3 players show GT eras

April 22, 2014

To get to the point where the high-flying Germantown athletic program is now, there had to be some groundwork laid (along with a fair amount of money spent).

At the recent Athletic Hall of Fame of inductions of Frank Blau (class of 1972), Mike Francolucci (1980) and Erika Freiburger (1993) you had the honoring of three distinct periods in school athletic history.

With the four-sport star Blau, you still had the school complex and several of its programs still in its infancy. Blau, a feisty 5-10, 170-pounder, played in the first basketball games in the current high school gym sometime around his junior year and then in his senior year, played the first games on the current high school football field after years of the team playing out at Kennedy Middle School.

"Coach (Phil) Datka was just getting started then," said Blau. "I think when I was a sophomore that may have been his first year (around 1969). We were playing out of a pro-set back then. It was a pretty vanilla kind of offense back then. It was all we could handle (laughs)."

Blau, a quarterback, defensive back and kicker for the football team, rarely came off the field. He would lead the old Scenic Moraine Conference in scoring and TD passes his senior year.

He also played for another Germantown legend in Chuck Ritzenthaler in both basketball and baseball. He was a ball-handling guard in basketball and a second baseman and catcher in baseball. Again, in a sign of the times, baseball was not on the high school campus but out at Kennedy.

Despite being involved in four sports, Blau also found time to be an National Honor Society student and a band member.

Datka, in his nomination papers, sees Blau as intergal to the success that would follow in the athletic program, particularly for the football team. Blau would later walk on at Wisconsin and earn a National "W" Club Award.

"(He was) a major factor in turning the football program around and helped create an atmosphere of excellence," Datka wrote.

"This was a lot of fun," he said. "That night (of the induction) there were stories upon stories, just a lot of reminiscing with Coach Datka and Coach Ritz and it was so much fun hearing about the others and their stories too. Just so many great memories."

Serious success

Francolucci has the same kind of memories as he was a football, basketball and baseball triple threat as the Germantown program began to expand experience into some serious success.

He played on the great 1979 football team with fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Vance and fellow speedster Todd Hernandez. An All Scenic Moraine defensive end and tight end, he was part of the squad that made it to the state finals before losing to Beaver Dam.

"Everything flowed so well that year," said Francolucci. "In big games, we were intense and in control. We were just very confident in what we were doing. it didn't hurt that I was playing with the best athlete I would ever play with (in Vance)."

In basketball for Ritzenthaler, Francolucci was an undersized but highly productive 6-2 center who would earn first-team all-league honors and finish with the seventh best career scoring mark, fourth best single season scoring record and would set a single game scoring mark with 36 points in one contest.

He was also a catcher forthe baseball team.

"Everything would be fresh and new to me (each season). I never got bored with it."

"Mike separated himself from other talented athletes with his work ethic to get even better," wrote Ritzenthaler.

Soccer before it was cool

Freiburger did much the same thing. She came up at the same time of fellow female groundbreaker Jackie Aiken (also a Hall of Fame member). A person who could just not sit still, she started playing soccer before soccer was cool to play at age nine, playing for a Menomonee Falls club team because the Germantown programs had not kicked in yet.

Furthermore, because the level of girls competition in the area had not risen to a sufficient level yet, she wound up playing on a select boys team until she was around 14 or 15, when her Mom felt it was just too dangerous to do so. Freiburger then became part of the successful Mequon Club program.

She became involved in karate, almost earning a a black belt and was a Hershey track sprint champion and made herself a great success in basketball too.

But she dominated in soccer, earning first-team all-league honors for three straight years, being named all-state her senior year and playing in the Wisconsin Masonic Girls All-Star game.

She was a NOW All-Suburban choice her junior year in basketball. Later, she would help the Warhawks win a holiday tournament title, and a WIAA regional title (which they wouldn't do again until this season). The Warhawks even beat the great Melissa Maas-led Wauwatosa East team her senior year.

"That was a hugely gratifying win," said Freiburger.

Freiburger earned a scholarship to Detroit University for soccer. That's when knee injuries started occurring. She later transferred to Marquette. Her injuries later made her ineligible, but she still loves Germantown and soccer.

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