FARMINGTON — As graduation approaches, several high school seniors are making commitments to play college sports.
Eight San Juan County athletes have already signed to play at the next level.
Among the student-athletes who have signed National Letters of Intent are two Aztec High softball players and three baseball players, one golfer and two wrestlers from Piedra Vista.
Here is a rundown on the signings:
In January, Knight signed with Northern Oklahoma College, a Region 2 junior college.
“When I went for a visit, the town and college just clicked,” Knight said. “I can go there and contribute a positive attitude and know how to win.”
Knight is a versatile player who can play a variety of positions.
She grew up playing with the Wicked Fastpitch tournament team and stayed focused on earning a chance to play in college.
During a practice in 2009, Knight suffered a broken leg. She worked her way to back to play for Aztec in 2010.
“At first it was really discouraging, but it made me work that much harder,” Knight said of the injury.
Knight credited the coaching staff at Aztec High for helping her develop into a college player.
“They have gotten me ready and have always been there for me,” she said.
Aztec shortstop Bonnie Reid recently signed with Midland College in Midland, Texas, where she will play junior college softball.
She chose Midland College after considering offers from Kansas schools Pratt Community College and Garden City Community College.
“I wanted to play at the next level, and I like Texas. I was pretty pumped. I had a few offers, but that was the best one,” Reid said.
Reid, who has started at shortstop for the Lady Tigers for the last two years, is hoping to play either shortstop or second base for Midland, which is in Region V of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“I am a really good team player and can help the team win,” Reid said.
Reid credited the talented group of girls she plays with in Aztec for helping make her a better player each day in practice.
Dominguez hopes to become another pitcher that Lamar Community College can turn into a Division I baseball player.
Dominguez, a right-handed pitcher with a good fastball and two off-speed pitches, signed last week with Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colo. The community college has a reputation for producing quality pitchers, including Arizona Diamondback Brandon McCarthy.
“Lamar has a top 10 baseball program and is great for pitchers, so it was an easy choice,” said Dominguez, who also considered Otero Junior College. “They send a lot of people to four-year schools and eventually get drafted. I think two years there, and I could hopefully go to a four-year school.”
Dominguez has been PV's No. 3 starter in the rotation this season, and, if the Panthers reach the final, he could get the ball to start the state championship game.
He expects to be a relief pitcher for Lamar but hopes to work his way into the starting rotation. He is excited to join the long list of pitchers who have signed from PV in recent years.
“It is a good feeling. It shows how good of a program PV has to get players ready for the next level,” he said.
PV third baseman Dillan Vigil didn't expect to play college baseball but couldn't have been happier to sign on this spring with Clark College in Vancouver, Wash.
“I guess hard work pays off. I am excited for the new experience and to get to play in college,” he said.
Vigil will keep playing third base for Clark College, which competes in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges.
After a year or two at Clark College, Vigil hopes to attend Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, Ore.
“The Oregon Tech coach told me he would pick me up on scholarship if I can play well, so that is what I am shooting for,” he said. “I want to go into engineering, so I really want to go to Oregon Tech.”
Vigil said he wouldn't have received any offers if it weren't for his coaches at PV.
“Coaches (Mike) McGaha, (Derek) Martin and (Clay) Foster this year really pushed me and motivated me to be the best I can be and to try to play college ball,” Vigil said. “Without those guys, it wouldn't have happened.”
Vigil is also excited to play with PV teammate Jeremy Johnson on the next level. Johnson has also signed with Clark College.
“He is my best friend, so I am very happy we can go through the experience together,” Vigil said.
After signing on Wednesday with Avila University in Kansas City, Mo., Gurley can now turn his attention toward the state tournament in Las Cruces next week.
The four-time first team All-District 1-4A golfer is excited to begin his collegiate golfing career under the new Eagles head coach Matt Clinger.
“Clinger is a teaching professional who played NCAA golf and professionally. He is focused on teaching,” Gurley said. “The goal right from the get-go is to compete for conference championships.”
Gurley has family in Missouri, making the transition much easier, he said.
“Missouri is where all my family is from, and Avila has great academics on top of me being able to play golf there,” he said. “Plus, I am getting paid to do it, so why not go there?”
Avila University is an National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school. Gurley said shooting around par should keep him competitive at every tournament at that level.
“Par is basically always the goal. If you can get under or stay right around it, you are going to be fine I think,” Gurley said. “I feel like I have been hitting the ball well off the tee and from the fairway, but my putting has been either hot or cold. Finding some consistency there would make me very happy and help keep my scores down.”
Gurley hopes to attend graduate school after four years at Avila College.
“I really believe I am getting a quality education at Avila that will set me up to do things outside of just my four-year degree,” he said.
Wilkinson had never wrestled before the 2012-13 high school season, but a third-place finish at the state tournament fueled his desire to continue pursuing the sport.
He turned that desire into a scholarship offer from Adams State University, a NCAA Division II school in Alamosa, Colo.
“I am very excited for the opportunity. It just shows that all that hard work in the wrestling room paid off,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said PV wrestling coach Levi Stout convinced him to wrestle after last year's football season.
“Wyatt (Hardy) and some of the guys talked me into it, and I just went with it,” he said. “I actually wanted to play football in college, but I looked at my options and decided that wrestling was what I wanted to do. Plus, I feel as if I have more opportunities to be successful in wrestling.”
That belief was fueled by the progress Wilkinson made each match during his first year as a wrestler.
“It showed me that I had a talent in this sport, and it showed how much I could progress if I put my mind to it,” he said.
Wilkinson said his main focus will be maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, and he also hopes to place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament. He would also like to one day claim All-American status at the national championships.
Wilkinson said he is grateful to the PV wrestling coaches for helping him earn a college scholarship.
“Coach Stout and (Michael) Bejar really worked hard with me very practice to make sure I was doing the moves correctly and making sure I didn't make bad habits,” he said. “They really showed me my limits and how far I could push myself. Without them, I would have never gotten an offer.”
During his senior year, Hardy turned his state championship into a scholarship offer from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas.
“I am extremely exited to get to wrestle next year. It has had such a large impact on my life. It is amazing that I get to continue to wrestle at the next level,” Hardy said.
Hardy knows just how much the state title helped his chances of getting an offer, but he said succeeding in the classroom was equally important.
“Accomplishing that goal opened me up to a lot of options for college. I do think that I still had a chance to receive some type of offer without just winning state because, from talking to coaches, I have found that one of the most important things they look for is an athlete's academic eligibility,” he said. “Grades have been a big factor in determining how much coaches want to invest in me. If I could give advice for athletes looking to play in college in any sport, it would be to work and make sure your grades are as good as you can make them.”
Wayland Baptist is also ready to add Hardy to its roster.
“We'll be looking at Wyatt to be a vital asset to this team, just like he's proven to be in the past for his high school squad,” said Aaron Meister, assistant wrestling coach at Wayland Baptist University. “He'll add some great depth to our middle-weight roster. ... We feel like Wyatt is the type of young man who will fit well into Wayland's culture and also our wrestling program.”
John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.