Wednesday was a bittersweet one for John Gilreath.
The Northwestern senior signed his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at South Carolina. Earlier this fall he decided to graduate early from high school so that he could enroll at South Carolina in January and commence his college career. In doing so, Gilreath will forgo his senior year of high school baseball.
“When you go down there, given the situation, you’re gonna have to prove yourself,” said Gilreath.
Going early gives him the chance to do that ahead of the rest of the freshmen that arrive next summer and fall.
“It’s a big jump, no doubt about it,” Gilreath said.
The talented left-handed pitcher has grown very close with his baseball teammates, including the other four that signed college papers alongside him in the school’s auditorium. It’s because of that college talent that Mitch Walters’ team will likely be the favorite to repeat as 5A state champs again this spring.
“Very proud of them,” said Walters. “They’ve probably been working since they were seven, eight years old toward this. It’s a great day once you get here and signed, and you finally know where you’re going. Hopefully, senior year they can just relax, have fun and play.”
Gilreath took four core classes this fall to get graduation-eligible. He plans to major in criminal justice at South Carolina, with an eye on becoming an FBI agent. He said that his teammates made the decision easier, not harder.
“It’s exciting for me and they’ve had my back through this whole thing,” he said. “But they know and I know that I’m moving on to better things.”
Victoria Wilform, Appalachian State (volleyball) - here’s how good of an athlete Wilform is: she hasn’t decided yet if she will compete in track and field (high jump) at Appalachian State, where she’s already headed to play volleyball.
Wilform, like all the Trojans that signed Wednesday, is an excellent student -- all A’s -- and she plans to major in exercise science. That was one of the numerous draws that lured her to sign with Appalachian over other schools, including Charleston Southern, Davidson and Loyola (Md.).
“It feels really homey, love the coaches and the team,” said Wilform. “I’m excited to be apart of it. Gonna’ have to get used to the cold, but other than it’s beautiful up there.
“July 1st cannot come soon enough.”
Bre’Zhay Chambers, Claflin (softball) - Chambers has her future occupation picked out and it is a mouthful: nuclear medical technician. Claflin offers that line of study, one that Chambers settled on after extensive online research.
“It’s for cancer patients. You scan their bodies to make sure there is nothing wrong with them,” she explained.
Chambers, a pitcher, said she had multiple heart-to-hearts with herself trying to convince herself she was college softball material. Wednesday’s signing ceremony confirmed she was. Claflin, located in Columbia, so not too close or too far away, easily won her affections.
“They made feel at home, like part of the family,” Chambers said. “I really loved that about them.”
Jordan Starkes, Furman (baseball) - multi-sport star signed with Furman Wednesday where he’ll play in the outfield. Starkes has family in Greenville, which helped him make his decision this past summer. You can’t get into Furman without grades and Starkes has got them, including a 3.8 GPA.
“They’ve got great education, a degree from Furman looks awesome, and then I wanted to go somewhere where I would have the opportunity to play freshman year,” said Starkes, who also stars for the Trojan football team.
“I’m thrilled, thrilled,” he added. “I feel like there is a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Starkes wants to study psychology. “I like the way people work,” he said.
Rob Hughes, Furman (baseball) - Hughes and Starkes will room together at Furman, where Hughes plans on majoring in applied mathematics. His reasoning was further evidence of a mathematical mind.
“I’ve always been pretty good at math,” he said. “I’ll enjoy it and it’s usually a pretty good income for math majors out of Furman.”
Hughes was a powerful standout pitcher for the Trojans’ championship team last year and he’ll pursue the same position in Greenville.
“It’s been my dream as a little kid to play big league ball,” Hughes said. “This is just getting me one step closer.”
Wesley Sweatt, South Carolina (baseball) - the closer for Northwestern’s state title team, Sweatt committed to South Carolina nearly a year ago. Like all of the Trojan baseball signees Wednesday Sweatt was relieved to get his college situation sorted, even if he was a little nervous about the actual ceremony itself.
“Kind of had a little jitters, last night and before I did it,” he said. “But now that I’m signed, I’m happy. South Carolina has been a dream school for me ever since growing up.”
Sweatt wants to major in mechanical engineering; he has a 4.2 GPA, saying he “obviously could do better.” Obviously?
Cameron Reeves, The Citadel (baseball) - Reeves was a Gamecocks commitment but when South Carolina changed coaching staffs, Reeves swapped schools, opting for The Citadel instead. It’s no surprise that Reeves could switch gears quickly; he was a multi-positional standout for the Trojans last spring. He’ll initially head to Charleston as a pitcher, but if he hits well, who knows?
“It’s amazing,” said Reeves. “You work up to this and try to achieve this. This is the main goal, right here.”
Reeves, who has A’s and B’s on his report card, will major in business.