By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Graduation is just around the corner, and for Warsaw Community High School and nearly two dozen of its athletes, the fruits of their high school sporting labors were on display bright and early Monday morning.
The WCHS athletic department hosted a signing event for 23 of its athletes who have committed to continue their athletic and academic levels at the collegiate level. Emceed by athletic director Matt Binkerd, the athletes were formally introduced to an audience of over a hundred friends, family and former and/or current coaches celebrating their decisions to continue their careers.
Of note Monday morning, Binkerd made notice to the audience that of the 23 represented athletes, they sported a combined GPA north of 3.9.
Below are bios and quotes from the athletes themselves on their college choices.
Lilly Boston, Track and Field, DePauw University
Boston is a two-sport standout at Warsaw, excelling in swimming and now track and field. Her track portfolio is limited due to last year’s COVID cancellation, but Boston has been a sprint star on the track for the Tigers this spring. Boston has continually been one of Warsaw’s top options in the 100 and 200 dashes, and could make a run with Warsaw’s 4×100 relay team in the state tournament. She is one of the top seeds in the 100-meter dash heading into the Northern Lakes Conference Track and Field Championships Tuesday night.
In the swimming pool, Boston was a two-time 2020-21 state finalist with Warsaw’s medley and 200 free relay teams.
Boston is majoring in kinesiology at DePauw, looking to get into physical therapy.
“It was kind of easy to make the transition,” said Boston of going from swimming to track, ultimately deciding on track. “I’ve swam since I was little, and I ended on a good note. I finished at state, did well. I did track this spring and did sprints, really like it. It gave me a great opportunity to run at DePauw. I’m taking it.
“Me choosing kinesiology, I’ve dealt with some injuries in sports. So it’s taught me to love physical therapy and how it can help. How to treat your body and what can make you better physically.”
Brandon Estepp, Wrestling, North Idaho College
Estepp made one of the more improbable runs to the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals in 2020-21, working his way to fourth place at the state meet at 182 pounds. Estepp didn’t win a championship at any level of the conference or state tournament stops, but did what he needed to do to advance, ultimately wrestling in the semi-finals in his class in Indianapolis.
Estepp joins a North Idaho program that is steeped in tradition, boasting of 249 National Junior College Athletic Association All-Americans, 55 individual JUCO national champions and 19 team JUCO national championships.
Estepp was not present at the signing day to offer comment.
Brielle Fehlmann, Soccer, Huntington University
Fehlmann was a team captain for the Lady Tiger soccer program this past fall, but wasn’t one of the more recognizable players. Notching just two assists, both coming in the same match, Fehlmann’s value was in her total body of work. Playing in 14 of Warsaw’s 18 matches, Fehlmann and Warsaw wrapped up its first 7-0 Northern Lakes Conference campaign and outright title in nearly two decades.
Fehlmann is a four-year letter winner in soccer and two-year track letter winner, currently on the undefeated Warsaw girls track program.
Fehlmann was solid in the classroom, earning Academic All-State honors for the second straight year (2019-20) and carries a 4.3 GPA, looking to major in biology (pre-med). Fehlmann is part of the National Honor Society, Tiger Leadership Council and Octagon Club, serving as secretary of the Octagon Club her junior and senior years.
“I really connected with coach David Lewis, and I really liked the campus on my visits there,” offered Fehlmann. “The Christian atmosphere was important as well, so the combination of a beautiful campus, good academics and a great soccer program is what led me to Huntington.”
Aaron Greene, Baseball, Trine University
Greene’s path to baseball had plenty of curveballs, so to speak, but the two-sport star is ready to rumble with the Thunder. A sophomore baseball season derailed by a major injury had questions on whether Greene would be able to play sports at all, let alone at Class 6-A football or Class 4-A baseball levels. Greene, however, stepped into the quarterback role with the Tiger football team, then back into the baseball program this spring and has thrived.
Greene is among the baseball team leaders (as of May 10) in runs scored (13), hits (13) doubles (4), walks (7) and on-base percentage (.371) and has 24 pitching strikeouts in 18 innings of work.
