Reading Bryse Wilson’s athlete curriculum vitae is a bit like listening to a Ronco ad for the handiest device a coach could ever own. One can almost hear the pitch from Ron Popeil.
“Do you have trouble with opponents’ pesky running backs? Need a few more strikes for your baseball team? Out of quarterbacks and need one – right now? Try a Bryse Wilson. He’s a whole team in one convenient package. He runs, tackles, catches, passes and pitches. Look, he can even block punts.”
The Atlanta Braves bought it. So did the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and many others as well.
It’s small wonder that such a valuable commodity as Wilson also is the News & Observer’s high school Athlete of the Year for 2016.
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“It’s a cliche, but it’s true: He’s the All-American kid,” says Orange baseball coach Dean Dease.
Wilson embodies a mens sana in corpore sano – a finely tuned, 6-1, 210-pound corpore with a strong right arm.
A 4.6 GPA student before graduating this spring from Orange High School, Wilson was a star on Panther teams that claimed Big Eight Conference championships in football and baseball.
He succeeded at everything he tried in high school. He also wrestled, and well, in middle school before opting to stick with just fall and spring sports.
“People ask me how good we’re going to be next year, and I tell them: ‘The first thing we have to do is replace the best football player I’ve ever had,’” says Orange football coach Pat Moser.
As a baseball player, “We’ve had some good ones, but he’s at the top, no doubt about it,” Dease says. “No doubt he’s the best pitcher we’ve ever had.”
Wilson was the Big Eight’s top pitcher this year,.
Wilson led the league in earned run average (0.75) and in pitching wins with his 10-2 record, which included six shutouts, three no-hitters and a perfect game in the 3A playoffs (21 up, 21 out for Eastern Wayne).
“We had a lot of wins this year and went really far in the playoffs for both sports,” Wilson said. “Individually, my no-hitters and the perfect game this year stand out for me. Being named all-state in both sports was great.”
His fast ball routinely went 93 to 94 mph, and it reached 97 once or twice, Dease said.
Playing first base and batting cleanup this year, Wilson hit .333 and was second among Big Eight players in fielding percentage (.967), ranking just behind longtime friend and Orange teammate Brad Debo (.984), the South Carolina signee who batted .446 this year.
“Bryse is very competitive. He’s a fighter. He doesn’t like to lose,” Dease said. “He’s got talent, but you need a work ethic to go with talent — and he’s got that. He has a tremendous work ethic.”
Wilson first caught the eye of baseball scouts as an Orange freshman who went 11-0 with an ERA of 1.05. In four years of high school ball, he won 33 games, lost four and finished with an ERA of 0.998.
UNC’s baseball program initially won the recruiting battle for Wilson, who committed as a junior to join the Tar Heels. But Major League baseball won the war.
The Atlanta Braves selected Wilson in the fourth round of June’s MLB draft, the 109th pick overall.
Within 24 hours, Wilson made up his mind to sign, earning a reported $1.2 million bonus. (Wilson reported June 24 to the Gulf Coast Braves in Orlando, Fla., an Atlanta rookie-level affiliate.)
“I may have liked football better than baseball, but I knew my future was in baseball,” Wilson said. “I’m better at baseball, and it can take me a lot farther than football.”
Wilson was a two-way starter for Orange’s 11-2 football team last fall. He was the Panthers’ leading rusher, with 1,024 yards (8.9 yards per carry). Wilson was also the team’s second leading receiver with 303 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 receptions (23.3 yards per catch) and finished with 1,025 all-purpose yards. He also made 93 tackles (22 for losses), intercepted two passes and blocked five punts and two field goal attempts.
When junior Jackson Schmid was injured in week two of the season, Wilson stepped in at quarterback and quickly grew into the position. In Orange’s third straight win with Wilson at QB, he completed 10 of 17 passes for 138 yards and a TD.
Dease agrees with Moser that Wilson could play football, if he wanted.
“If baseball doesn’t work out, I could see him doing a ‘Russell Wilson.’ He could go to professional baseball, and after he’s done with that he could be a college football player.”
Last 10 N&O Athlete of the Year winners
Bryse Wilson (senior), Orange; Nevada Mareno (junior), Leesville Road
Nyheim Hines (senior), Garner; Sydnei Murphy (senior), Apex
Marquavious Johnson (senior), Knightdale; Morgan Reid (senior), Cardinal Gibbons
Maura McDonnell (senior), Green Hope; Wesley Frazier (senior), Ravenscroft*
Tevin Hester (senior), Granville Central; Alexis Perry (senior), Jordan
Brian Taylor (senior), Harnett Central; Keni Harrison (senior), Clayton
Brian Taylor (junior), Harnett Central; Cassie Crawford (senior), Panther Creek
Adam Flur (senior), Northern Durham; Adrianne Soo (senior), Durham Academy
Thomas Wilson (senior), Leesville Road; Jacinda Evans (senior), Southern Durham
Trey Grissom (senior), Garner; Amy Dodd (senior), Apex
Note: There were two girl winners in 2012-13. This is the first year where each sex must have one winner.