Wartburg’s football season just ended, but their success cannot go unrecognized. As dominant as the offense was this season, it was their defense that carried them. And the defense would not have been the same without the leadership of senior linebacker Tony Anstoetter.
After a six and four regular season last year, Wartburg was projected to place second in the conference behind Dubuque coming in. Anstoetter was a captain on defense this season, and he said the somewhat low expectations served as a good motivator for the defense as a unit.
“It gave us something to work for, because we weren’t the best last year” Anstoetter said. “We really worked hard in the offseason. We brought a lot of guys back. A lot of guys got more game experience and more exposure, and that helped us take the next step to becoming a better defense.”
Anstoetter’s comment applies to him, as well, but a season before. He didn’t play a single snap at linebacker his freshman season, but got a work as a backup in all ten games his sophomore year. His plentiful amount of game experience and exposure vaulted him into the starting spot as a junior, and has been one of the defense’s best since.
Coming in to his freshman year, Anstoetter stood at six-four, 195 pounds. Fifth-year senior and fellow captain and linebacker Rob Rottler was a sophomore at the time, and he said he assumed that Anstoetter would take the same path as his older brother Robbie, who was one of the team’s top receivers at the time. Rottler said he’s certainly satisfied that Anstoetter stayed on the defensive side of the ball.
“He was 30, 40 pounds lighter than he is now. Just this tall, long guy. I figured he’d move over to the wide receiver spot when I saw him,” Rottler said. “But man, he’s quite the player now. He has filled out; he’s 230 plus pounds now, six-six or six-five. He has tremendous instincts on the field. He’s really smart out there; just a great teammate to be around. He’s come a long way, and I’m super proud of how he’s done that.”
Anstoetter finished second on the team in total tackles each of the last two seasons, with 70 and 110, respectively. He also recorded four and a half sacks and five interceptions out of the linebacker spot throughout those two years. While his line on the stat sheet is impressive, it’s his leadership on the field that sets him apart, according to Rottler.
“He’s a really good leader out there. He’s a vocal leader at times when he needs to be, and it helps out a lot,” Rottler said. “He’s able to speak up when maybe some other people won’t. Physically, he just goes hard every day doing the right things for the team. He’s always a team-first guy, and everyone sees that. He puts his best foot forward every single day.”
Being a senior, Anstoetter said this is probably the last year he’ll ever play. He said his final season was a special one.
“It’s kind of incredible, just thinking about where we were last year to this year,” Anstoetter said. “We doubled our win total, we’re only the third [Wartburg] team to make it to the elite eight. There’s just a lot of special things about this team. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Anstoetter will graduate with an engineering science degree this May. He does not know what exactly he wants to do at this point, but is hoping to work someplace close to home in the Dubuque area.