College signing ceremonies haven’t changed much over the years in Lorain County, but those days of same old, same old might be over.
Two of the top area football players — Elyria’s Tracy Sprinkle and Avon’s Ross Douglas — graduated early in December and enrolled in their colleges last month.
Sprinkle was able to make the drive from Ohio State for the National Signing Day festivities Wednesday morning, but Douglas had to participate through a FaceTime video call because he had classes at Michigan.
“I was just glad to be a part of my school’s signing any way that I could,” Douglas said during a phone interview Wednesday night. “It was nice to see all my teammates sign and be a part of that with them.”
The pair were two of five athletes that signed scholarships to attend Division I programs — Avon’s Ralph Smith III will play football for Ball State, Lorain native and St. Edward standout Solomon Warfield will play football at Iowa and Avon Lake’s Christine Bohan will compete for the Virginia track team — and led a signing day crowd of 37 county athletes.
Although the early enrollment throws a snag in the signing-day procedures, many think it’s a good idea.
“The way things are set up in high school, I think they should all try and do that,” Elyria football coach Kevin Fell said. “These seniors, they kind of flounder during their senior year. We used to have to take classes, but they only need one or two classes as seniors. It’s a mixed blessing because Tracy misses basketball, but if you’re a serious player now, I think that’s the way they’ve been going.”
Douglas’ image was projected on a large screen behind his 11 classmates that were being honored in the school’s auditorium. He wore a Michigan wool cap and headphones so he could hear the coaches’ speeches.
“He’s experiencing some of the most intense workouts in his life up in Michigan,” Avon football coach Mike Elder said while Douglas gave a smile. “He’s as good a football player as any that I’ve ever coached.”
The Buckeyes are keeping Sprinkle busy, too.
The defensive end said everything is more intense since switching to college classrooms.
“It’s a lot of change,” Sprinkle said. “You have to take a lot of responsibility for yourself. You don’t have teachers and coaches to be there to tell you when an assignment is due. You really have to be humble and stay on top of your work, or you will fall behind. That’s something I learned early.”
Sprinkle made the choice to attend Ohio State because it wasn’t too far from home, and he has enjoyed a slight surge in popularity as fans of the Buckeyes have recognized him.
“It just picked up a little more when I first got there,” Sprinkle said. “It’s going to pick up a little later when people start to realize who you are, hear your name. You get more people trying to talk to you, become fans … it’s a really humbling experience.”
It will be an experience those still attending high school can look forward to in a few months.
Smith, Douglas’ teammate and fellow defensive back, was excited to see six other Eagles football players on the stage for their signing ceremony. The group was part of the Division II state runner-up team in 2011, and put together a 32-4 record the past three seasons.
“Our senior class is great,” Smith said. “We’re all thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to go to the next level and play collegiate football. Me and Ross go way back, and I know he’s doing good up in Michigan. We’re all going to do good at our own schools.
“I’m very anxious, this waiting makes me nervous. When I get the chance to go I’m going to compete at a high level, and I hope I get the chance to play my first year.”
The Eagles could add a third Division I football player if Michael Pulice finds success at West Virginia. He has been accepted as a walk-on — also earning an academic scholarship — and hopes to work his way up the ladder.
The rest of the football contingent in the county was led by a pair of Shoremen. Avon Lake’s John Lancione signed on to play at Division I-AA Yale, and Zachary Zamiska signed to play at Division I-AA Robert Morris.
Their classmate Bohan was the only non-football, big-school signee in the county.
“I knew early in high school that I wanted to go into D-I,” Bohan said. “I love big colleges and I really wanted that competitive aspect of it. I was aiming for a D-I, it was just which one that was really tough. It’s going to be great and I have so many hopes for the future.”
Bohan said the recruiting process was grueling, mostly because schools came knocking during her sophomore season.
“It was actually a lot of work and effort, analyzing all the colleges,” she said. “It’s a tough decision, but it was an enjoyable process, going on all the official visits and seeing all the different campuses. I wasn’t at first expecting to go (to Virginia) because I had all these other choices. They came out and showed me this interest and they just seemed like they were really dedicated to my success both academically and athletically, and I loved that aspect in UVa.”
Bohan showed versatility in high school by earning berths to the state meet in high jump, pole vault and shot put. She expects to get even better under the tutelage of the Virginia coaching staff.
“The coach (Martin Maric) that was recruiting me is a two-time Olympian, who went to Beijing and London, and that’s just an opportunity that’s really hard to pass up,” she said. “I just love the coaches, the athletes there … it was all just really a great experience.”
More county athletes are getting the opportunity to enjoy such experiences.
Sprinkle will join fellow Pioneers star Chase Farris, who signed with Ohio State two years ago.
“The thing about it that’s great, it brings your program up,” Fell said. “As far as recruiting, now we have schools that come in and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got two guys at Ohio State, you must have really good players.’ It really helps our kids.”
Sprinkle is the fourth player Fell has sent to Ohio State during his long, multiple-school career.
“Tracy might be the best I’ve sent there,” Fell said. “He’s the most well-rounded, and definitely the biggest. He’s going to have a nice time down there.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
LOCAL SIGNINGS, BY SCHOOL
Guy Schuler, football, Ashland University
Kyle Kelley, football, Ashland University
Mia Hasslage, soccer, Edinboro University
Jessica Sobotka, soccer, Notre Dame College
Celine Burgos, soccer, Notre Dame College
Ross Douglas, football, University of Michigan
Ralph Smith III, football, Ball State University
Michael Pulice, football, West Virginia University
Alex Kelly, football, Grand Valley State University
David Zeh, football, West Virginia Wesleyan College
Tim Von Salter, football, Arizona Western College
Jeremiah Burris, football, Bryant University
Emilie Wetzig, soccer, Edinboro University
Nicole Chabot, soccer, Edinboro University
Kayla Wysocki, soccer, Gannon University
Linda Morales, cross country and track and field, Ashland University
Blake Pecoraro, cross country and track and field, College of Wooster
Christine Bohan, track, University of Virginia
John Lancione, football, Yale University
Zachary Zamiska, football, Robert Morris University
Annie Wennerberg, softball, Case Western Reserve University
Abby Rogers, softball, Otterbein University
Brett Kiser, baseball, Ohio Wesleyan University
McKenzie Bueck, lacrosse, Albion College
Devon Henry, lacrosse, Baldwin Wallace University
Chad Metcalf, football, Notre Dame College
Megan O’Connor, soccer, Notre Dame College
Foster Tucker, football, Tiffin University
Tracy Sprinkle, football, The Ohio State University
Damon Stewart, football, Ashland University
Da’Jaun Glover, football, Ashland University
Lauren Wisnor, soccer, Walsh University
Steve Best, football, Ashland University
Makayla Runyon, softball, Muskingum University
Grace Kereky, soccer, Edinboro University
Dana Borsz, volleyball, Youngstown State University
Alexander Belaia-Martiniouk, wrestling, Duke University
Jonathan Nola, baseball, Walsh University
Sean Keller, football, Lake Erie College
Billy Lucien, basketball, Otterbein College
Jason Moore Jr., football, University of Findlay
Solomon Warfield (Lorain), football, University of Iowa
Andreas Kolaczko (Lorain), soccer, Ashland University
Kyle Pluta (North Ridgeville), baseball, Tiffin University