Author: Gil Alcaraz
This past December, two Occidental football players, defensive end Alex Wertheimer (senior) and punter Alex Groh (senior), were inducted into the Division III All-American Team. Both were named to the Division III All-West Team a week before the Stagg Bowl, the Division III equivalent to the National Championship. The All-Americans were named the weekend of the Stagg Bowl, during which the two Tigers were recognized.
The two seniors played a key role in helping the Tigers reach a combined record of 32-6 from 2006-2009, including two playoff appearances. “In my 30 years at Occidental, Groh and Wertheimer are hands-down the best punter and defensive lineman I have coached,” said Head Coach Dale Widolff.
Groh, who has punted for the Tigers since his first year at Oxy, had his senior season cut short due to an injury. Even though he only played half the season, he was still able to impress both coaches and SCIAC officials – enough to be named to the All-American Team for the third year in a row. In 2007, he won the Gilburg Award, which has been given out annually since 2004 to the best small college punter in the nation. Although he only punted 29 times in his senior season, over half of them were for 50 or more yards, most of them pinning the opposite team within its own 20-yard line.
With full support from Widolff, Groh has led the Tigers’ punt team onto the field for all four of his years at Oxy. “I have to give credit to Coach Widolff,” Groh said. “We practiced every day, which gave me lots of experience and opportunities.” Widolff, known for his specialized teams expertise, has a history of developing great punters. In 2003, former Tiger punter Cory Ohnesorge ’06 was NCAA Division III’s top punter.Groh felt that the Tigers really focused on improving its specialized teams each and every practice. This, along with solid coaching from his kicking coach Jim Kerman, allowed Groh to be successful.
As he heads toward graduation, Groh has been hard at work collecting game film and sending it out to various NFL teams and scouts. He is hoping to get in contact with a professional team and land a tryout.
Wertheimer, who has been a menace to opposing quarterbacks since his first year on the team, had a sensational senior year as well. He ended the season with 55 total tackles, including 30 solo tackles. He chased down the opposing quarterbacks all year long, tallying 19 quarterback hurries and seven and a half sacks, the most by any Tiger this year.
All of that – along with one blocked kick, a recovered fumble and three broken up passes – led him to be honored as the SCIAC Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to d3football.com’s Team of the Week twice during the season, including the week after playing No. 5 Linfield, in which he hurried the quarterback ten times.
Wertheimer gave credit to his fellow teammates and coaching staff for the prestigious recognition he has garnered. “It was a great honor and credit to great coaching and teammates,” he said. “They have pushed me to get better every year, and they have given me the confidence and knowledge to succeed at this level.”
Though he is academically a senior, Wertheimer has another year of athletic eligibility due to an injury during a previous season, so he will be back in 2010 to rejoin the Tigers on the gridiron. Like Groh, he also has ambitions to play professionally after college.
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