Next level challenge: Austin grad Abel Gebrekiros making strides at Division I level

Published 8:37 pm Thursday, October 31, 2019

If a single goal was to be credited for Austin’s emergence as a soccer power in the Big Nine and Section 1A, it may well have come from Austin’s secret weapon that is no longer a secret.

Austin grad Abel Gebrekiros helped turn the tide in the Packers’ favor against Rochester Lourdes back in 2016 when he scored the game-winning goal to give Austin it’s first win over the Eagles in seven years at the time.

Three years later, Gebrekiros is scoring game-winning goals for a Division I soccer team as he has been playing with Garner-Webb University, which is located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina this fall.

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Gebrekiros has played in 11 games and he is third on the team in points as he has four goals and three assists for the Runnin’ Bulldogs (7-7-1 overall).

“So far, so good,” Gebrekiros said of his start at Garner-Webb. “I think there’s aI lot of improvement from where I was back in high school.”

Austin grad Abel Gebrekiros controls the ball for Gardner-Webb takes against High Point in Big South Conference men’s soccer action at Greene-Harbison Stadium on Oct. 12 in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Photo by Jeff Sochko

Gebrekiros moved from Ethiopia to Austin in his senior year of high school and he was an instant standout for a Packer team that lost to Northfield 1-0 in the Section 1A title game in 2016. He went on to score 14 goals and tally 12 assists in two seasons for Iowa Lakes Community College, a Division I NJCAA school.

Gebrekiros credits Austin head coach Jens Levisen and the coaches at Iowa Lakes for preparing him for the rigors of Division I soccer.

“Austin is where it all started. They really helped me. If it wasn’t for the coaches and players, I wouldn’t have advanced. (Levisen) helped me get to Iowa and Iowa coach helped me get here,” Gebrekiros said. “It’s a process. The two years in junior college helped me a lot. You have to have good video out there and you also have to work hard in school (to get recruited).”

Gebrekiros grew up playing bare foot soccer in Ethiopia and he’s come a long way in a short time since moving to the United States. Although he’s learning quickly that the game gets significantly tougher as he’s moved up in ranks.

“It’s more difficult than I expected. It’s tough, it’s more physical and more mind games,” Gebrekiros said of playing at Garner-Webb. “The players are smart and mentally, it gets tougher. Once the level goes up, you have to go up with it. most of the players are smart.”

Gebrekiros still has family in Austin and he plans on visiting over the Christmas break. He has kept his eye on the Packers, who have advanced to three straight Minnesota Class A State Tournaments since he graduated.

“I’m really proud of them. I have a lot of friends that were on the team and I’m always checking them out,” Gebrekiros said. “It’s really good to see them improving every year.”

Garner-Webb has two more regular season games remaining before the Big South Conference Tournament. Gebrekiros is hoping to finish strong and then build on his skill in the offseason.

He has high hopes for his future in soccer.

“The ultimate goal is to be a pro. I’m still trying to improve every day,” Gebrekiros said. “I’m doing pretty OK here, but I’m trying to come better and stronger for next year.”