Some of Wichita’s top student-athletes pledged allegiance Wednesday.
The signing period opened for all sports besides football, and more than 50 athletes in the area took advantage. Here are some of the best stories from November’s National Signing Day:
Derby double in Stillwater
Oklahoma State wrestling brands itself as the most storied dynasty in the history of college sports.
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With 34 national championships, finding an athlete worthy of selection is tough. Derby has two.
Seniors Cade Lindsey and Triston Wills signed with the Cowboys on Wednesday. They are two of four Derby students heading to Division I athletics and two of three wrestlers who signed in the Wichita area, including Maize’s Aidan Campbell who committed to Arkansas-Little Rock.
“This is something we’ve always wanted,” Wills said. “We’ve pushed ourselves harder than most people could even imagine. During the summer, during the season, we’re practice partners year-round. To be able to have this dream come true and to have this opportunity is the biggest thing, and it’s even more special that we get to share it together.”
Both went through odd recruiting processes. Wills’ started after he beat Jaylin Harper with a 6-4 in the 160-pound Class 6A championship bout in February. Coaches were there to see Harper, who is also now a Cowboy. When they saw Wills, they had to have him.
“It’s one of those deals where they’re looking at you, but you don’t really know what they’re going to offer or how serious they are,” Wills said. “It’s everything you dream about, and then getting to talk with the coaches and realizing this is a big possibility, how can I not turn this down?”
Lindsey, a 152-pounder, started talking with OSU as a junior but went through a dry spell with the Cowboy staff as he started to consider other schools, including the Air Force Academy. As part of an OSU family, Lindsey’s parents told him he should reach back out after his Derby football team reached the Class 6A championship.
He did, and now he and Wills will be teammates for another four years.
“Oklahoma State epitomizes Stillwater,” Lindsey said. “It’s a great place to be. It offers great academics and a great support system. I’m excited about it, and I’m ready to get going down there.”
Firing up the Grill
Caleb Grill held 16 offers heading into his commitment, but he only needed his first.
Grill, a three-star Maize basketball guard, signed with South Dakota State on Wednesday. He had scholarships on the table from three Power Five universities, but he chose the one that fit him best.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Grill said. “It was hard letting some of those schools go because you build relationships with them. That was probably the hardest part, honestly.”
Chris Grill, Caleb’s coach and dad, said his son wants to get into college coaching, and South Dakota State coach T.J. Otzelberger offered a relationship and wealth of knowledge Grill couldn’t pass on.
Grill is one of the top multi-sport athletes in Kansas. He is one of the most electrifying basketball players in the state, one of its leading passers in football and one of its highest jumpers on the track. Before Caleb signed, Chris addressed the crowd on hand to watch and said sports has just always been a major part of his son’s life.
“I can remember waking up in the morning at 3 o’clock, and he had stumbled out of bed somehow,” Chris said. “He’s downstairs watching TV, so I’m expecting to see Tom & Jerry or something on TV. But he’s watching SportsCenter.”
Grill is joining one of the top mid-major programs in the country. The Jackrabbits are gritty, and that’s the kind of personality Grill brings.
“A lot of the kids up there are just like me,” he said. “When I went on my visits, we all got along perfect. I think that was different from all my other visits. It was just kind of like home already.”
Few athletes in the U.S. had to wait as long as Macie Eck.
An Andale softball standout, Eck verbally committed to Notre Dame on Nov. 8, 2016. She was a sophomore in high school and said before she went to a camp in South Bend, Indiana, she didn’t know what Notre Dame was.
She knows now and said she is excited to finally get there.
“It’s a sigh of relief,” Eck said. “I’ve been waiting for 2 years for this. I’m ready to be part of the culture.”
Everything happened quickly for Eck in 2016. She didn’t know much about the recruiting process and hadn’t even started before the Irish offered her a scholarship. She said she was overwhelmed but confident.
“I could feel it in my heart from the start,” she said. “When I signed that line, I didn’t really feel any different, but after they posted it, it felt real.”
Best friends commit
The Wichita area might have the best girls basketball in Kansas.