One of the top students in his class, Greene carries a 4.19 GPA and is looking to get into Trine’s prestigious mechanical engineering program.
“Football taught me so many things over the years about hard work, but I’ve always loved baseball and the technique of it,” Greene said. “Baseball really feels like it’s one of those things where I am always working against myself and I can always challenge myself to get better. I’ve loved the challenge of being able to better myself in the game, and college baseball will certainly give me that next challenge.”
Ethan Grill, Soccer, University of Indianapolis
A standout soccer player, Grill works his way to Indianapolis to continue his pitch work with the Greyhounds.
Well decorated as a senior, Grill was All-NLC as well as the team MVP. He also earned Honorable Mention All-NLC honors as a junior and was an Academic All-State his junior season, part of his accumulation of four varsity letters for the Tiger soccer program.
Busy off the pitch, Grill was a member of the National Honor Society and Key Club, carries a 3.92 GPA and looks to study entreprenuership at U Indy.
“I’ve always been passionate about playing soccer and it’s been a love of mine since I’ve been young,” Grill said. “Going to the next level is the best way to continue doing what I do. It was a tough senior season, especially at the end, so it would have been tough ending like that. That was motivation for me to keep working hard in my next club season and then get a shot at playing in college.”
Audrey Grimm, Soccer, Taylor University
Quietly, one of the top soccer players ever in terms of raw stats, Grimm is making the move to the ultra-competitive women’s soccer world of the Crossroads League and Taylor University. Grimm registered 18 goals and nine assists, both figures leading the team. Attached to her four years in the program, Grimm graduates with 45 career goals after tallying 35 in the past two years. Grimm leaves Warsaw as one of the top five scorers in program history, and in her career had nine game-winning goals.
Grimm carries a 4.3 GPA, earning a second straight Academic All-State accolade. Grimm was also All-NLC for the second year in a row, was a two-year team captain, four-year varsity starter, and as a senior was a Second Team All-District pick. Off the pitch, Grimm stays busy with Octagon Club, National Honor Society, Tiger Leadership Council and Kosciusko County Youth Leadership Academy.
She also completed a strong girls basketball season at Warsaw.
“As soon as I went to Taylor’s campus, I knew it was the one,” said Grimm. “They have a good soccer program and the education programs are really strong as well. I want the Christian environment and it’s community is non-replicable.”
Jacob Kissling, Cross Country and Track and Field, DePauw University
It’s been a senior season to remember for Kissling, who not only has been a standout athlete, but is ranked No. 1 in his senior class. Kissling was a state qualifier with the Warsaw cross country team, running with the program in Terre Haute this past fall that finished 16th in the team standings. Kissling personally was 60th overall at the state meet, running 16:33. He continually peppered the top of the leaderboards in the state tournament, winning the Manchester Sectional title at 16:28, then finished fourth at the regional and eighth at the semi-state.
Kissling, now part of a powerful distance team for the Tiger track program, is an Academic All-State track honoree and two-time Academic All-State honoree in cross country among a host of accolades.
Off the beaten path, Kissling is a member of the Chinese Club, Sources of Strength, Tiger Leadership Council, Octagon Club and chess team. He carries a mind-numbing 4.51 GPA and is his class’ valedictorian.
“My major interest in DePauw was being able to double major, so to get that done in four years at a lot of schools is really hard, but DePauw has worked with me to put me on that course,” said Kissling of his ambitions, listing biochemistry and Asian studies as his fields of choice. “I knew I didn’t want anything too intense athletically, where I would be gone for weekends at a time, so that was also an appeal of running at a DIII school like this.”
Kennedy Lauck, Volleyball, University of Illinois-Springfield
Lauck joins a long line of volleyball players from Warsaw to continue playing at the next level, signing with the Prairie Stars in the winter. Lauck had a standout season for the Tigers, helping the team to its first outright Northern Lakes Conference title in nearly 20 years, Lauck was the team leader in both kills (212) and blocks (58), and had a sterling 43 percent kill percentage. Lauck also added 30 aces, which tied for second-best on the squad.
