PAOLA — There was simply no accounting for Paola Panther senior forward Ryan Wokutch on the soccer field. Opponents tried everything from double-teams to staying back to prevent runs and being physical, but he has a second gear that left defenders in his wake.
Wokutch scored a team-leading 27 goals for the Paola Panthers this season. He was one of the top scorers in the Frontier League and across Kansas.
He owns the Paola school record with 31 goals his junior season. Wokutch was a four-time All-Frontier League Soccer Team selection. He was second-team all-league as a freshman and first team each of the last three seasons.
Wokutch is the Tri-County Spotlight Soccer Player of the Year.
“I can’t say enough about the kid,” Paola coach Corey Troast said. “If you have ever seen him play, he plays with so much passion and energy.”
Wokutch was hurt late in the season and fought through it with the heart of a champion, Troast said.
“This year above, all else, he suffered an injury late in the season and pushed himself late in the playoffs,” Troast said.
Wokutch is a once-in-a-generation type player. Troast said.
“He is easily the best four-year soccer player to come through our league,” Troast said. “He leaves the program with the most goals in school history.”
Wokutch said the award was a team honor. He said the Paola Panther defense, led by goalie Austin Weaver and defenders Ben Timpe and Ian Heid, shut opposing offenses down, and the play of midfielder and forwards like Mason Escobar, Jonathan Villalobos and Gabriel Talledo Lena helped push the offensive attack.
He said it was a great experience, being part of a Paola Panther program that tied a school record of 10 wins last year and broke that mark with 11 victories this season. Paola ended the season in the regional playoffs, losing a 2-1 heartbreaker against Eudora in triple overtime.
Wokutch was a first-team All-Frontier League Soccer Team selection and a first-team Tri-County Spotlight Soccer Team selection.
Wokutch has scored more than 80 goals in his high school career with the Paola Panthers. He had 58 goals the last two years.
“It is a record that I doubt will ever get beat,” Troast said. “He was a coachable kid all four years and was always willing to go the extra mile when needed. He has a great career ahead of him in college.”
Wokutch helped lead the Paola Panthers to a 3-2 comeback victory against Piper for the 11th victory of the season, setting a new school record for wins in a season. It also sent the Panthers to the Class 4A regional playoffs.
Wokutch played goal for half of a game this season, teaming up with Austin Weaver in a 3-1 victory against Ottawa on senior night Oct. 24.
He had four goals in an 8-1 victory against Fort Scott on Oct. 8. Wokutch scored a hat trick with three goals in a 6-2 victory against Highland Park.
Wokutch scored four goals in a 4-0 shutout victory at Eudora on Sept. 19, and had four goals in a 4-1 road win against Independence.
Wokutch helped lead the Paola Panthers to tie the school record for wins in a season his junior season. Paola posted the 10th win with a playoff victory against Riverton.