From Molly Seidel to T.J. Watt to Arike Ogunbowale, these former Wisconsin high school athletes had a huge sports year in 2021

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Wisconsinites to win Olympic medals in 2021 include (at top) Molly Seidel in the marathon, (lower left) trap shooter Madelynn Bernau and sprinter Kenny Bednarek.
Wisconsinites to win Olympic medals in 2021 include (at top) Molly Seidel in the marathon, (lower left) trap shooter Madelynn Bernau and sprinter Kenny Bednarek.

Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have a higher-than-usual number of Wisconsin natives shining in their ranks. Throw in the summer Olympics held in 2021, and it's easy to identify a flurry of Wisconsinites with huge sports years in 2021. These were some of the best.

1. Molly Seidel (University Lake School), Kenny Bednarek (Rice Lake) and Madelynn Bernau (Waterford)

Seidel stunned the world by taking third place in the marathon in the Summer Olympics held in Japan, Bednarek raced to a silver medal in the 200 meters and Bernau took a bronze in trap shooting while representing the United States.

2. Steve Stricker (Edgerton)

Team USA's Captain Steve Stricker holds a T-shirt cannon during practice at the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on Sept. 23 in Haven, Wisconsin. He led the U.S. squad to a victory over the Europeans.
Team USA's Captain Steve Stricker holds a T-shirt cannon during practice at the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on Sept. 23 in Haven, Wisconsin. He led the U.S. squad to a victory over the Europeans.

The fixture in Wisconsin's golf scene had to wait a year as captain of the United States Ryder Cup team to watch his charges compete at Whistling Straits along the shores of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County. It was worth it; the U.S. crushed Europe, 19-9, giving the U.S. just its third win in the last 10 Ryder Cups.

3. T.J. Watt (Pewaukee)

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt celebrates after a sack during a game on Dec. 5.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt celebrates after a sack during a game on Dec. 5.

In a year when older brother (and future NFL Hall of Famer) J.J. signed a high-profile offseason deal with the Arizona Cardinals, it was T.J. who stole the show. The Pittsburgh Steelers star linebacker signed a lucrative five-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh (with $80 million guaranteed and a contract worth up to $112 million overall). He also finished second in the league's defensive player of the year voting unveiled early in the year (for the 2020 season), and he's put himself right back in the running for the next one with a big 2021 season.

4. Cole Caufield (Stevens Point)

Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (center) celebrates with teammates Corey Perry (94) and Nick Suzuki after scoring a second-period goal.
Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (center) celebrates with teammates Corey Perry (94) and Nick Suzuki after scoring a second-period goal.

Caufield's whirlwind year included winning the 2021 Hobey Baker Award as the nation's best men's hockey player, and after finishing at the University of Wisconsin, he joined the Montreal Canadiens for a wild ride to the Stanley Cup Final. Caufield scored four goals in the playoffs and had eight assists, and he also won a gold medal with the United States team in the IIHF World Junior Championship.

5. Braelon Allen (Fond du Lac)

Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) finds an opening during the second quarter of their game on Nov. 27. Allen burst onto the scene as a freshman, rushing for 1,109 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) finds an opening during the second quarter of their game on Nov. 27. Allen burst onto the scene as a freshman, rushing for 1,109 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Just 17 years old, Allen reclassified to join the Badgers for this season, then rescued a depleted UW running back room with a sensational freshman season, posting seven straight 100-yard rushing games as the Badgers turned their season around. For a player who initially came to campus as potentially a defensive prospect, the year took an unexpected turn.

6. Chris McIntosh (Pewaukee)

Chris McIntosh became the University of Wisconsin's new athletic director this summer.
Chris McIntosh became the University of Wisconsin's new athletic director this summer.

McIntosh ascended to the head athletic director position at the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater, where he played football and worked under retiring AD Barry Alvarez.

More: 5 things to know about new University of Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh

7. Tyler Herro (Whitnall)

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro is averaging more than 20 points per game in his third NBA season.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro is averaging more than 20 points per game in his third NBA season.

His second NBA season with the Miami Heat wasn't as highly regarded as his rookie year, but his numbers nonetheless got better, and then he took a step forward in the early part of the 2021-22 season, averaging more than 20 points per game as one of the league's best bench players.

