WARSAW – As Spring Break has arrived, a slew of area athletes made public their college intentions just ahead of the break.
Here is a rundown of over a half-dozen area athletes that made their announcements late this past week in continuing their athletic and academic choices in signing their National Letters of Intent:
John Culbertson, Warsaw – Trine Football
Culbertson was a force for Warsaw Tiger football this past season on the defensive side of the ball. His performance from the outside linebacker position helped the hard-hitting Culbertson earn All Northern Lakes Conference and All-State recognition. A Tiger Pride winner, Culbertson also earned the Nails Award for his commitment and perfect attendance in the weight room and throughout the season.
A Warsaw Scholar Athlete that earned Academic All-State, Culbertson has an impressive 10.0 GPA through the first seven semesters of his WCHS academic career.
In addition to standing out for his ability to tackle both ball carriers as well as schoolwork, Culbertson’s presence has been impactful in the community through his efforts with the Baker Youth Club and Rotary Club, and he was also selected as a DARE Role Model.
Undecided on a major, Culbertson will play football for the Thunder and coach Troy Abs at Trine, which s a member of the NCAA Division III and the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Abigail Fishel, Lakeland Christian Academy – Grace Golf
Fishel is a four-year golfer for the Cougars. She earned four medalist honors during her senior season and also qualified for regionals twice out of a tough Warsaw Sectional golfing as the lone participant from LCA.
Additionally, she was a four-year member of LCA’s basketball team, helping win a pair of Hoosier Plains Conference titles and the 2018-19 Cougar Classic.
Fishel, a Warsaw native, is a member of the National Honor Society.
“Grace College met all of my needs. It has a strong nursing program and has a golf team with a great coach,” Fishel said.
Grace, coached by Denny Duncan, is a member of the Crossroads League and the NAIA and NCCAA.
Abby Slabaugh, NorthWood – Grace Golf
Slabuagh comes to Grace from one of the top high school programs in the state.
Twice, Slabaugh was a finalist in the IHSAA state championships as a freshman and a senior. The three-year captain earned a pair of First Team All-Northern Lakes Conference accolades and helped the Panthers to sectional team titles in 2016 and 2018. In 2018 she was the sectional runner-up, shooting 42-40 in her top tournament finish for the Panthers, which finished the IHSAA State Finals in 10th place.
Slabaugh, a National Honor Society member, intends to major in elementary and art education.
“Grace College fit a lot of the criteria I was looking for in a school,” Slabaugh said of her decision. “The location is perfect, it has a good education program, the Christ-centered environment is what I wanted, and coach Denny and the girls on the team have been great.”
Alayna Frey, Northridge – Grace Golf
Frey played on Northridge’s varsity team for four years, shooting as low as 86 during varsity play.
She placed third on the individual leaderboard during the 2017 sectional tournament, and she helped Northridge to a sectional championship as a senior in 2018.
Frey plans to study entrepreneurial management during her time at Grace.
“I loved the people and the environment the most when I visited, and that was very important,” Frey said. “I chose Grace because I know I will feel at home while I’m there.”
Brittney Klotz, Plymouth – Grace Golf
Klotz has been a regional qualifier during her career at Plymouth, making the next round as a junior.
She was an Honorable Mention All-Northern Lakes Conference golfer as a senior.
Klotz, who has a GPA of 3.67, wants to study nursing during her time at Grace. She is currently ranked 58th in her class of 284 students.
Matt Dutkowski, NorthWood – Taylor Baseball
Dutkowski is one of two Panthers that will head to Taylor, joining teammate Alec Holcomb in his choice.
Dutkowski is a three-time baseball sectional champion and helped NorthWood to a regional crown in 2017. In his junior season, Dutkowski was one of the big bats in the Panther lineup, hitting .341 with 29 hits, 26 RBI and three homers as NorthWood went 22-5. On the mound, Dutkowski was 7-1 in 10 starts, completing four games and posting a sparkling 0.90 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 62.1 innings of work. That season afforded Dutkowski a First Team All-NLC honor.
Dutkowski also participated in basketball, a NorthWood program that won two sectional titles in 2016 and 2018.
In the classroom, Dutkowski has earned a 3.30 GPA which earned him Scholar Athlete honors.
Taylor, coached by Kyle Gould, is a member of the Crossroads League and the NAIA and NCCAA.
Alec Holcomb, NorthWood – Taylor Baseball
Holcomb is the second Panther to sign with Taylor, and both Holcomb and Dutkowski will join former NorthWood teammate Drake Gongwer on the Trojans.
Holcomb has been one of the featured pitchers for the Panthers, sharing in the success with the varsity program the past two years. Holcomb was 7-2 in 12 appearances with NorthWood as a junior, earning First Team All-NLC honors as the Panthers won its sixth straight sectional championship at Lakeland. During his junior season, he twirled a no-hitter in a win over Concord and also shut out Westview in NorthWood’s senior opener.
For his junior season, Holcomb had a 1.69 ERA, held opponents to a .196 batting average and struck out 65 batters in 49.2 innings.
Mackenzie Bergman, NorthWood – Franklin Soccer
Running around like the Energizer Bunny in the defensive third, Bergman was the rock of a NorthWood girls soccer defense that become one of the best in the area.
Bergman, who had just a goal and two assists as a senior, wasn’t asked to score, but to lock down a host of stout offenses on the NorthWood schedule. The Panthers allowed just 17 goals in 19 games, and had four shutouts in the team’s first five matches. In total in 2018, Bergman and the NorthWood defense pitched eight shutouts and only allowed one goal in the state tournament, a 1-0 loss to Culver Academy in the Plymouth Regional.
Bergman helped NorthWood to back-to-back sectional championships in 2017 and 2018, the first two titles in program history.
In three years of full varsity work, Bergman’s work on defense helped NorthWood post 26 shutouts. She also garnered three First Team All-Northern Lakes Conference awards and was an Academic All-State award winner.
Bergman also was a standout in girls basketball, where combined with soccer, she earned eight varsity letters. On the court for the Black Swish, Bergman was a facilitator to the tune of nine points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals per night but provided as much value in leadership in both verbal and physical accountability. Bergman was a two-time Honorable Mention All-NLC choice on the basketball court as well as an Academic All-State honoree.
Her Academic All-State honors came from a 3.96 GPA in the classroom, which has brought on four straight years of Scholar Athlete tags at NorthWood.
Franklin College, coached by Cristin Allen, is a member of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and is a NCAA Division III program.