In a matchup of highly skilled linemen, Monona Grove's Gabe Carimi and Waunakee's Nick Clemens went head-to-head in one game this season.
"I think we both had some wins and some losses," Carimi said.
While Waunakee won that WIAA Division 2 state quarterfinal playoff game 20-14 on Nov. 5, the players have since been all-square in postseason honors.
The two were named the Wisconsin State Journal Large Schools Co-Players of the Year, following up unanimous first-team selections by The Associated Press, and first-team berths by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (Carimi as a two-way player).
"It says we've got good offensive linemen in the state. And we always have," MG coach Mike Stassi said. "(The University of) Wisconsin's taken them and other places have, too."
The pattern won't change next year. Carimi, a right tackle and defensive end, is earmarked to play on the offensive line at UW. Clemens, a three-year starter at right tackle and Waunakee's first Division I recruit, will play at Western Michigan.
Verona defensive end-tight end Kirk DeCremer, an AP All-State selection as well, went up against both players this season, facing Monona Grove twice and scrimmaging Waunakee once. He said the two are fundamentally sound.
"They're both phenomenal players," said DeCremer, who will join Carimi at UW. "They're definitely the best guys I played against all year."
As a right tackle, Stassi said the Silver Eagles ran behind the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Carimi about 70 percent of the time, which helped open holes for Chris Nelson to rush for 1,501 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a defensive end, Carimi had five sacks and was a focal point for opposing offensive coordinators.
"What he meant to us was everything. He's just got a great leadership and work ethic that's second to none," Stassi said. "I really believe that when he gets to the Badgers he's going to be the new wave of offensive linemen that can run and move. And this guy's got it all."
A future teammate of Joe Thomas at UW, Carimi sees the All-Big Ten Conference performer as the consummate offensive tackle.
"He is quote-unquote, my hero," Carimi said of Thomas. "I really want to model myself after his size and how big he is without being fat, and how quick he is. I'd really like to be like Joe Thomas."
Carimi also said facing the 6-5, 320-pound Clemens will help in his transition with the Badgers.
"He's a big kid. It doesn't really matter how fast they are, if they're big they're hard to move. It's definitely a challenge," Carimi said. "I'm going to see guys that size all the time. I need to know that I have to be able to move guys that size."
Clemens helped lead the Division 2 runner-up Warriors to a 35-3 record in his three seasons as a starter. Waunakee coach Pat Rice said his team was "definitely pretty right-handed this year" and it showed as TC Farber rushed for 2,136 yards and 28 touchdowns.
"He's got a certain toughness about him," Rice said of Clemens, who also received scholarship offers from Northern Illinois and Ball State. "There are a lot of kids that are big and they just cover people up. He's the kind of kid that's big and has a little nastiness to him.
"He's a good kid but when he's on the field he's a pretty physical kid. He's not just a big kid that covers people up."
In Carimi, who has a 7-foot wingspan, Clemens got to face a player not typical on the prep level.
"It's kind of hard to get into him," Clemens said. "It's hard to get a hold of him and drive him."
Clemens began the season as the Warriors' only returning offensive starter, and ended with a WIAA silver trophy and a college scholarship.
"I knew I had to step up and be a leader," Clemens said. "I felt that there was quite a few leaders on our team and it really helped out in the later games because there were people that had been in big games before and it was just a domino effect that goes right down to the younger guys."
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