Before the season had even began, Lauck and teammate Betty Barnett were named to the Under Armour All-American preseason watch list. Following the season, Lauck’s awards rolled in, being named All-NLC as well as IHSVCA All-District and Northern All-Star. The 4.2 GPA student at Warsaw was also an Academic All-State selection.
For her career at Warsaw, Lauck piled up 766 kills, 106 blocks and 79 digs in four varsity seasons.
Lauck was very active at Warsaw, serving as a member of the Octagon Club, Tiger Leadership Council and National Honor Society. She looks to continue her academic sights in exercise science.
“I had a roommate in a college camp in Kentucky sign with Springfield, so that helped me learn about them,” Lauck said between drinks of her fruity Starbucks drink. “I went on a visit there, as soon as I got there, it just felt like home. Getting to know the coaches, already knowing who my roommate would be, everything just worked itself out. I committed on the day I made the visit.”
Alex Light, Baseball, Indiana Tech University
Alex Light has become one of the more reliable options for Warsaw baseball, and that has afforded him a chance to continue that role at the next level with Tech.
Through May 10, Light is among the team leaders in several offensive categories for the Tigers, leading in runs (14) and walks (10) and second in batting average (.357), on-base percentage (.463) and hits (20). He’s also added 14 strikeouts on the hill in 10.2 innings pitched.
Without a junior season to showcase, Light used a little advice from one of his travel coaches, who opened a door of opportunity.
In the classrooom, Light carries a 3.3 GPA and looks to study sports management at Tech. Light also boasts of the title as ‘leader of the student section’.
“My travel coach in the winter told me about his school and that I should give them a visit, and that had me at Indiana Tech,” Light said. “It was a good visit, I loved everything about it. The coaching staff, the campus, the culture. I loved it. Then they presented me with a chance to play and I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity and I jumped at it.”
Jacob Linky, Wrestling, Rochester Institute of Technology
Jacob Linky has come a long way personally and as a wrestler, and his road will continue to New York with his decision to wrestle with RIT.
The 2020 state finalist as a junior was a wrecking crew as a senior, finishing 25-3 and making the second round of the IHSAA semi-state. Linky was the 170-pound NLC and sectional champion and a regional runner-up.
Linky, who carries a 3.6 GPA, will major in business at RIT, a program he has had an eye on since seventh grade.
“I really am ready to go Rochester and start the next chapter of my life after high school. Rochester is a great fit for me to learn more,” Linky said. As hearing impaired, Linky offered on the move away to a new environment and communication challenge, “I am ready. They have a good hearing impaired and deaf college there, and that is ideal. I want to learn to be able to hear on my own, speak on my own. That will continue at Rochester.”
Nico Luna, Baseball, Grace College
Luna won’t have to rent a U-Haul to get his stuff to campus, choosing to go across town to Winona Lake and Grace College for baseball. The Lancers are getting a three-year player (minus junior season for COVID) who is performing on and off the field.
Luna has appeared in 16 of Warsaw’s 18 games through May 10, and carries a .321 on-base percentage along with five hits and five runs scored. With the glove, Luna has been spotless, converting all 51 of his chances with an error this season.
Luna, who also has a season of wrestling under his belt, is plenty active outside of the game. A National Honor Society member with a 4.27 GPA, he also takes part in Sources of Straight, volunteer work in Kosciusko County and a Tiger baseball camp volunteer. A future in exercise science is on the table at Grace.
“I’ve been talking to Ryan (Roth, Grace head coach) for a couple years now,” stated Luna. “Going into my senior year, I was able to get an academic scholarship from Grace. From there, Andy (Manes, Warsaw head coach) and Ryan had been talking, so I officially had a meeting with coach Roth about coming out, went to an unofficial practice, and from there I was given an offer to play.”
