Ethan Wiederkehr stands over the bench in the free weight area of the gym. His sweatshirt is soaked. He’s tired. It’s late on a school night. And it’s the offseason.
This is what separates Ethan Wiederkehr from the competition. The gym has been his home away from home for the past four years.
“It all starts and ends with the workouts in the gym,” Wiederkehr said. “There were late nights for sure. But they all served one purpose, to reach my potential.”
With the high school mission complete, the two-way star for Shoreham-Wading River already was preparing for his next challenge, playing football for Northwestern next fall. There is no offseason for Division I recruits.
The 6-6, 285-pound Wiederkehr led the Wildcats to the Long Island Class IV football title with a 20-10 win over Seaford at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium on Nov. 27. Shoreham-Wading River became only the fourth school in the 25 years of the Long Island Championships to win three consecutive crowns.
Wiederkehr joined a select group who played an impact role on the way to winning three straight Long Island titles.
For his accomplishments, Wiederkehr was named the winner of the Bob Zellner Award, presented to Suffolk’s top lineman, Monday night at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association banquet. Wiederkehr also shared the Rob Burnett Defensive Player of the Year Award with West Islip senior tackle Tim Mullane.
“I’ve been blessed with a father who has guided me right through the process,” Wiederkehr said. “He pushed me when I needed to be pushed. And he made me believe in myself in times of doubt. He always saw something in me that he believed was something special. There were times when the doubt would creep in and he would help me flush it out and continue to follow the path to success.”
Wiederkehr worked on his awkward, skinny body and became a mountain of a man by his senior year. He was a road grader as a tight end and, as a defensive end, morphed into a game-changer. He totaled 91 tackles, including 19 for a loss, eight sacks, nine pass deflections and two forced fumbles.
“They couldn’t throw slants and screens to his side because it was just a lost cause,” coach Matt Millheiser said. “And we ran the offense right behind him. In terms of technique, he got that from an early age from his dad. He’s a technically sound player with a great motor that improved with age.”
Millheiser said Wiederkehr saved his best performances for last.
“Oh, there’s no doubt that we saw him put it all together during our playoff run,” Millheiser said. “We really needed him in those two championship games, and he gave us everything. He played with such a passion as a quiet leader and at another level of emotion and intensity. He made sure we finished our season and his career with another title.”
It’s been an extremely emotional ride for Wiederkehr. He’ll tell you there’s not a day when he doesn’t think about his best friend, Thomas Cutinella, who died as a result of an on-field collision in 2014.
“Tom never played in a Long Island championship game, and he deserved to,” Wiederkehr said. “He passed my sophomore year, the year we won our first crown. He lit a spark in that team in 2014. He was a true leader and my best friend. What happened that year in Shoreham, I’ll never forget the way his life shaped our football program and the way the people in the community perceived it. We rallied around the community and vice versa, and Tom was at the center of it.”
Wiederkehr has decided to forgo any more high school sports to concentrate on his future at Northwestern.
“I need to be stronger and faster for college because there will be great challenges,” he said. “I’m honored and humbled to be recognized for any award. But let’s keep awards in perspective. They’re achieved because everyone contributed. No one plays football alone. We play for each other.”