EAST ROCKHILL >> They all could remember when competing on the college level started to come into focus.
“After my sophomore year, after I got knocked out at states,” Pennridge wrestler Kyle Gentile recalls, “I wanted to work hard to complete my goals. I’m excited. I’m ready to move onto college — the competition there is another step.
“I just gotta get even better,” said Gentile, who rose to fifth in the state last year as a junior, at 170 pounds, and was ranked as the 30th best recruit of 2016 in the state by papowerwrestling.com. “Back in freshman year, I didn’t think I’d be where I am now. But I worked hard and feel like I deserve it.”
Gentile, headed to Lehigh University next year, was one of eight Pennridge student athletes to sign college letters of intent on Wednesday, as a vast collection of competitors — some excelling on the wrestling mats, the playing fields, or in the water — got a chance to celebrate the day with friends and family, and reminisce a bit about their sparkling careers at Pennridge High School.
“Memories I’ll cherish forever,” said swimmer Brittany Weiss, headed to Division 1 Liberty University. “I get excited every time I talk about it. I’m really excited for one last year.
“I can’t wait for college — looking for bigger and better things. Ever since my freshman year, I knew I wanted to go further than just high school.”
Weiss and fellow signee Hannah Zurmuhl will both be swimming on the Division 1 level next year, as Zurmuhl is headed to Penn State University, a program that has groomed multiple Olympic hopefuls.
At Pennridge, Weiss and Zurmuhl helped lead the Rams to a fourth-place finish in the state last winter, its highest place ever. They’re poised to surpass that this season.
“They really pulled that team together and kind of drove the trolley at states,” said former Ram swim coach Ryan Griffiths, who had coached the duo for the bulk of their high school careers. “They kept everyone together, kept everyone focused, and they really shine on that stage.”
Reilly Dolan, a four-year varsity letter winner, will be continuing his water polo career at Division 1 Wagner College, coming off a season in which he helped push the Rams to an eighth-place finish in the state.
“A couple months ago, the opportunity (to play at Wagner) arose, and I was like ‘this is definitely what I wanna do,’” said Dolan. “(What I love most about the sport) is the competitiveness. It’s so head-on.”
Dolan heads to Staten Island, N.Y. to compete for a Seahawk team that is on the rise: the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Board of Directors recently announced the addition of Wagner men’s water polo to the conference, beginning next fall.
Pennridge’s field hockey team sends a trio of athletes onto the college level, as Meghan Griffin and Larissa Motts will be teammates at Mansfield University, while Jenna Richardson heads to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Goals are already set high for next year.
Said Griffin: “I would like to start as a freshman and be an All-American.”
Some of the athletes still have one more high school season to go, others have two. Dan Long, First-Team All-Suburan One League Continental Conference in both basketball and baseball, will enjoy some more moments on the court and on the diamond at Pennridge before heading off to play baseball at Division 1 Monmouth University.
“It’s exciting to think about the future a little bit,” Long said. “This is a great day for us. Next year, I can’t wait to go onto the campus and just work my butt off in the summer and in the fall to see if I can get on the field as much as possible.”