Jirschele Sports Awards
Banquet recognizes achievement in sports
By Erik Buchinger
The 25th annual Doug Jirschele Sports Awards Banquet was held at Memory Lanes Bar & Grill with Memory Hall on Saturday, May 13.
The event was sponsored by the Clintonville American Legion Post 63, and the banquet is a fundraiser that benefits the Clintonville Area Legion baseball team and other youth baseball activities.
The master of ceremonies was Paul Kasprzak, former WTCH/WOWN radio sports reporter, and there were 17 previous award winners in attendance.
Recipients of the Doug Jirschele Sports Awards were Bill Gehrke, Jessica Petruzates and Matt Klein. These awards recognize people with ties to Clintonville for their success in sports.
The Forgotten Person Award was given to Karen Petermann for the many unrecognized contributions she has made to sports in Clintonville.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Jayrone Elliott was presented with the Nice Guy Award, and UW-Green Bay women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth was the guest speaker for the event.
In addition, there was a dinner catered in by Matthew’s Supper Club with a silent auction throughout the night with a live auction between award presentations.
Born and raised in Clintonville, Bill Gehrke graduated from Clintonville High School where he co-captained and lettered in basketball and track.
“Those were the good ol’ days,” Gehrke said. “The best in Clintonville at those times.”
Gehrke became the state champion in the 880-yard run in 1954 and his repeat performance in 1955 at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I have a lot of memories running in Class B when we went down to Madison,” Gehrke said. “Those were the days. We had pickup at the A&W in cars. We didn’t have no big hullabaloo with bus rides and being on TV and all that bull[expletive] that goes on today.”
“It’s a good thing this was not live on the radio tonight,” Kasprzak said.
The audience in the hall laughed during Gehrke’s speech as he made jokes throughout, including the beginning of his speech when he brought out several sheets of paper taped together as his “notes” for the speech.
“If you want my autograph, it costs $2 at the door,” Gehrke said.
Jessica Petruzates graduated from Clintonville High School in 2015 where she was a four-year letter winner in cross country. She was named All-Conference her freshman, junior and senior years and qualified for the state cross country meet in her sophomore year with her team, individually and with the team her junior year and individually in her senior year.
Petruzates also was a four-year letter winner in track and field, and she made All-Conference in the 3,200-meter run and advanced to the state meet her senior year. She was the captain of the team in her junior and senior year.
“I don’t have quite the storytelling skills that Mr. Gehrke has, but I would like to thank the Jirschele family for honoring me with this award,” Petruzates said. “I grew up watching my mom running everyday and seeing her compete in road races, so that sparked an interested for me with running.”
Petruzates joined the cross country team in seventh grade and was coached by Jeff Crumbaugh all six years.
“Coach Crumbaugh took an interested in us right away,” Petruzates said. “He pushed us, taught us and was very supportive for my six years of racing in Clintonville.”
Petruzates is now running as a freshman at UW-Stout and received All-Academic mention by finishing in the top 25 percent of her regional competition and maintaining a cumulative GPA of a 3.30 or higher in her first two years at Stout.
“I’d also like to thank my parents and rest of my family if you’d all like to stand and be recognized,” Petruzates said. “They’ve spent a lot of hours just to watch me run in circles, so I want to thank them and recognize them.”
Clintonville High School graduate Matt Klein is the Football Administrator Coordinator of the Green Bay Packers since 2006 and has been with the team for 19 seasons.
Klein also spent five seasons with Barry Alvarez’s Wisconsin Badger football staff and was part of a Rose Bowl team.
“In high school, I played football, and the coach always told me, ‘You’re not the most athletic, you’re not the fastest, but you’re smart, and that’s why you’re playing for me,’” Klein said. “I took that with me all the way through everything I do.”
After winning the Rose Bowl, Klein said he planned to finish school and sell cars with his brother, but he sent in a resume to the Packers to get his foot in the door. Even then, Klein said he thought it would be a few years of fun before he would start selling cars.
“After a couple years, I kept going and going, and no offense, but I don’t want to sell cars,” Klein said with a laugh. “If I have to do that, I will, but I’m probably not going to like it very much.”
Klein said he was fortunate enough to be part of a Super Bowl-winning team.
