From the time these kids were in elementary school, sports fans around Holmes County talked about how good this senior class at West Holmes was going to be.
On Friday, three of them showed just how good they are, signing National Letters of Intent to receive Div. I college scholarships in three different sports.
Rachel Nelson signed her scholarship to James Madison University in Virginia to continue her tennis career. Max Rohskopf signed to accept a scholarship to North Carolina State University, where he will wrestle for the Wolfpack. And Gabe Snyder made his commitment to Wright State University official, where he plans to pitch and play baseball for the Raiders.
"It's good to see it come to fruition," said West Holmes school board member Kurt McDowell, who happens to be coach of the Knights baseball team. "You always hear people talk about how good this class or that class is. To see it actually come to fruition is great for the community, it's good for the school. It's nice to see all the programs are pretty successful right now. It's nice to be on a high right now."
Nelson says she decided on James Madison because she felt most comfortable there.
"The coach was a big part of it. She contacted me early in the summer and expressed interest in me," Nelson said. "I liked more things at James Madison than I did at the other schools. It's not all about tennis, but I am excited about getting better, and having a team and working with a coach and having a new experience."
She had considered offers from Gonzaga, Montana and New Mexico, as well.
Nelson plans to pursue an English degree with plans to teach at the collegiate level.
"I can go West for grad school," she said with a laugh.
Her parents, Bill and Rosanna Nelson, are excited for her as well.
"You always dream of something like this for your children. I just hope she takes advantage of this great opportunity," her father said.
Rohskopf said he is looking forward to the challenge of competing at the next level.
"I really liked the coaching staff and the head coach there," Rohskopf said. "He's a first-year coach and he took Binghampton, which was 0-12 in 2005 and turned that program around into a national power. I'm hoping he does the same thing at NC State.
"I like the culture he's trying to put in there," Rohskopf added. "We all have the same goal; we are trying to compete for a national title and be All-American."
West Holmes wrestling coach Jeff Woods was pleased to see the hard work and dedication shown by Rohskopf pay off.
"I think he has put in the time to be where he's at. A lot of young kids look up to these guys and see the work they put in and know that it's achievable to go to college," Woods said. "We've been very fortunate the last few years. That was the idea with Clint Carmony, Clint Sponseller or Colt Sponseller, now Max. This is what it's all about."
The third signee on Friday, Snyder, says he chose Wright State because they offered him an opportunity to play a position as well as pitch.
"Plus they have a great accounting program, which I am planning to go into," he said.
His father, Brent Snyder, says it is great to see his son accomplish something he set out to do from the time he started playing ball.
"We've had a lot of fun along the way, starting back in grade school, through Little League and junior high ball, Hot Stove up through his varsity seasons. To culminate in a scholarship is more than you can hope for," Brent Snyder said.
Snyder is a multi-sport star at West Holmes, shining in football, basketball and baseball. He led the Knights to the state tournament on the mound last spring. His coach credits his mastery of the curveball for the improvement.
"Gabe has done a great job the last couple years getting control of his curveball," McDowell said. "That has been a big out pitch for him.
"You could see at the beginning of last season, but more toward the end, he was swinging the bat well and dominating on the mound," McDowell added. "That was part of the maturing process that you hope happens during their junior year. He grabbed hold of it and continues to perform well in everything he does."
Meanwhile, on Thursday at Hiland, a tradition that began in 1993 with Melanie Mishler and Sheila Mullet signing to play basketball at Goshen, beginning a string of 34 players signing more than $2.5 million dollars worth of scholarships, was continued with Natalie Nickol's acceptance of a scholarship to play for Div. II Ursuline College.
"We can set the stage, but they've got to be ready," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "They've got to put in the time, and if they do that, they're going to get a chance."
That was the case for Nickol, who shined brightly at a pair of college exposure events this summer, helping her earn a pair of scholarship offers.
Schlabach said that last year Nickol was laboring along on the JV squad, but took on additional work this summer.
"She outworked everybody," the coach said. "She spent a tremendous amount of time in the gym working on her game and sought additional help. Then she played well at both college exposure events this summer.
"I think some of our kids think you automatically get a college scholarship," he added. "You've got to be relentless and passionate and work for it. If you do that, then our relationships with various colleges can help out."