Anais Melendrez, Rugby, Adrian College
Melendrez is one of three Warsaw girls rugby club players to sign with Adrian College in southeastern Michigan to continue their rugby career. Adrian is embarking on its inaugural season of rugby, and is bringing in players like Melendrez to fill its needs. Melendrez was listed as a scrum half per Warsaw girls rugby coach Trevor Cracknell, and recorded three tries this season in Warsaw’s seven matches. Cracknell noted her as fearless, a good passer and a playmaker as well as easily coachable and a sponge of information. The team captain helped Warsaw to wins over Penn and North Central Indianapolis as part of its season.
Melendrez, who looks to get into exercise science and athletic training, carries a 3.52 GPA.
“Being a part of rugby, everyone welcomes you with open hands, there’s no pushing aside with us,” said Melendrez. “Since I’m so small, and there are a lot of big girls doing this, I thought, ‘wow, there’s no way I can do this.’ But I kept working at it and eventually got good at it. I felt like once I figured out what was going on, I could do anything.”
Alejandro Murillo, Soccer, Bethel University
A speedy midfielder and forward, Murillo was a marked man on the pitch for the Tigers.
Murillo was one of the top strikers for the Tigers, among the team leaders in shots and scoring.
Murillo, a three-year captain with the Tigers, carries a 3.21 GPA and hopes to get into sports studies at Bethel.
“Our season didn’t go as planned, but it was a good thing for the team to become more united and show us there are bigger things that we can achieve,” Murillo said. “For me, that was playing in college. I had to keep staying positive if I wanted to reach one of my goals. Moving to college, I want to keep working hard, show that I can help the team. I’ve been planning for this for months, saying today is the day, and believing in God that I can do it.”
Perla Orozco, Rugby, Adrian College
A tough tackler for the Warsaw girls rugby club, Orozco is another of the Tigers moving to Adrian to help with its inaugural season next fall.Orozco was a forward for Trevor Cracknell’s club team, contributing a good amount of tackling and recycling the ball back into play. Noted as a supporting role player, Orozco’s nickname “Ankles” highlighted her tackling ability, but Cracknell’s offering of her being a good athlete with good size, both of which should translate at Adrian and head coach John Gulden.
Orozco carries a 3.58 GPA at Warsaw and looks to study psychology.
“I’ve been playing for almost three years now,” Orozco said. “Being a part of the rugby team, we have been kind of the underdog because we weren’t an actual school sport being the club. But more people have noticed us, and I am really proud of us and what we’ve been able to do. We’ve come a long way and I really like that.”
Michael Ray, Swimming, DePauw University
Ray concludes his swim career as a multi-time state finalist, earning MVP and Most Improved team awards along the way, and four Northern Lakes Conference individual and team championships this past season, including the solo 50 and 100 freestyles. He was a two-time All-NLC performer. He was also the 100 freestyle sectional championship and was part of the sectional champion medley relay.
Ray, who also competed in tennis and unified track as a senior, earned Academic All-State for both tennis and swimming and carries a 4.04 GPA with plans to major in economics and finance.
“It started last year during sectionals and ever since then coach (Adam) Cohen has been keeping contact with me,” Ray said. “He kept up with me, and that got to me. He’s interested in me as a swimmer and a person. Him keeping in contact with me was the decision maker for me on wanting to go there.”
Leslie Romero, Rugby, Adrian College
Romero has been a wing player with the Warsaw rugby club, and looks to continue her complimentary role with Adrian rugby. Per her club coach, Trevor Cracknell, Romero was primarily playing the back line, was a very good tackler and displayed very good speed in the open field. One aspect of her game that improved, per Cracknell, was her physicality, to which “she would put her body on the line to make a stop.”
Romero is an excellent student athlete, carrying a 3.93 GPA and is a member of NJS. She looks to study studio art or interior design at Adrian.
“I came into the rugby team later on, and everyone has been so welcoming,” Romero said of joining Warsaw. “It felt the same way looking at college. The Adrian team is brand new, and that’s how I felt when I joined rugby.”