Derby and Maize, two of the top teams in the state, both produced a pair of college-bound players Wednesday. In less than a month, all four will be on the court at the same time fighting for an edge in the AVCTL I race.
Derby’s Kennedy Brown is one of the most high-profile athletes in Kansas. A five-star center, Brown signed with Oregon State. Her childhood friend and fellow All-Metro selection, Tor’e Alford, signed just before her to Missouri State.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Maize’s Halie Jones signed with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, and Alexis Cauthon committed to Evangel University. Jones said signing with her best friend was a special experience.
“I used to hate her in sixth grade, but now I can’t imagine going through high school without her,” she said. “It’s been a journey, but I wouldn’t take it for the world.”
Brown and Alford have gone through almost everything together from Derby’s first girls basketball state championship this past season to U.S. National Team tryouts. Alford said everything came full circle Wednesday.
“I’m super excited,” she said. “I’ll still have tall people, but I won’t have tall people like Kennedy.”
List of signings
Macie Eck - Softball, University of Notre Dame
Kirsten Birdwell - Softball, Neosho County Community College
Julian Eaton - Volleyball, Cowley County Community College
Patrick McGee - Tennis, Cowley County Community College
Garrett VanDeventer - Baseball, Cowley County Community College
Amanda Dodds - Softball, Neosho County Community College
Brooklyn Strobel - Volleyball, Western Colorado University
Peyton Vince - Soccer, Oklahoma State University
Peyton Wilson - Golf, Washburn University
Gracie Johnston - Softball, Missouri State University
Cade Becker - Baseball, Washburn University
Brady Bockover - Baseball, Washburn University
Sarah Brittain - Volleyball, University of Nebraska-Kearney
Hadley Kerschen - Softball, Washburn University
Jesse Peoples - Baseball, Coffeyville Community College
Carsen Pracht - Baseball, Barton County Community College
Alyson Potter - Basketball, Southern Illinois University
Maddie Reed - Soccer, William Jewell College
Tor’e Alford - Basketball, Missouri State
Kennedy Brown - Basketball, Oregon State
Macie Ediger - Volleyball, Allen Community College
Ryan Knipfer - Baseball, Dakota State
Cade Lindsey - Wrestling, Oklahoma State
Triston Wills - Wrestling, Oklahoma State
Morgan Bryand - Volleyball, Butler County Community College
Faith Denning - Softball, Butler County Community College
Aidan Campbell - Wrestling, University of Arkansas-Little Rock
Alexis Cauthon - Basketball, Evangel University
Caleb Grill - Basketball, South Dakota State University
Halie Jones - Basketball, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley
Marissa Llamas - Soccer, Butler County Community College
Adrian Perez - Baseball, Coffeyville Community College
Alex Epp - Baseball, William Jewell College
Skylar Goering - Volleyball, Wichita State
Lauren Johnson - Softball, Wichita State
Sierra Rohs - Soccer, University of Nebraska-Kearney
Alexis Snodgrass - Basketball, Bethel College
Ashlie Thissen - Softball, Washburn University
Maggie Remsberg - Track and Field, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Gracie Van Driel - Volleyball, University of Kansas
Grace Holgerson - Tennis, Fort Hays State University
Selah Merkle - Basketball, Kansas Wesleyan University
Delaney Nash - Volleyball, Kansas Wesleyan University
Brogen Richardson - Baseball, Emporia State University
Sydney McAdoo – Tennis, Fort Hays State University
Parker Norton – Golf, Kansas Wesleyan University
Brandon Rectenwald – Cross Country/Track and Field, Kansas Wesleyan University
Sunrise Christian Academy
Austin Crowley - Basketball, Vanderbilt
Bryce Cook - Basketball, SMU
Jordan Turner - Basketball, Baylor University
Grant Sherfield - Basketball, UCLA
Malik Hall - Basketball, Michigan State University
Tray Jackson - Basketball, University of Missouri
Shareef Mitchell - Basketball, Creighton University
Jacelyn Buck - Softball, University of Louisiana-Monroe
Brooke McCorkle - Softball, Mississippi Valley State University
Matt Everett - Track & Field, University of Memphis