APPLETON, Wis. (NBC 26) — He's been the face of Fox Valley Lutheran girls basketball for three decades. Now, Rev. David Wenzel is in rarified air: Last week the longtime coach won his 500th career game.
"It's a little hard to get my head around, 500 is a big number and you don't achieve it overnight," Wenzel said. "But it's the longevity of it, I think. We've been at it for a while. So if you're blessed with great kids - and we have been - you're going to get wins."
Wenzel is just the 17th coach in Wisconsin high school history to reach that mark. He's now up to 503, which is the 16th most in state history.
Over his time Wenzel has won seven conference titles and been to the state tournament seven times, but it's the number 30 that means the most to him.
"It's the 30 years I think that is probably as much of a significance to Dave Schroeder and my staff and me as it is the 500 wins," he said.
Dave Schroeder is Wenzel's assistant coach and good friend. The two started at FVL together in the early 1990s and have been at it ever since.
"What's unique probably - I don't know that it happens very often - neither Dave or I played high school basketball, much less college," Wenzel laughed. "What we had is a grade school coach - Len Pawlowski - way back at Bethel in Menasha. He gave us a love for the game we never lost."
Over the years, Wenzel has parlayed that passion into a hall of fame caliber coaching career. Along the way, he's made a mark on his players.
"He's built such a legacy here," senior guard Emily Jaenke beamed. "I mean he's been here for 30 years so it's just really awesome to be a part of this program and culture."
"The gym atmosphere was so loud and energetic," junior forward Alayna Feidt added, referencing the night Wenzel earned win No. 500. "It was so fun."
Through the eyes of his players, he's the perfect leader in basketball and in life.
"He always has a calm composure," Jaenke said. "He just can bring our nerves all down. It's great."
Jaenke and Feidt added that Wenzel is a "jokester" and "very sarcastic."
But his career has been no joke. He's more than halfway to a thousand wins, and Wenzel doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.
"That's a good question," Wenzel said when asked if he was thinking about retirement. "I don't have the answer now. I'm not looking to retire.
"That's in God's hands," he said. "I'm still enjoying it."
Wenzel said this year's team is as talented as any he's coached. The Foxes are 16-2 overall and 12-1 in the North Eastern Conference, one game behind conference-leader Freedom.