Football team eerily similar to St. Thomas’ last playoff squad

Although two decades separate them, the connections run deep between the last Tommie football team to reach the playoffs and the 2009 squad.

Sports Information Director Gene McGivern remembers the 1990 Tommies and knows that, although it’s difficult to compare teams of different eras, the two teams have striking similarities.

“There’s definitely interesting parallels to this [year’s] team,” McGivern said. “They had some dynamic players and they ran the ball well.”

caption (Josh Kleven/TommieMedia)
Ben Wartman celebrates in the end zone against Coe College Nov. 28, but the junior has other reasons to celebrate as he now owns the single-season touchdown record. Wartman has tallied 23 touchdowns in 2009. (Josh Kleven/TommieMedia)

That same combination of a strong running game and game-changing players describes this year’s team. Led by junior running back Ben Wartman, the running game has been St. Thomas’ biggest strength this season and Fritz Waldvogel brings the dynamic quality to the field that has given the Tommie offense explosive potential.

The 1990 Tommies had a similar group of offensive players, which St. Thomas’ Sports News affectionately called the “The Three Amigos.”

The senior group of running back Gary Trettel, wide receiver Aaron Benner and quarterback Steve Muetzel made up “The Three Amigos” and led St. Thomas on its 2009 playoff run. Muetzel carried much more of the offensive load in 1990 than either of sophomore quarterbacks Greg Morse or Dakota Tracy do for this year’s team, but there’s some other striking similarities between this year’s offense and the 1990 squad.

Wartman and Trettel – almost identical

Trettel rushed for 232 yards in St. Thomas’ win over Wisconsin-Whitewater to advance to the quarterfinals in 1990, while Wartman rushed for 236 yards against Co College to advance to the quarterfinals in 2009. Trettel’s performance against Whitewater was his 10th consecutive 100-yard rushing performance in 1990, while Wartman’s 236 yards against Coe was the 18th out of 20 games that he’s rushed for more than 100 yards. And Wartman’s 23rd touchdown in the win over the Kohawks broke Trettel’s 1990 record by one touchdown for most scores in a season.

The only similarity this year’s Tommies hope to avoid between the two players is Trettel’s injury in the first quarter of the 1990 quarterfinals that caused him to miss the rest of the game.

Wide receiver Benner, the second of “The Three Amigos,” completed his senior season with the school record in a single season with 1,015 yards. Waldvogel enters Saturday’s game against Linfield three measly yards behind Benner with 1,012 receiving yards on the season.

On the offensive line, All-American Kevin DeVore anchored the 1990 team. This year’s Tommie offensive line is led by All-American center Josh Ostrue.

The 1990 Tommies’ season came to an end in the quarterfinals with a 33-32 loss to Central College and it has taken two full decades for a St. Thomas squad to come along and match the 1990 team’s accomplishments.

“That team was certainly remembered very fondly and rewrote all the record books,” McGivern said.

With a win Saturday in McMinnville, Oreg., the Tommies can continue the legacy of the 1990 team by adding one more chapter to the record book as the first St. Thomas team with a quarterfinal playoff victory.

Jordan Osterman can be reached at

2 Replies to “Football team eerily similar to St. Thomas’ last playoff squad”

  1. I was on that 1990 playoff team and yes, we had weapons! However, we should have gone much deeper in those playoffs. I am honored at the comparison to wide receiver Fritz Waldvogel (nearly twenty years after I last played). I was blessed to play with a great group of young men and this current team has brought back good memories. Thank you Coach Caruso, for bringing pride back into the program and best of luck in Oregon! *I only had 49 receptions for 1,015 yards my senior year:)

    *I only had 49 receptions for 1,015 yards my senior year:)

  2. As a pile-on to AB’s comment from another of the great group from 1990, congratulations to Coach Caruso, and the team for returning UST to excellence. The MIAC has always been a challenging conference, however there is no reason why UST should not also dominate on the field, as we do in many of the other athletic departments. On behalf of another of the 1990 team and defensive squad (Pat Murhpy #27), and fellow USAF officer…”Go Tommies!

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