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Former Park star Wilkinson picks Lehigh

WHEELING — Cross Wilkinson is primed for a new collegiate football challenge.

The former Wheeling Park quarterbacking all-stater has opted to transfer after two years at the University of Toledo. Wilkinson is now headed to Lehigh University after sorting through several offers.

The Hawks are members of the Patriot League and compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. Lehigh is located in Bethlehem, Pa.

As fate would have it, the Patriot League has suspended its fall football schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Hawks are coming off a 4-7 campaign.

Wilkinson owns the distinction of being the only quarterback to lead Wheeling Park to a state grid championship (2015), a feat he achieved in his sophomore campaign. After concluding his stellar prep grid career for Coach Chris Daugherty, the 6-3, 210-pounder selected Toledo over the likes of Akron, Marshall and a bevy of Ivy League schools.

“First and foremost, I would like to say that I am beyond grateful and blessed for the opportunity and experience at the University of Toledo,” Wilkinson said. “It did not go how I imagined it would on the field, but nonetheless, the privilege to participate at the Division 1 FBS level brought me incredible memories and special experiences; playing the Miami Hurricanes coached by the legendary Mark Richt, participating in the 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl and being graced with the opportunity to introduce the game of football to the youth of the Bahamas as a counselor in their skills camp, defeating BYU in the final minutes in front of a sold-out crowd, and the many opportunities to participate in serving the community of Northwest Ohio. More importantly however, I made genuine, mentoring relationships, and I strengthened my faith exponentially.”

“When I embarked on this (transfer) process and it became official in January, I knew I wanted to pursue an institution that professionally provided respected academics, a strong alumni network and historic traditions. Athletically, I was in search of a program that fostered a close-knit brotherhood on and off the field, being a part of such, and more importantly, the opportunity to compete and further grow,” he added. “I blessedly found all of the above in Lehigh University. Lehigh allows me to continually expand my horizons, becoming a more well-rounded individual athletically, socially and academically. It is an investment in not only myself, but for my loved ones now and in the future.”

Wilkinson sees a bright side to the Patriot League’s decision to halt the fall football season.

“As of July 13th, the Patriot League has suspended the seasons of all fall sports. There are hopes that competition can be reinstated in the spring, but in the meantime, the plan is to return to campus at the end of August and treat this fall as the spring that didn’t take place,” he said. “This is a true blessing for me as I can now assimilate myself academically; all the while getting into their strength program, learning the entire playbook and putting it all to practice in live reps.

“I truly believe the sky’s the limit for the next three years. The program is heading into its second season with the current staff, headed by Coach Tom Gilmore, who has strung together two strong recruiting classes back-to-back. The roster is primed with young talent who had the opportunity to get playing time early in their careers, only allowing for consistent growth and play for the next few years,” he continued. “Coupled with the historical excellence and achievements of the Lehigh football program, I am very excited for this next journey and see no reason why we should not consistently compete for the Patriot League title, make runs in the FCS playoffs, and come out on top against our long rival, Lafayette. Personally, I’m entering this chapter wholeheartedly intending to compete for playing time, but in addition, give my everything to uphold their culture and make the men around me better.”

Wilkinson is Park’s all-time leader in passing yards (6,477) and TD passes (64). He accumulated a host of accolades, including three-time All-TRAC, All-Valley and All-OVAC honoree. In addition, he was two-time Nike Elite The Opening Camp regional invitee, a US Army All-American National Combine invitee and a 2018 Blue-Grey All-American Bowl Game participant.

Academics are also a high priority for the well-mannered standout. He graduated Park with a 4.3 GPA. He plans on majoring in International Relations with possibly a minor in either International Business or Military Science.

“Currently, I am working with advisors, as well as, doing my own research into the programs that I will have the furthest progress in. In addition, I intend to complete my graduate coursework, whatever that may be in,” Wilkinson offered. “The area is fluent professionally with New York City and Philadelphia in proximity, so I look forward to exhausting this resource. Professionally, I plan to pursue work in either our federal government or within the private sector, dealing in international policy and mediation. No matter what I am guided to do, I will strive to serve others to the best of my abilities.”