Kensie Ryman, Basketball, Grace College
The story of a Ryman at Grace College has been told before, Kensie continuing the family pipeline of basketball history with the local institution. Ryman, who committed to the program in December, comes from a family where mom and dad – Matt and Nicole – both played, and sister – Maddie – stars on the current roster. Kensie will keep it going after a strong senior campaign for Warsaw where she had per game averages of 9.6 points, 2.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
Ryman is a two-time All-NLC, two-time All-IFN and two-time All-Tiger Tournament performer, plus holds the program record for highest free throw percentage in a season at 90 percent and is first in career three-point percentage.
Couple that with a 4.35 GPA, President’s Council and National Honors Society merits, and Grace is getting a good one.
“With him recruiting my sister, it made things pretty easy,” Ryman said of being recruited by Grace head coach Dan Davis. “He already knew the family and everything, and he knew my parents both went to Grace. He’s really spontaneous and kinda crazy, and that works for me. I love that. Having already been around the team, my sister is there, it was easy to commit.”
Liz Schmidt, Beach Volleyball, St. Andrews University
Located in Laurinburg near the elbow of the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Schmidt is the first-ever volleyball player in Warsaw history to descend upon St. Andrews University for beach volleyball. For a school enrollment of just north of 600, their athletic department has 25 sports including beach volleyball.
Schmidt will be part of the program build at St. Andrews, and as a senior in the Tiger indoor volleyball program, Schmidt was a defensive specialist, recording 199 digs and 257 serve receptions to just 15 errors, and also chipped in 19 aces for the 22-win Tigers.
A four-year varsity player, Schmidt had 792 digs in her career and only made 74 errors in four years of play in almost 1,200 chances.
Schmidt was equally accomplished in the classroom, amassing a 4.37 GPA while contributing to National Honor Society, 4-H and youth groups. As a volleyball senior, Schmidt was voted Academic All-State. She hopes to attain a degree in business administration at St. Andrews.
“I like the idea of it being a little different than what I’ve been doing my whole life,” offered Schmidt. “I’ve been playing since I was five years old and I like the idea that it’s different and more exciting than what I’m used to. Andrews reached out to me via a volleyball recruiting website, and after visiting the campus and the coaching staff, I just liked it a lot.”
Joey Springer, Baseball, Grace College
Springer is the second Grace baseball commit from the Tigers. His impact for Warsaw’s team in 2021 has been evident, as he is among the team leaders in most major categories (through May 10), including hits (17), doubles (4), homers (1), RBI (6), runs (14), batting average (.298) and on-base percentage (.375). The versatile player has only committed four errors in 17 games, and also has started six games on the pitcher’s mound, striking out 35 hitters in 33 innings.
Playing for Warsaw head coach Andy Manes, a former Lancer slugger, and Warsaw assistant Adam Augustine, a former Grace pitching coach, Springer should be well-equipped to head across town.
Springer is looking to study mechanical engineering, currently carrying a 3.85 GPA. He is part of the Tiger Leadership Council, Feed My Starving Children, and volunteers at a local food pantry and at Baker Youth Center, and was on the NLC Student Sportsmanship Summit representing Warsaw.
“Coach Roth contacted me right at the start of the COVID shutdown last spring, and when the campus opened back up, I went for my visit,” Springer said of his communication pipeline with Grace baseball head coach Ryan Roth. “He saw me pitch at a practice and gave me an offer. That’s when I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Tanner Stiver, Track and Field, Purdue University
Stiver carries the flag of the next in a long, long line of Warsaw track athletes moving to the Division I level. Stiver’s selection of Purdue entices the distance star to elevate his performance against some of the best runners in the country.
Stiver is very well known for his cross country exploits, where in 2020 alone he was a regional runner-up (16:40) just a few weeks removed from a hamstring injury that shut him down for much of the competition season. Stiver was seventh at the sectional, 23rd at the semi-state and 112th at the IHSAA State Finals. In track, however, Stiver has been a frontrunner every night out. Pushing the sub-2 mark in the 800 all season, Stiver is among some of the top runners in the state in the event, as recently as last Wednesday ran a 1:59.27 in his trademark event.
