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High school boys soccer: Competitive to the core, Skyridge’s Austin Wallace named 2021 Deseret News Mr. Soccer

Wallace finished his senior season with a 6A-best 19 goals to go along with his eight assists. He led Skyridge to a runner-up finish, with the Falcons losing to Weber in a penalty shootout in the 6A state championship game.

Skyridge midfielder Austin Wallace is this year’s Deseret News Mr. Soccer.
Skyridge midfielder Austin Wallace, this year’s Deseret News Mr. Soccer, poses for a photo at Skyridge High School in Lehi on June 14, 2021.
Annie Barker, Deseret News

The first time Jerry Priesendorf remembers watching Austin Wallace play soccer, he knew the seventh grader had the “it” factor.

Speed, quickness, finishing, they were all qualities Priesendorf noticed right away, and he just had a hunch it was only a matter of time until Wallace developed into one of the top soccer players in Utah.

It would be two more years until Priesendorf got to coach Wallace himself at Skyridge High School, but the freshman made an immediate impact on the young program.

He ended up starting all four years at Skyridge, and each continued his upward trajectory as he indeed developed into one of the top players in Utah and has been named the 2021 Deseret News Mr. Soccer recipient.

“He is just so fun to watch,” said Priesendorf quite simply.

Wallace finished his senior season with a 6A-best 19 goals to go along with his eight assists. He’s committed to play at Dixie State after he returns from his two-year mission to Mozambique. He led Skyridge to a runner-up finish this past year, with the Falcons losing to Weber in a penalty shootout in the 6A state championship game.

“I’m really proud of the team. As much as I’d like to think I can do it all, I can’t, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, specifically Ian Nielsen. He gave me every single assist, every ball,” said Wallace.

Nielsen is also committed to play at Dixie State after his mission.

What made Wallace’s accomplishments even more impressive this season is he did it all at a relatively new position. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, and even in Skyridge’s two games last year before COVID-19 canceled the season, Wallace almost exclusively played as a forward on the wings.

It gave him the space and freedom to use his speed to take on defenders. His comfort in that role grew each year, scoring seven goals as a freshman and 13 as a sophomore.

This year Priesendorf asked Wallace to drop into the middle of the field and play a key role in the diamond midfield. Wallace thrived playing in the box-to-box midfielder role, and it was a big part of Skyridge’s success.

“The possession style that we play is the way I like to play, keeping it, moving it around and sharing it with your teammates,” said Wallace.

Priesendorf believes one of the biggest reasons for Wallace’s success was his competitive drive, whether in practice or games.

“His natural demeanor is a competitor. You see it in everything he does,” said Priesendorf.

It showed on the soccer field and in the classroom as Wallace maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. He’s driven to succeed

He became a student of the game as well. During Wallace’s first two years of high school soccer, most of the goals he scored were the result of individual skill. This year Priesendorf said Wallace learned how to become a great recipient from his teammates, particularly in the air.

Priesendorf said about a quarter of Wallace’s goals this year came on headers, pretty impressive considering that physically he would’ve been undersized against most opposing defenders in the box.

“He just knows where to be. It’s a learned thing. He can see what’s going to happen a couple passes before,” said Priesendorf.

A small part of why Wallace read the game so well was he actually used to play goalie when he was younger. Once his age group moved up to larger goals, he was too small to play the position though as opponents simply shot the ball over him.

In all reality, a position switch likely would’ve happened anyway considering his speed and his skill on the ball. No coach would’ve ever wanted to waste that at the keeper position.

Priesendorf said Wallace was great at using his speed to his advantage in a variety of ways.

“He will not go out all the time. He knows gamesmanship, maybe jog over here, jog over there, and then maybe a defender gets a little comfortable and then all suddenly he brings it and they don’t realize there’s another gear,” said Priesendorf.

The defenders in Skyridge’s region were smart enough to know what to expect, but Wallace still found a way to put the ball in the back of the net more than anyone else in 6A.