BUBBA’S BITS

¯ ROBERTA ROBINSON Olejasz was the ideal choice to succeed Penn Kurtz as the new head coach of the Wheeling Central girls’ basketball program. She still remains one of the greatest players in Central annals while also playing at the D-I level. Roberta has learned from some of the best coaches in the business while also coaching at the AAU level. She has the knowledge, experience and personality to keep Wheeling Central an elite program.

¯ BROCK MELKO scored a hole-in-one on July 19 at Riverside Golf Course in Sardis. The John Marshall High head girls’ basketball coach aced the 143-yard No. 4 Hole. He used a pitching wedge on the par 3. The ace was witnessed by Kurt Mele, Herk Sparachane and Gary Fonner.

¯ THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce is holding a fall banquet on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Martins Ferry Rec Center at 6 p.m. Featured speaker will be Rich Donnelly. The Steubenville native has coached at the Major League Baseball level for several teams, and owns a World Series ring while assisting Jim Leyland with the Florida Marlins. He also has authored a best-selling book – “The Chicken Runs at Midnight.” In conjunction with the banquet, the Martins Ferry Chamber is selling copies of that book at a reduced price. For more information on the banquet or the book, call the chamber office at 740-633-2565. Donnelly’s current coaching gig is manager for the New York Mets’ Class A-advanced affiliate farm team in Port St. Lucie (Fl). He coached the Pittsburgh Pirates with Leyland from 1986-96.

¯ THE WHEELING University Women’s Track & Field team has earned United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic honors. In addition to the team award, senior Danielle Stewart (Strongsville, Ohio) was one of 321 student-athletes to earn individual All-Academic distinction from the USTFCCCA. Head Coach Patrick Stanton’s team posted a 3.34 grade-point average and was among 149 women’s teams that were honored for their academic excellence. Stewart, who recently became just the third Wheeling University student-athlete in any sport to earn both All-America and CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in the same season, added USTFCCCA All-Academic to her resume. Stewart was the only women’s honoree from a Mountain East Conference member institution.

¯ CASSIE SETH has been promoted to associate head coach with the West Liberty University women’s basketball program. Seth will be heading into her fourth season with the Lady Hilltoppers. She was an all-conference guard and 1,000-point scorer during her playing days at NCAA Division II Mercyhurst (Pa.). Seth spent seven years as a high school coach in the Cleveland area and one season as an assistant coach at Baldwin Wallace before coming to West Liberty. Seth holds a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in Sport Business Management from Mercyhurst along with a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Valparaiso.

¯ CHRIS RICHARDSON was named new head men’s basketball coach at Wheeling University Monday. I believe the Cardinals’ braintrust made a prudent choice. One thing I really like about the Charleston native is how he cultivated a close relationship with WVU head coach Bob Huggins. Richardson just went to Huggins’ office and waited for him to show up. He said Huggins treated him like family then and they remain close to this day. Bob Huggins is a great guy to have in your corner.

¯ THE NBA season resumes in an Orlando bubble after a three-month hiatus. With no home-court advantage and with coronavirus infections always a possibility amongst players, it is tough to pick a favorite to win the title. I will go with the Clippers.

¯ THE WHEELING University volleyball team has earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association/United States Marine Corps Team Academic Award for the 2019-20 academic year. The award honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale or a 4.10 cumulative team GPA on a 5.0 scale. This marks the seventh-straight year Christy Benner’s Cardinal volleyball team has earned this distinction.

¯ MATTHEW DOUGLAS recorded a hole-in-one on July 21 on the No. 5 Hole at the Wheeling Park Golf Course. He used an 8-iron on the par 3. Douglas is a senior at John Marshall and captain of the Monarchs’ golf team. His ace was witnessed by JM golfers Mason Orndorff, Lakyn Parker and Coach Gus Hanson. The shot took place during the state’s three-week contact period.

¯ THE SARDIS Volunteer Fire Department is sponsoring its 9th Annual Golf Scramble on Saturday, Aug. 8 at the Fairway Riverside Golf Course in Sardis. There is an 8 a.m. shotgun start. The cost for a four-man team is $200. Fee includes cart rental, green fees, food and beverage. For more information, contact Kevin Winkler at 740-310-0610 or kevin–winkler@sbcglobal.net.

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