The four-year letterwinner in both cross country and track was also a two-time All-NLC performer and a three-time state qualifier in track and cross country with spring track still to go.
Looking to major in computer science in West Lafayette, Stiver carries a 3.52 GPA.
“I won’t be running cross country, so the training will be different because I won’t have that training aspect for the fall,” said Stiver. “It will be really fun racing against D-1 talent, you’re talking really, really good athletes. I hadn’t applied early enough to get into school, so when I was approached about possibly running at Purdue, I felt that was the way to go to get in.”
Colton Wampler, Football, Trine University
Following in an impressive line of kicking talent that’s gone through Warsaw, Wampler is the next leg to descend on the next level. Wampler didn’t do much kicking until his senior year, seeded behind current University of Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis. But as a senior, Wampler became the primary kicking option for the Tigers. He nailed 40 extra points, and as a prerequisite for most players in the Tiger program, he was asked to carry the ball, toting the rock for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
Wampler also sailed 13 punts for 309 yards, an average of 23.8 yards per kick. Wampler did miss his only two field goal attempts.
For his work on offense and special teams, Wampler was named an Honorable Mention All-Northern Lakes Conference award winner this past season. He also carries the distinction of holding the school record for most onside kicks converted with five. Wampler is currently with his Warsaw track teammates preparing for the NLC Championships.
A member of the National Honor Society, Wampler carries a 3.88 GPA and intends to study exercise science at Trine.
“It’s hard following two Division 1 superstars in the two Mevis’, but once I got through the Huntington North game, I felt like things got on track,” said Wampler. “I wasn’t able to put the ball in the endzone every time, so we were able to do some different stuff, switch possession a few times, impact the game that way.”
Kendall Wayne, Basketball, Taylor University
Kendall Wayne didn’t have to look much further than the kitchen table to get advice on a place to play basketball. Her father, David Wayne, a Taylor basketball alum, has the Hall of Fame lineage, and Kendall decided to keep the family line moving in choosing to play hoops at Taylor.
Wayne was a two-year starter for Lenny Krebs’ Tigers, and was an impactful player beyond the scoreboard. Her 4.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per night were beneficial for the 18-win Tigers, but her defensive work on the perimeter provided infinitely more value to the team’s success. Wayne often was partnered against the opposing shooting guard, and her work away from the ball helped define her season.
Wayne, a tremendous overall athlete, was the team’s Mental Attitude Award, Teamwork Award and Defensive Player of the Year, along with Academic All-State and IFN Honorable Mention selections.
In the classroom, Wayne has a 4.28 GPA and is a member of National Honor Society, Tiger Leadership Council and Octagon Club. She looks to study biology at Taylor.
“I was really excited for the opportunity to play there and I really liked the school academically as well, which is why I chose it,” Wayne said. “Both my parents went there, my dad played there. It’s so cool that I get to play there as well.”
Patrick Zollinger, Football, Trine University
Like Wampler, Zollinger stepped up as a senior and was noticed by Trine head coach Troy Abbs. Zollinger, as is required by most in the FlexBone offense under coach Bart Curtis, took the ball and moved upfield. Zollinger had 38 carries for 457 yards and added one catch for 34 yards. In total Zollinger scored five touchdowns.
Zollinger also added value off the field, helping the team GPA with a 3.6, garnering Academic All-State honors for football. He also earned Honorable Mention Academic All-Conference honors last fall.
Zollinger, currently playing baseball at Warsaw, is also a member of National Honor Society.
“I really worked on my blocking with coach Curtis,” noted Zollinger. “My junior year when I wasn’t playing a lot of varsity, the way I was going to get in was to work on blocking. So, that’s really what got me noticed by coach Abbs and even other schools. Being physical, being tough, that is what I’ve patterned my game after, and it helped me get recruited.”