Future Uncertain, Though Ability Not For Edgewood's Ruttler
By Bob Grimmie
Like many High School seniors, the future is full of uncertainties for Edgewood's Greg Ruttler.
His collegiate destination is undetermined, his intended major at this mystery school is unknown and his career goals are, at best, an after thought. Very normal for a 17-year-old young man, very ordinary.
However, it is Ruttler's extraordinary ability to blast a soccer ball past the outstretched arms of an opposing goalie that will provide the answer to many of his senior year questions.
Granted, not many High School seniors rely on the sport of soccer to shed light on their future. For Ruttler though, it is the rarity of this situation that is normal for him. He's been distinguishing himself on soccer fields throughout South Jersey for 13 years.
As a four-year-old the Atco native began playing soccer through the Waterford Intramural League. During his early childhood, Ruttler played both soccer and Little League baseball. At age 14, he had to decide between the two sports. It seems apparent that the choice to use his feet and not a bat was the correct one. "I didn't have time for any other sports," said Ruttler. "My club team (the Medford Strikers) started going on some pretty far tournaments and we started practicing more."
He continued his growth in the sport as a member of the Medford Strikers under 18 A-Team. As a sophomore at Edgewood High School, Ruttler made his varsity debut as a starter in the midfield. It was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
"I was one of two non-seniors, so, I kind of didn't expect it," he said. "I was nervous and scared to make a mistake, but, it got easier as the season went on."
That year the Eagles finished 12-5. As a junior, Ruttler changed positions to help spark his teams struggling offense.
"I actually got moved up to forward because we were havin' trouble scoring goals and it just worked out that way," said Ruttler.
That season Ruttler lead his team and the entire Olympic Conference with 21 goals. His team finished 8-8 and entered the state tournament as a 14 seed. In the first round they met Toms River East, a number three seed, and defeated them 1-0 in overtime. Ruttler produced the game's only goal.
The second round brought defeat at the hands of the eventual tournament champion Lenape. Never-the-less Ruttler and the Edgewood Eagles, gained valuable post-season experience. Experience that can mean the difference between rising to the challenge of the state tournament, or sucoming to it's pressure.
Graduation was uncharacteristically kind, stealing only one reserve, and two replaceable goalkeepers. As this season begins, the Eagles are experienced (14 seniors), tournament seasoned and proud owners of the conference's top scorer.
"We'd definitely like to win the conference," Ruttler says. "We're pretty sure we can do that if we play as well as we can."
Ruttler is aware of the attention that will be given to him by opposing coaches. Odds are, especially early in the season, every defense Edgewood faces will focus on stopping the Eagle's star forward.
Both Ruttler and head coach Ron Wence are confident that this team features enough talent to keep teams honest.
"I definitely think I'll get some attention," said Ruttler. "...but I think Brandon Cohen is really gonna step up and score some goals, he's really excelled this year. After a few games he's gonna catch some eyes."
Wence agrees with the optimistic appraisal of his junior forward.
"Cohen is one guy we're looking to (for goal scoring), this year he's doing really well," said Wence.
Many Division I schools have expressed interest in having Ruttler attend their schools in the fall of '98. Among the most ambitious of his suitors is Eastern Illinois, though Ruttler is also exploring options at local colleges such as Rider and Rutgers.
"I'm not sure I wanna leave the East Coast," he says. "I definitely want to play division I."
Wherever Ruttler ends up going to college, he'll always be at home on the soccer field.