63 years later, NewsChannel 7 Football All-Stars continues to make history

NewsChannel 7 Sports Director Mark Zelich began the tradition 63 years ago
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 10:00 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Going back 63 years ago, the late great NewsChannel 7 Sports Director Mark Zelich wanted a way to recognize our area’s top athletes. To this day, the award of “NewsChannel 7 All-Star” remains highly coveted amongst athletes for the chance to be known as the best of the best.

The feeling of winning a Channel 7 All-Star award, is one of a kind. No matter how you find out.

“Back in 1999, things were a little bit different,” said Greg Streit, 1999 NC7 All-Star Defensive Tackle. “We didn’t have all the phones and access to internet and that stuff, and you actually had to wait until it came out that day.”

“My head coach, Coach Knapmiller, won the coach of the year that year,” shared Garrett Rau, 2015 NC7 All-Star Punter. “And so we kinda had this pep rally, this big ceremony and we give it to him. And then the sports reporter takes the microphone and goes ‘Oh hey, by the way, we had a player that was a Channel 7 All-Star also.’ And that’s when he announced that I had won.”

In some cases, the award has become a family affair.

”Now given the opportunity to see some of my family members,” says Streit. “My nephews make it as a Channel 7 All-Star. Just kind of a cool thing to look back at.”

“There’s three other winners that have been in my family,” Rau said. “It’s kind of neat to get to share that experience with them and we actually got a pretty cool picture of the four of us from one of our family Thanksgivings. We’re all holding up 7′s for Channel 7 All-Stars.”

Some past All-Stars have gone on to become head coaches. A full-circle moment now voting for future All-Stars.

“It’s really cool to try and nominate those guys and reward them for the things that they have done,” said Tim Strehlow, 1995 NC7 All-Star Wide Receiver and current D.C. Everest head coach. “And the time that they put in for the program, but also just in sports for themselves.”

To become a future All-Star, you must take a step above the rest.

“Preparing yourself, obviously,” Strehlow added. “I think how you prepare yourself is really for high school kids is being from out multiple sports.”

“Every football team in Wisconsin practices two hours every day after school,” Rau said. “So what are you going to do that’s going to separate yourself from everybody else?”

To add to his advice to future All-Stars, Strehlow stressed the importance of striving academically to set yourself up for success on and off the field.

The 2023 class of Football All-Stars will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Offensive players will be revealed at 6 p.m., while defensive players will be revealed at 10 p.m.