The trio played on the same Class AAAA-A state championship lacrosse team in 2010 as sophomores, and they helped the Wildcats make four straight state playoff appearances in football.
“Julian was the faceoff guy, I was the D guy and Shelton was attack,” Catan said of the 2010 lacrosse squad. “That was a fun, fun time.”
As seniors, Houk’s prowess on the defensive and offensive lines, Catan’s play at quarterback and Collier’s two-way skills at defensive back and running back helped Westminster football overcome a 1-4 start in 2011. They recalled the critical day last fall that coach Gerry Romberg cancelled practice when more than 30 players showed up late and how it galvanized both them and the rest of the team.
“He just sent us home,” Catan said. “No one knew what to do. I know the skill guys tried to host our own practice, but really it was more, ‘What are we doing? What are we doing wrong’? It was a huge, huge turning point.”
They won six straight after that and finished 7-5, reached the second round of the Class AA playoffs and also defeated rival Lovett for a third straight year.
“Definitely a highlight of our high school years right there,” Houk said.
Three friends and three success stories out of a school that demands much from its students and far more from its student-athletes.
Houk started at Westminster in kindergarten, Collier in fifth grade and Catan in seventh. The three already played sports together before all finally being Wildcats, and they bonded over long summer workout sessions, tough practices and victories on the field.
“We went lifting all summer, so we would always be there together, just kind of starting out as young guys and made our way up to the top,” Collier said.
The mantra at the school is “team first,” and they respected that. But the individual accolades came, just the same.
Collier was named an All-American attacker in lacrosse this season and received a scholarship to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, where he reported last week. Catan, an All-State defender at lacrosse, will play quarterback for St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. Houk was this year’s 195-pound Class AA wrestling state champion and an All-American as well. He’s headed to Ole Miss, although he won’t play sports there.
After six straight years of all attending the same school, they’ll be all over the U.S.
“It’s different,” Collier said. “It’s just kind of weird that we’ll be all spread out over the country.”
They agreed that the difficulties of balancing school and sports made them better and more disciplined at both.
“Being able to juggle all that, I think that really changed the person I became today,” Houk said. “Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”