“It’s a thing I don’t really remember that much of,” Klein said. “I was usually in an office or a hotel room with my head down trying to keep the next couple hours so they players knew what was going on and made it easier for them, but it’s all worth it in the end.”
Klein said his job takes a lot of time away from his family.
“I need to thank my family,” Klein said. “Every one of them sacrifices for me and having to work around my schedule. My niece is getting married this fall, and I’m not going to be able to go to it, which sucks.
“I saw my son play football once last year, and it was awesome,” Klein said. “I wish I could see him more, but I can’t.”
Klein joked that his family tells him he cannot change things during the summer when he has more free time.
“They tell me, ‘You can’t just start changing things because you’re home now,’” Klein said. “I really appreciate all of them.”
“This goes to someone who has been unselfish and does not seek the spotlight and just wants to give it all to her students, staff and Clintonville community,” Kasprzak said. “This lady got into teaching because of her mom, and she’s been teaching for 30 years.”
The Forgotten Person award recipient Karen Petermann teaches physical education in the Clintonville School District and recently received national awards.
Petermann was named the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, Midwest District Teacher of the Year and the National Teacher of the Year.
“Thank you so very much. I don’t know what to say except thank you to the Jirschele family for putting on such a wonderful banquet,” Petermann said. “I’d like to say I’m very proud to be from Clintonville, and that I’m proud to work with this staff that I have. I might get the awards, but they’re out there doing the same thing that I do every single day.”
Petermann said she is proud to be a member of the Clintonville community.
“I’m just so proud to be a part of this community and working with the youth in our community,” Petermann said. “Thank you to you all, and I love Clintonville and call it home for a reason. We have great people and great connections with the families that are here.”
Jayrone Elliott is entering his fourth season with the Packers and received the Doug Jirschele Nice Guy Award for his off the field work.
“To be nominated for this award, it’s kind of funny because I was always considered a nice guy, even on the football field,” Elliott said. “I would sack the quarterback and help him up, and my coach would always tell me, ‘You’ve got to get that mean streak in you.’ I’m 25 years old, and I still haven’t found that mean streak.”
Elliott grew up in Cleveland and originally wanted to play basketball until his coach told him he should play football. He said he is appreciative of what his mother did for him, his two brothers and sister as a single parent.
“It was always my passion to leave something better than what I found it, and that’s how I was raised,” Elliott said. “It’s cool to be recognized for it, but I don’t do it for recognition at all. I try to invest in our kids because our kids are the future.”
Elliott was not selected in the NFL Draft, and he said he sat in his brother’s bedroom and cried.
“I never wanted to feel that feeling again,” Elliott said. “I was embarrassed. I thought I was big time, and that humbled me. I’m scared of that feeling of being embarrassed again or seeing my name on the bottom line of ESPN for the wrong reasons.”
Elliott did a short Q&A with the audience, and he was asked which town was better between Shawano and Clintonville since he has been to both.
“Hands down, it’s Clintonville,” Elliott said with a laugh.
Kevin Borseth was the Doug Jirschele Sports Award Banquet guest speaker and discussed being the UW-Green Bay women’s basketball team’s head coach.
Borseth was born in the Upper Peninsula where “we had nine months of winter and three months of maybe.”
“I thought everybody had this kind of weather, and my brother said when I get to Green Bay, it’ll be like I died and woke up in Florida,” Borseth said. “Our first Christmas we spent in Green Bay, it was Dec. 24, and it hadn’t snowed yet. And my wife said, ‘It had better snow tonight,’ and it did, so that was good.”
In his years with UW-Green Bay, Borseth has had a 350-90 overall record including a 200-22 conference record.
In his first season in 1998-’99, Green Bay made the NCAA Tournament and was matched up with No. 3 seed UCLA in the first round. The Phoenix lost, but Borseth said one of his players said something that changed his mindset of the program.
“One of our players after the game said, ‘If we only believed before the game that we could’ve beaten this team, we probably could have,’” Borseth said. “That was the day that Green Bay basketball made a believer out of me.”
Green Bay has won 19 consecutive conference championships, and Borseth said every player he has recruited has graduated.
Borseth said Green Bay is a good place for him to work and live.
“Green Bay is ideal for me,” Borseth said. “It’s where the freeway ends and the country begins.”