The COVID-19 pandemic has foiled many events and athletic activities at the scholastic level, but Chartiers Valley High School discovered a distinctive way to celebrate National Letter-of-Intent Day.
Through the use of Zoom, athletic director Michael A. Gavlik and strength, conditioning and wellness coordinator Shalyn Muraco coordinated a conference call during which each student athlete was recognized and applauded for receiving scholarships to their chosen colleges.
“Nothing has been traditional over the past year and we have had to adapt,” said Gavlik. “This was just another example.
“We were very excited to celebrate our senior athletes who have earned the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. It truly is well deserved,” he continued. “Their hard work, passion and perseverance over the last four years has made the Chartiers Valley School District and community very proud.”
While typical signings of the past have featured festive balloons and cake, the CV scholarship recipients, through modern technology, heard from three distinguished guests graduates. All had competed successfully at the collegiate level while also maintaining high standards academically.
CV graduate Christian Kuntz advised the athletes to “keep working hard” and to employ the “time management” skills they have already acquired to their next level of education.
Kuntz said he “never signed an LOI” because he ruptured his spleen prior to his senior year.
After he helped the Colts win a WPIAL basketball championship, Kuntz went on to excel in football at Duquesne University. He earned All-America status and two-time Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors.
After brief stints with the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers, he competed in the XFL for the Dallas Renegades. The Bridgeville native and Scott Township resident has since resigned with the Steelers as a reserve long snapper and linebacker.
Recalling his parents’ support, Kuntz reminded the athletes to first thank the people responsible for getting them to this level.
“All the practices, all the injuries,” said the 26-year-old son of Kathy and Theo, “my parents have been there for me. They are a big part of this as well.”
Kuntz also reminded the athletes about the harsh realities of college.
“Professors don’t care what’s going on outside their classes,” he said. “So you have to practice good time management.”
Get work done, take advantage of study sessions, stick to a routine and push yourself, he advised because it is easy to fall behind.
“That will allow you to have more fun in college and allow you to work on your craft,” he said.
Abbey Collins reminded the athletes of the “extreme honor” it is to participate in a collegiate sport no matter what the level, Division I, II, III or NAIA.
After earning four letters in basketball and track at CV, Collins went on to become one of the most prolific jumpers in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference while performing at Grove City College. She was a PAC outdoor runner-up in long and triple jump and a top 8 pole vaulter. However, her senior season of track was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
Collins graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in marketing. Currently, she is a search engine optimization specialist at Merkle in Bridgeville.
Collins encouraged the athletes to “work extremely hard” but also “find a true reason” for competing.
“Once you find that true reason, you will do amazing things,” she said.
Collins also encouraged the athletes to be “leaders” and “step up” even if they do not earn the distinction as captains.
Tyler Wilps said signing letters of intent was only a “stepping stone” for the senior athletes. When they start their university studies and activities they will do so with a “blank slate” and from “square one” but regardless they should set high goals.
After excelling in football, wrestling, tennis and track at CV, Wilps reached athletic and academic heights at the University of Pittsburgh.
In wrestling, Wilps was a two-time All-American and an ACC champion. He was 10 seconds away from winning the NCAA championship at 174 pounds in 2015. His name is engraved in stone as a Pitt top athlete in the varsity walk behind the Cathedral of Learning.
Wills graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business administration, finance and chemistry from Pitt. After finishing his third year of medical school at Temple University, Wilps took a year off from classes to devote time to the Trek Coalition, where is CEO. Wills founded the nonprofit organization aimed at providing comprehensive care that reaches the needs of underdeveloped countries through people and technology.
Wills will graduate from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine this year and will pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. His goals are to combine his medical experience with his vision to help others, and to make a positive impact in global health.
“Sometimes you have to put the cart before the horse,” Wilps said. “You have to believe you can accomplish great things. Think what you want to achieve and then whatever those goals are let your actions fall into place. You can achieve whatever you want.”