More: Tyler Herro isn't the only Wisconsinite poised for a big NBA season (plus a look at where former Milwaukee Bucks are playing)

8. Tyrese Haliburton (Oshkosh North)

Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton was a finalist for the NBA's rookie of the year award in 2021.
Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton was a finalist for the NBA's rookie of the year award in 2021.

Haliburton was named a finalist for the NBA's rookie of the year and made the All-Rookie Team with the Sacramento Kings.

9. Jordan Poole (Milwaukee King)

Jordan Poole has started every game for the Golden State Warriors, who have the NBA's best record.
Jordan Poole has started every game for the Golden State Warriors, who have the NBA's best record.

The Warriors are out to a blistering start, and Poole is the team's third-leading scorer at 17.9 points per game, with starts in every contest. Poole's teammates include fellow starter Kevon Looney (Milwaukee Hamilton) and Marquette University alumnus Juan Toscano-Anderson.

10. Johnny Davis (La Crosse Central)

Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis is averaging 20.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his sophomore season.
Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis is averaging 20.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his sophomore season.

Davis took a star turn at the start of the 2021-22 UW men's basketball season, earning Maui Invitational tournament MVP in the same year he won a gold medal with Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Cup. He scored 10 points in an NCAA Tournament second-round loss to Baylor in March to cap his freshman year.

11. Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels)

Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale had another banner year.
Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale had another banner year.

The Dallas Wings star was named second-team All-WNBA and captured the WNBA All-Star Game MVP honor after her squad defeated a team of players ticketed for the Olympics.

12. J.P. Feyereisen (River Falls)

J.P. Feyereisen started the year with the Milwaukee Brewers before finishing the season with the Tampa Bay Rays.
J.P. Feyereisen started the year with the Milwaukee Brewers before finishing the season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Feyereisen was dealing out of the gate with his home-state Milwaukee Brewers, registering a 1.086 WHIP and 3.26 ERA in 21 games. But then he was traded to Tampa and played a key bullpen role for a team that posted the best record in the American League, with a 2.45 ERA.

13. Jarred Kelenic (Waukesha West)

Seattle Mariners' Jarred Kelenic holds up a sign that read "Believe" after the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics, 4-2, Sept. 29. Fans and the team adopted the one-word slogan that was recently featured on the TV series "Ted Lasso" as the Mariners battled for a spot in the MLB playoffs.
Seattle Mariners' Jarred Kelenic holds up a sign that read "Believe" after the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics, 4-2, Sept. 29. Fans and the team adopted the one-word slogan that was recently featured on the TV series "Ted Lasso" as the Mariners battled for a spot in the MLB playoffs.

His overall numbers in his first big-league season weren't spectacular, but he had a promising September and remains one of the most exciting young players in baseball, competing for a Seattle Mariners team that made a surge before falling just short of the playoffs.

14. Joe Pavelski (Stevens Point)

Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski (16) waves to the crowd as he is recognized for scoring 400 career NHL goals before the game against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 6 at American Airlines Center.
Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski (16) waves to the crowd as he is recognized for scoring 400 career NHL goals before the game against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 6 at American Airlines Center.

Playing with the Dallas Stars, Pavelski became the 10th American-born NHL player to record 400 career goals.

15. Nick Bellore (Whitefish Bay)

Seahawks running back Nick Bellore spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals.
Seahawks running back Nick Bellore spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals.

After a decade in the NFL, the multi-faceted Bellore was named to his first Pro Bowl as a special-teams contributor and signed a two-year, $4.4 million deal to stay with the Seattle Seahawks.

16. J.J. Watt (Pewaukee)

After a 10-year career with the Houston Texans, J.J. Watt signed with the Arizona Cardinals for the 2021 season.
After a 10-year career with the Houston Texans, J.J. Watt signed with the Arizona Cardinals for the 2021 season.

OK, we can't forget the oldest Watt, who relocated to the desert after a decade with the Houston Texans. An injury ended his season after seven games, however.

17. Ryan Ramczyk (Stevens Point)

Ryan Ramczyk signed a big contract with the New Orleans Saints.
Ryan Ramczyk signed a big contract with the New Orleans Saints.

The offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints signed a five-year, $96 million extension ($60 million guaranteed).

18. Gavin Lux (Kenosha Indian Trail)

Gavin Lux played 102 games for the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers this season.
Gavin Lux played 102 games for the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers this season.

Lux perhaps didn't live up to expectations that he would be a rookie of the year candidate with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he still played in 102 games for the National League powerhouse, batting .242 with a .692 OPS, including seven homers. He continues to be one of the biggest rising names in baseball.

19. Daulton Varsho (Marshfield)

Daulton Varsho was part of a couple memorable moments for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season.
Daulton Varsho was part of a couple memorable moments for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season.

Somewhat quietly, the first UW-Milwaukee alumnus in the big leagues had a solid season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, playing in 95 games and batting .246 with a .755 OPS, including 11 homers and serving as both a catcher and outfielder. One of his homers was of the walk-off variety, and he also caught a no-hitter this season.

20. Quinn Meinerz (Hartford)

Quinn Meinerz (72) was selected in the third round by the Denver Broncos out of UW-Whitewater.
Quinn Meinerz (72) was selected in the third round by the Denver Broncos out of UW-Whitewater.

The UW-Whitewater offensive lineman became a darling of the ramp-up to the NFL draft and backed it up with superb play once he was taken by the Denver Broncos in the third round, working his way into a starting role.

Others

Wisconsin's Jake Ferguson catches an 11-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter of their game on Nov. 13 at Camp Randall Stadium.  Ferguson was named first-team all-Big Ten.
Wisconsin's Jake Ferguson catches an 11-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter of their game on Nov. 13 at Camp Randall Stadium. Ferguson was named first-team all-Big Ten.
  • Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Sussex Hamilton). The high-profile basketball recruit chose to stay home and play for his father at UW-Milwaukee, and he'll be one of the top prospects in the 2022 NBA draft.

  • Drew Bosley (Homestead). Took 13th among individuals at the NCAA cross country championships to earn All-American status as his Northern Arizona team won its fifth national championship in six tries.

  • Leo Chenal (Grantsburg). The UW junior linebacker recorded 17 tackles for loss and 106 total tackles with two forced fumbles, earning the Big Ten linebacker of the year honor.

  • Craig Counsell (Whitefish Bay). For the third time in four years, he took second in the National League Manager of the Year voting as the Brewers won the NL Central and reached the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

  • Jake Ferguson (Madison Memorial). The tight end was named first-team all-Big Ten in what was likely his final season with the Wisconsin football program.

  • Shelby Harris (Homestead). Threatening a career-high for sacks and tackles at age 30 in his fifth year with the Denver Broncos.

  • Natisha Hiedeman (Green Bay Southwest). The Marquette University alumna was part of a Connecticut Sun team that had the best regular-season record in the WNBA.

  • Jalen Johnson (Nicolet). The basketball star was taken in the first round of the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks.

  • Nate Oats (Maranatha Baptist in Watertown). Oats was named the SEC men's basketball coach of the year for his work in leading Alabama to a 16-2 league record and conference crown, and the Crimson Tide are among the nation's best teams again this season.

  • Keegan O'Toole (Arrowhead). He took third as a freshman competing for the University of Missouri at the NCAA wrestling championships, then won a World Junior Wrestling Championship in Russia.

  • T.J. Otzelberger (St. Thomas More). The NCAA basketball coach was hired away from UNLV by Iowa State in March, and now he has the Cyclones out to a red-hot 12-0 start as of Dec. 30.

  • Scott Servais (Westby). He nearly led the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs and finished second in the American League manager of the year voting. In September, he agreed to a long-term extension.

  • Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin Lutheran). The veteran offensive guard is having a Pro Bowl worthy season for the Baltimore Ravens.

  • United States curling team (McFarland). Becca Hamilton, Nina Roth and Matt Hamilton (all from McFarland) are returning to the Winter Olympics in curling after qualifying for the showcase in November. Matt Hamilton is part of Team Shuster, which took gold in 2018. John Shuster went to high school in Minnesota but calls Superior home.

Who'd we miss? JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or jradcliffe@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Molly Seidel, TJ Watt, Braelon Allen: Wisconsin sport stars in 2021

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