MORRIS – Schools with established Division I wrestling programs like the University of Illinois and Northern Illinois University showed interest in Morris senior Kenny Baldridge.
But Baldridge decided to take a chance on a fledgling DI program instead. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville only recently started competing at the NCAA’s highest level, but Baldridge, the 132-pound Class 2A state champion in 2014, will go there on an athletic scholarship that will cover nearly all of his expenses.
“They got a couple Olympians coming in and a bunch of good wrestlers,” Baldridge said, “And a lot of wrestlers around my weight that I can practice with that have been in Division I wrestling and all that. The coach [Jeremy Spates] just seemed like he knew what he was doing. He wrestled at Mizzou – All-American and all that.”
Baldridge was the lone DI participant in a signing day held Wednesday in the Morris gymnasium for college-bound wrestlers and football players. Trevor Allbert joined Baldridge in moving on from the wrestling program, while Mason Dryfhout, Kevin Hernandez, David Kneller, Dean Meucci and Jeremy Shannon will play football at the next level.
Dalton Ness will do both. Ness plans to play football and wrestle at Division III North Central College, just as he did for the Redskins. Ness expects to be an offensive lineman in football, a heavyweight wrestler and a sports management major.
“I’ve been used to it,” Ness said of doing two sports. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s done it before from the high school. I went there on a visit for wrestling and then the offensive line football coach [Chris Kirkpatrick] saw me there and talked to me about doing football too.”
The other Morris wrestler moving on is Trevor Allbert, who will attend Division II Wisconsin-Parkside. Allbert plans to major in education, hoping to teach and coach at the high-school level.
“My first year will be a learning experience,” Allbert said, “But [Parkside coach Gregg Lewis] said that I should have an opportunity to fight for a spot in the lineup, because there will be less competition at my weight [157 pounds] after this year.”
Morris head wrestling coach Jon Lanning says all three of his signees picked programs that are good fits for their skills.
“We’re very proud here at the high school,” Lanning said “I think all three of them have [made] three excellent choices. I think those coaches are all class acts and they’re great guys, and they’re getting three very hard-working wrestlers.”
All of the football signees will play at the Division III level. Dryfhout plans to major in chemistry and biochemistry and play tackle or nose guard at Coe College. Hernandez plans to study athletic training and play nose guard or tackle at Eureka College. Kneller is undecided on what he will major in while playing on the offensive line at Monmouth College. Meucci plans to play running back and study economics at DePauw University.
“I’m proud of all these kids,” Morris head football coach Alan Thorson said. “It’s been a long process for all of them. These are all smart kids and they’ve really taken the time, trying to make the best fit for them. We’re just happy for all of them. It’s a happy day for us as a school and especially as a football program to see any kid go on and play at the next level.”