Days after accepting a combined academic and athletic scholarship to play baseball at Winona State University, New Richmond High School senior Blake Kretovics was honored again for his work in the classroom and in the athletic arena.
Kretovics was one of 32 Wisconsin High School seniors who were named Thursday as 2018 WIAA Scholar Athletes. Kretovics competes in football, hockey and baseball at NRHS. Kretovics was one of the four Division 1 boys selected for the honor.
Western Wisconsin did exceptionally well in this year's WIAA Scholar Athlete awards. Osceola senior Brett Carlson of Star Prairie was one of the four Division 2 boys honored, giving the Middle Border Conference two honors in 2018.
The Big Rivers Conference also had two students honored. Anna Wilgren of Hudson and Samantha Krueger of River Falls were chosen among the four Division 1 girls who are Scholar Athletes.
The Lakeland Conference had one athlete honored. Calvin Rosen of Clear Lake was one of the four Division 3 boys who were honored.
This year, 881 seniors were nominated for the 2108 WIAA Scholar Athlete Award by the 455 high schools throughout the state.
The 2018 WIAA Scholar Athletes, as well as their families and school representatives, will be recognized at an awards ceremony on Sunday, May 6, at the Jefferson Street Inn in Wausau. Each 2018 WIAA Scholar Athlete will receive a medallion and certificate, and will take with them a special plaque for display in their school's trophy case. Keynote speaker for the ceremony will be former Green Bay Packer and Wisconsin Badger Jared Abbrederis, who was also a WIAA Scholar Athlete in 2009.
Kretovics has earned 11 varsity letters at NRHS and he has been an All-Middle Border Conference selection eight times in his career. In all four seasons with the Tiger hockey team, Kretovics was an MBC champion and he led the Tiger baseball team to an MBC title in 2017 after sharing the title with Prescott and Ellsworth in 2016.
The last Middle Border Conference student who was honored as a WIAA Scholar Athlete was Amery's Alicia Monson in 2016. The last MBC male recipient was Somerset's Gaelin Elmore in 2014.
New Richmond has had three WIAA Scholar Athletes in the past, but it has been more than 30 years since an NRHS student was honored. Tracy Schurtz and Steven Shumaker were the first NRHS Scholar Athletes honored at the state level in 1985 and Mike Hebert was honored in 1986.
Kretovics is revered by his teammates and the school staff at NRHS.
"He's as genuine as you're going to get," said NRHS athletic director Casey Eckardt. "He's the best leader in our athletic program. He works so hard and is so responsible."
Those sentiments were echoed by Tiger football coach Keith Badger. Under Badger, Kretovics became one of the most versatile players in the area. Kretovics was one of the best receivers in the area since his sophomore season. Because the Tigers had a need at running back this year, Kretovics split time in the backfield. He led the team in receiving yardage and he had two 100-yard rushing games when needed in the backfield.
He was even more versatile on defense, seeing time at nearly every position throughout his career.
"He was essentially a coach on the field, knowing every role and every responsibility," Badger said. "He's mature beyond his years. He doesn't get affected by peer pressure. He's the same Blake every single day. That makes him a good leader."