Center back Michael Hegelheimer was recently named the most improved player for the Wartburg men’s soccer team. This award came with a transition in positions and an increase in playing time.
Hegelheimer was originally recruited by Wartburg as a defensive midfielder but faced challenges before even coming to Wartburg. Shoulder surgery the summer before his freshman year forced him to start practicing later than the rest of the team.
However, head coach Michael Madigan said that Michael’s dedication to the sport is what earned him a spot in the starting lineup.
“He’s a guy who just wants to get better,” Madigan said. “There’s a lot to be said for doing that whether the spotlight is on on a Friday night or if it’s in the back corner of the gym on a Wednesday in January.”
Hegelheimer said soccer is a huge part of his family life, with him and his three siblings all playing at some point in their lives. His love of the game and exposure to it allowed him to make the transition from defensive midfielder to center back.
Teammate and goalkeeper Gunnar Lenzen said that Hegelheimer’s knowledge of the game lent itself well to the transition in positions.
“All it took for him to become a center back was to learn the fundamentals of defending,” Lenzen said. “Once he had that down, he still had the same savvy foot skills and ball playing ability, making him a very sound defender.”
For an athlete who went from barely seeing the field to almost leading the team in minutes, Hegelheimer stepped into his new role very well, Madigan said. With other senior leaders on the defensive end, Madigan said that Hegelheimer soon grew into the new position as a vocal leader during difficult times.
Hegelheimer said that the main frustration of the season, though, was the lack of consistency on the team.
“We’ve had three consecutive seasons with talented teams where we were put in situations where we seemed to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Hegelheimer said. “This year we had an extremely promising start but struggled to put together a consistent performance during the latter part of the season.”
Because of this, Madigan believes that Hegelheimer has the potential to use his experience, composure and reliability to lead next year’s team.
“Michael is going to be a leader for next year’s team no matter what,” Madigan said. “He’s someone you can depend on. He’s consistent. He will be one of the more experienced voices and vital to our success next year.”