Cup is one thing missing that would give Wasikowski the ideal quidditch career.

They say everyone loves an underdog, and it has been a long time since Wasikowski fell into that category. But how can you route against someone who seems to truly deserve a World Cup title?

As a fan, it would be truly heartbreaking to see Wasikowski end his career without a championship. Imagine him heading off into his real-life career and marriage with quidditch as a fond memory lacking that one ultimate victory. Through four seasons of huge success among high stakes, disappointment and frustration could have overshadowed Wasikowski’s accomplishments. He could have easily become the villain, disregarding sportsmanship and speaking poorly of those who took his championship opportunities from his grasp. But his character has remained entirely in tact. He never disparages the efforts of his opponents or attributes losses to the sometimes significant imperfections of the referees or snitches. He has always looked inward, seeing where he can improve as a player and a teammate.

Marshall had been a long-time rival of Wasikowski’s before this year, first on Texas and then this past season on Lone Star, whom Wasikowski and Texas A&M knocked out in the Elite Eight.

Credit: Scott Wasikowski

Credit: Scott Wasikowski

“Playing against Drew was always an epic rivalry, tinged with both the heavy sense of competition and a deep respect,” Marshall said. “You could never outright dislike Drew because he was, at all times, such a class act. He never lost his cool. Drew has been my greatest and most honorable opponent in this sport.”

The respect for Wasikowski was also seen internally on Texas A&M. DuPont described him as being a respected captain with a positive attitude and willingness to lead by example.

“He was such an incredibly hardworking and focused person, [and] it definitely rubbed off on his teammates. He was authoritative when he needed to be, but [he] held a very relaxed command over the team that worked well,” she said. “Outside of quidditch, Drew spent a lot of time, in general, focusing on his physical fitness, his schoolwork and his friends. Drew’s work ethic is visible in his life outside the game.”

It is extremely rare to find a player so respected as an opponent and teammate and acts as inspiration in both victory and defeat.

Wasikowski’s defeats get recounted all too often, but his victories deserve more recognition. He certainly has no shortage of tokens: a gold medal, the record for highest cost of a player in a fantasy auction draft, a high average time as a snitch, an impressive stat line on, among others. However, nothing is as impressive as captaining his team to victory in a regional championship in the toughest region.

Credit: Jodie Greenhouse

Credit: Jodie Greenhouse

Dirk Hryekewicz, Wasikowski’s long-time teammate and the seeker who caught the Southwest Regional Championship-winning snitch, describes that victory as “the culmination of my comrades’ commitment and dedication to one another.”

“All year, we had been training to improve ourselves, both on and off the pitch,” Hryekewicz said. “I’m incredibly proud to call all of those 20 men and women my great friends. We all wanted to go as far as we could, but we fully understood that we weren’t invincible.”

That victory and a Final Four exit from World Cup VII would be the pinnacle of their year; however, in spite of the unruly exit from World Cup, Texas A&M during the Wasikowski era will forever be known as a talented team that played with exemplary sportsmanship. People Wasikowski’s age so rarely possess the ability to rally a group of individuals in the way he can. And it is that ability alongside his genuine, kind nature that led the Aggies through a four-year span that will be remembered as one of the top-five, most-successful spans any quidditch team has ever had—to this point at least.

It is for these reasons and so many more that Wasikowski is The Eighth Man Sportsman of the Year for 2014.

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