2016-2017 MSA Sports Male Athletes of the Year

Austin Butler of Latrobe AND Darius Wise of Beaver
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Darius Wise and Austin Butler were both ‘Cats in high school, Wise playing for the Beaver Bobcats and Butler for the Latrobe Wildcats.

But when it comes to athletes, Wise and Butler are top dogs.

Wise and Butler, who both graduated last month, have been selected the MSA Sports Co-Athletes of the Year. The MSA Sports staff selects the athlete of the year from all WPIAL schools.

In the days of high school athletes specializing in one sport, Wise and Butler were throwbacks. They were multi-sports athletes – in the same three sports. But it’s not just competing in three sports that made them stand out, it’s what they achieved in the three sports that made them two of a kind.

Butler and Wise both played football, basketball and competed in track and field. Football was Wise’s No. 1 sport and statistics suggest that Wise (5 feet 11, 170 pounds) was one of the most versatile players in WPIAL history.

Wise played receiver and slotback as a freshman and sophomore, but moved to quarterback as a junior. He is the first player in WPIAL history to finish a career with 4,000 yards rushing, 2,000 passing and 1,000 receiving. He had 4,273 yards rushing, 2,029 passing and 1,074 yards receiving on 63 catches.

As a senior, Wise was tremendous, rushing for 1,509 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns. He had a memorable performance in a memorable game when he rushed for 403 yards and accounted for seven TDs in a 77-49 victory against Keystone Oaks. He didn’t throw much, but still had almost 900 yards passing this season.

After football, Wise went on to basketball and averaged 25.4 points a game, one year after averaging 24 a game. He averaged 19.8 as a sophomore and made all-section three consecutive years.

Despite Wise’s success in football and basketball, Beaver had the misfortune of playing in a super section in both sports and didn’t make the playoffs in either sport.

“Try to think of an athlete as good as Darius Wise who didn’t make the playoffs in either sport,” said New Castle coach Ralph Blundo. “I think it’s a shame no one got to see him play in the playoffs in either sport.”

Wise said, “It does sting a little bit not going to the playoffs [in football or basketball]. But everything doesn’t always go the way you plan. It just makes you want to work harder and play harder. I’m working on just being a better person and better leader.”

After basketball, Wise went on to become one of the best sprinters in the WPIAL. He finished second in the WPIAL Class 3A 100-meter dash with a time of 10.83 seconds and also finished eighth in the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 1 inch.

“I think the thing I’ll probably remember the most is just being with everyone,” said Wise. “It really isn’t just one specific thing I did. I enjoyed just being with the coaches and friends and trying to go out my senior year with a bang. I think in football I’ll remember being one of the best teams in the state, if not the best. We just couldn’t get in the playoffs.”

Butler and Latrobe didn’t come close to making the WPIAL football playoffs, as Latrobe finished 1-9. But Butler had some excellent performances. He completed 138 of 279 for 1,704 yards.

While Latrobe didn’t enjoy much team success in football, the Wildcats certainly did in basketball, winning a section championship for the third consecutive season. And Butler is the one who fueled the Wildcats. He led the WPIAL in scoring during the regular season and finished with a 29.2 average.

Butler, a 6-4 guard and an excellent outside shooter, also averaged 6 rebounds and 2 assists. He finished as Latrobe’s all-time leading scorer with 1,905 points.

“I’ll always remember the night we beat Penn Hills at home and won the section for the third time in a row,” said Butler. “Then I’ll probably always remember just being able to go each day and be around a team, coach [Brad] Wetzel and everyone. Now that I’ve gone away, I see how valuable just that experience was and seeing how close everyone was.”

But Butler didn’t stop competing in sports when basketball stopped. He turned into one of the best javelin throwers in the WPIAL, finishing second in Class 3A this year. He also competed in the WPIAL finals in the triple jump. But Butler didn’t stop at those two events. He also decided to throw the shot put in some dual meets.

Butler has signed to play basketball at Division I Holy Cross. You’ll be hard pressed to find many future Division I basketball players in the WPIAL who also are a top javelin thrower.

Butler said playing three sports was hard at times, but added, “I have no regrets. I gave all I could with everything I did. I’m glad I played all three. … I’d tell kids nowadays that if you have the opportunity to play more than one sport, it’s the best bet for everyone. I was never a kid to sit around. I was always up doing something.

“Is it hard? Yes, it can be challenging. But that’s when the best separate themselves from the rest.”

Butler already is at Holy Cross, taking some summer classes and working out with the team. It’s the same with Wise. He signed with Colorado State and is already at the school, taking classes and working out.”

This should tell you plenty of Wise’s athletic ability: He said Colorado State is planning to play him at receiver and defensive back.

“My main thing is to get a degree,” said Wise. “Then my ultimate goal is to get to professional football. People that respected me and gave me help on my journey so far, I want to show them some things in the future.”

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