Kyle Gradert accomplished nearly everything he hoped for on the lacrosse field.The Lake Norman graduating senior, the Conference 10 Player of the Year, capped off his four-year, high-school career by receiving all-state and all-American honors from the state’s coaches after leading the Wildcats to another N.C. High School Athletic Association final, where Lake Norman lost to Apex on a last-second goal in a up-and-down 12-11 game.Gradert, a defender, earned his most-coveted recognition, the championship game most-valuable player honor, last year as he helped the Wildcats claim their first state title.That’s when he decided not to pursue playing collegiate lacrosse.“I felt like that was good enough for me,” said Gradert, who was 73-8 during his time at Lake Norman. “I felt like I didn’t have anything more to prove.”Instead, he wanted to pursue other aspirations, especially to follow in his family’s footsteps and attend Ohio State University. He plans to study engineering when he arrives in Columbus in the fall.Lake Norman head coach James Brugger knows Gradert could have been an asset for many college coaches, but he respects his player’s decision.“How can I be mad at him for not playing at the next level?” he said. “He just knows what he wants to do.”Brugger said the athletic Gradert could always be trusted to shut down opponents’ top players.“He’s a kid you can leave out by himself and know that he’s going to get it done,” said Brugger. “He’s always had a knack for big plays.”Gradert’s competitive nature also allowed him to stand out.“I just play to win,” the 18-year-old said. “That was my mentality all four years – to do everything possible to win.”Despite playing mostly in the back, Gradert scored a rare 11 times for a defender, including a key goal in the championship game. He sometimes moved up to play long-stick midfielder for the Wildcats.Brugger said the 5-foot-10, 185-pound captain’s leadership also came up big for the team.“He was the heart and soul of that team,” he said.As part of a Lake Norman tradition, Gradert was awarded the No. 1 jersey before this season. Brugger said he calls former Wildcat No. 1s, including J.T. Del Tufo and Charles Copeland, before the start of the year to get their opinion on who should wear the jersey next.“Each one of them said, ‘Kyle,’” said Brugger.Gradert, who had worn the No. 3 jersey – a number his brother, Kevin, wore in football and baseball, and his sister, Katie, wore in soccer, was flattered.“It means a lot,” said Gradert. “It was an honor to follow such great leaders and players.”He admits that he felt the pressure of helping a team rebound after it had lost several top players from last year’s 23-0 team.“I was worried at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know what kind of team we would have,” said Gradert. “But throughout the season, players started to step up, and that’s when I knew we’d be all right.”Brugger said Gradert leaves a lasting legacy at Lake Norman.“He’s the best defenseman we’ve had,” he said. “It’s going to be hard for someone to pass him.”Husky also named all-AmericanHough midfielder/attackman Mike Hart also earned all-American honors.Hart, who signed to play at Division III SUNY Cortland, led the Huskies with 59 goals and 28 assists.
Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013
All-American Wildcat leaves legacy behind
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