The Press likes to take the opportunity to catch up with student-athletes from our coverage area who have continued their athletic careers in college. This week, we spoke with East Hampton graduates Donte Donegal and Lucas Escobar and Southampton graduates Kesi Goree and Wyatt Schmidt. They spoke about the transition from the high school to college level, their individual goals, and their plans for the future.
Catholic University, baseball: A 2013 Southampton High School graduate, Schmidt will finish his last season at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., this spring. He has excelled as a three-position starter playing left field, shortstop and more recently, third base. Schmidt said he has seen his knowledge of baseball grow leaps and bounds over the past four years.
“As a player, I’ve not only gotten stronger physically, but mentally as well,” he said. “As each season passes, you know how much time and effort it takes to be successful.”
Catholic head coach Ross Natoli praised Schmidt’s performance over his four-year career and said he has a wonderful personality that works well as a teammate and a leader.
“Wyatt never gets down on a teammate, he remains perpetually positive and is always there to support his teammates,” he said. “He has a knack at keeping things loose and fun, making his teammates laugh when they need it the most.”
As Schmidt’s college career comes to an end, he stressed the importance of building relationships with his teammates.
“All the time and work you put in to being a college athlete is shared with your teammates, and from this creates a different type of friendship that I’ve been accustomed to,” Schmidt said. “Of course, I will miss playing baseball competitively, but the friendships I’ve made from being a baseball player here will last much longer than the actual game.”
Schmidt, a major in mathematics, hopes to begin a career in the finance industry after graduation. He also mentioned that he would like to mentor young athletes and help develop their skills. “Coaching will likely happen later, but for now, I would just like to share what I’ve learned at Catholic with other young players,” he said
NYIT, basketball: Another 2013 graduate, Kesi Goree, has excelled in her career at the New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Her basketball career has only improved from her time as a starter at Southampton High School. In her last season as an NYIT Bear this past winter, Goree appeared in 33 games as a forward.
“All four years we had a lot of success. We made it to playoffs every year,” she said. She added that her team went to the East Coast Conference Championships twice during her career as a Bear.
Goree said she will miss her professors when she graduates this June. “They really make it a point to have a relationship with their students, so I have a great relationship with them,” she said.
Goree is graduating with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. She would like to continue her education with a masters in psychology and hopes to find a job with a local police department. As far as basketball, Goree said she would like to coach or give back to young athletes in some way.
Elmira College, soccer: A force on the soccer field during his time at East Hampton High School, 2013 graduate, Donegal kept his strong play going in his freshman season at Elmira, starting in 13 of 16 games and leading Elmira in points (10), with four goals and two assists. Donegal earned Empire 8 All-Conference honors his freshman and junior seasons.
Donegal has enjoyed his time at Elmira, located in upstate New York.
“Playing soccer in college is a great experience. I learn more every day, on and off the field,” he said. “The competition is very high and I fight to earn my spot on the team. All the teams in our conference are strong [and] play at a very high level, which makes game day even more exciting.”
Donegal, a two-time All-Conference player, an All-County player and a player in the Exceptional Senior All-Star game while at East Hampton, said playing soccer in college compared to high school is completely different. “The game is much more physical and tactical,” he said. “I have to remained focus at all times, and work as hard as I can, for not only myself, but the team. We also come up against teams that play very complex formations that I have never seen before which means I have to adjust and be smart while playing.”
Donegal is scheduled to graduate in 2018 but he said he is going to miss playing at Elmira. A criminal justice major, Donegal said law school is a possible option after he receives his bachelor’s degree, but he’s hoping to continue his soccer career, either by playing semi-pro or pro.
“I’m going to miss all of the friends that I met here and the great environment at Elmira College,” he said. “It’s a close-knit community that is caring and loving. Elmira College has enabled me grow as a person and I’m glad to have spent my college career here.”
Johns Hopkins University, wrestling: By getting into the highly academically competitive Johns Hopkins, Escobar, a 2014 graduate of East Hampton High School, was able to get what he called “the best of both worlds”—a top-notch education and a chance to compete on an NCAA wrestling team. He was recruited by a few schools, but after talking to head coach Keith Norris and visiting the campus a few times, Escobar knew Johns Hopkins was the school for him.
“I wasn’t really trying to walk-on to a DI wrestling team,” he said. “I was looking more for a competitive wrestling team that I could be on but also get a really good education.”
Escobar is majoring in both chemistry and biomolecular engineering, which he said has kept him busy. During the wrestling season, Johns Hopkins holds two practices a day with morning and night sessions. There are also weekend tournaments that the team has to sometimes travel long distances to.
“In high school I was able to get by without having to study too hard so I was able to focus more on cutting weight,” Escobar explained. “In college, I can’t really slack on my studies, so I have to manage my weight the right way and be on top of both athletics and studies. Time management is crucial.”
The main difference between high school and college wrestling, Escobar said, is the level of competition. “Everyone is good,” he said. “In high school, you’re not really facing high-level competition until you get to the county tournament. In college, every match is a grind.
“In the practice room, your teammates are a lot better, which is a big thing for me,” Escobar added.
Escobar’s first two seasons were marked by severe injuries. He tore his ACL during his first competition his freshman season and was given a medical redshirt. Then, in the middle of his sophomore season, Escobar tore his UCL in one of his elbows. But this past season as a junior, Escobar was able to get through it relatively unscathed and finished top 12 in the region and held a .500 record during the second half of the season. Right after the season concluded in early March, Escobar was told by his head coach that he’d be one of the captains of the team next season, where he has a number of goals he’d like to fulfill.
“My first goal is to be a national qualifier and we’ll see what happens from there,” he said. “My end goal would be to be an All-American. I do have a fifth year of eligibility, so if I decide to go to grad school, I could also wrestle.”