CENTENARY, Ohio — Who knew that choosing where to play collegiate soccer was a matter of national security?
Well, for Gallia Academy’s Caden Wilt, it is.
That’s because Wilt, on Wednesday, officially announced his intention to play college soccer at Tiffin University —joining the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Dragons of veteran head coach Rudy Brownell.
Wilt’s signing ceremony took place in the Gallia Academy High School Media Center, as he was flanked by his parents Brett and Tabitha Wilt; Gallia Academy assistant soccer coach Josh Simmons and Gallia Academy High School Athletic Director Adam Clark.
Wilt was a four-year goalkeeper for the Blue Devils, earning all-Ohio Valley Conference honors in the conference’s first season as a soccer conference.
Before that, as a sophomore and junior, he earned all-Southeastern Ohio Athletic League Honorable Mention — when the Blue Devils were members of the lameduck SEOAL.
But Wilt said he choose Tiffin because the school combined both soccer and his major.
The Dragons are an NCAA Division II program, competing in the GLIAC and located in Tiffin.
“From the start, I was always learning towards Tiffin. My major is very rare. I’m doing Government and National Security, so it was really hard to find my major and soccer together in one school. Usually, it was my major and not soccer, or vice versa. It was a good pick because Tiffin has both my major AND soccer,” said Wilt.
On the soccer side, Wilt went to Tiffin to attend an academy camp, and received a telephone call from Brownell.
Brownell has coached the Dragons for the past 17 years, as Tiffin is the three-time defending GLIAC champion.
“The coach really liked me, so he gave me a call to say he was interested in me. I’m really looking forward to it and excited about playing soccer there. The soccer team, when I was up there, looked really good. They’ve won their league championship the last three years and they are a very respected team. Looking forward to playing goalkeeper for them,” said Wilt.
You heard him right.
Wilt plans to play goalkeeper — usually the most noticeable position on the pitch.
“The coach said anything is possible and freshmen can start over seniors. It’s about who has the most will, desire and effort. I hope to put all of them together,” he said.
Simmons, who has coached in the Gallia Academy program for the past nine seasons —including as an assistant under Richard Isberner for the past two — said Wilt will do well at Tiffin.
“Caden has always had a passion to play goalkeeper. His sophomore and junior years, he really excelled and put in the time and effort in the offseason with camps, training seminars, whatever he could to better himself. I saw a lot of potential his sophomore and junior years. With that development and his abilities and his skills, he was able to fine-tune them his senior year,” said Simmons. “He’s done a lot of wonderful things for this program and as long as I’ve coached, he’s one of the better goalies that we’ve had go through this program. He’s passionate, he’s very mature, he’s a team player and is willing to do anything for anyone. I have no doubt that he will do good things on the college level.”
Wilt was a key cog in the Blue Devils’ turnaround, as Gallia Academy captured a share of last season’s OVC championship — as the Blue Devils won their first two sectional titles in program history.
He said he looks forward to Tiffin, but admitted he will miss donning the Blue and White.
“Winning the OVC championship last year and the two sectionals are my favorite part of my soccer career here. A lot of people say they can’t wait to leave high school, but I’m going to miss this place and Gallia Academy soccer,” said Wilt. “A big part of it has been my coaches and my friends and family. Most importantly, God has been the biggest part of it. It’s been a great past four years here. It’s really meant a lot.”
It also means a lot that Wilt will play the sport he loves, while also majoring in the field he wants.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106