GODFREY — Micah Wrigley made it a trifecta on Thursday morning at Alton High School.
The senior forward for the Alton boys' soccer squad inked a letter of intent to play for the McKendree Bearcats next season, becoming the third Redbird from the '14 team to sign there.
Wrigley joins senior goalkeeper Shane Bollini and senior midfielder Brett Baldridge who signed with the Division II Bearcats earlier in the year. Former AHS standout Kevin Cheatham announced he will transfer to McKendree from Heartland Community College also, bringing the Alton contingent to four for next season.
“This is very exciting,” Wrigley said. “I just love to continue the sport. I can't give it up.”
Having his buddies and fellow Redbird booters alongside him makes it even better.
“We should have a lot more chemistry going into the games, which should be fun,” Wrigley said. “I practiced with Kevin a lot before he went off to college and having Brett and Shane it should be like an old high school practice.”
AHS head coach Jay Robertson is stoked to see his program feeding into McKendree. The Bearcats were 5-10-2 last season.
“It's awesome that they are all going to be going to the same school,” Robertson said. “It's a good Division II program and it's right up the road so their parents can go see them play and they're able to carry on their education at the next level and be 45 minutes from home. That part of it is awesome as well as the soccer. They're going to have a great experience there.”
Wrigley looks at head coach John VanBuskirk as an added bonus at McKendree. VanBuskirk, a Granite City native, led the Warriors to state titles in 1987 and 1989 before playing for Indiana. After college he played as a professional in Germany from 1995-2006. He took over the Bearcat program in 2014.
“(VanBuskirk) coached me a couple of times and I just liked how he coached,” Wrigley said. “Plus with him playing professionally gave me the encouragement that he knows what he's talking about and he can help me along with my game.”
Robertson thinks McKendree will be getting a dynamic and versatile offensive player. In 2014 for the Redbirds Wrigley tallied three goals and six assists for a total of 12 points.
“Micah's a very versatile player,” Robertson said. “He's explosive offensively and he can play on the outside or the inside and play in the front. That's what McKendree's getting, they're getting a very versatile and explosive player.”
There is always room for improvement and bulking up with muscle by hitting the weights is probably the biggest key transitioning to the next level.
“I talked with all the guys and I know they will hit the weight room this summer and going forward,” Robertson said. “The speed of play moving onto the next level will be a little bit of an adaption, but he'll pick up pretty quick.”
Wrigley added about his improvement, “I'm going to have to work on my fitness level a little bit, because college is so hard and physically demanding. I have to keep up with the work and all that. You have to work hard to get what you want.”
Working hard is what Wrigley learned during his time donning a Redbird uniform. He knows those lessons will translate well at the college level.
“I learned to work hard every game and act like it's your last, because you never know when it's going to be your last,” Wrigley said. “My last game was against Quincy in the regionals and it was a big heartbreak to give up my last game to a defeat.”
It's also a big heartbreak for Wrigley to leave his time at Alton behind. He'll miss is soccer brethren most of all and plans to stay involved with the younger Birds.
“I'm going to miss all my teammates,” he said. “I'll miss all my teammates having fun each practice, each game. It's nice to have everybody close, because they can come visit me and I can come home if I miss (my family) and it will be nice to come back and see the coaches and see all my friends that are juniors and sophomores.”
Robertson knows he will miss penciling Wrigley into his lineup.
“His versatility on the field, off the field, he's just a great kid,” Robertson said. “He's great in the classroom. He's just been a very good member of this program for four years.”
Wrigley plans to major in sports management at McKendree. His dream job would be working in the front office for a Major League Soccer team one day.
“That would be nice,” Wrigley said. “It would be very enjoyable.”