By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
College is supposed to be a time of indepencence — a chance to break away from the comforts of home, to get out and see the world.
But there’s something to be said about those comforts — mom’s home cooking, dad’s advice or the familiar faces of friends, equine or otherwise.
Perhaps that’s what made the five signings Wednesday in the Pioneer Fieldhouse so special — it just had that family atmosphere that you wouldn’t get at a big unversity far from home.
“Anybody that’s a Pioneer knows that this is a special place,” former Stillwater baseball coach Tony Holt said. “I think anybody that’s been around for any length of time will tell you that Stillwater High School is a special place and Stillwater is a special town. In a lot of ways, we take a lot of pride in the type of kids we put out here in Stillwater schools and in our athletic programs. ... It’s a great place to grow up and a great place to be at.”
In fact, the love for Stillwater runs so deep that three athletes — Jon Littell, Carson Teel and Chandler Rogers — will make the short trip down Duck to continue their careers.
Littell and Teel both signed national letters of intent to play college baseball for Stillwater graduate Josh Holliday at Oklahoma State, joining Corey Hassel as the third former Pioneer to play for Holliday.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Teel said. “Growing up, you always want to stay where you’re closest to. Going to OSU has always been a dream, and it’s come true now. I just can’t wait for what’s ahead of me.”
“(Playing close to home) definitely played a factor,” Littell said. “I wanted my parents to be able to see me play, along with all my friends and family and the coaches that I’ve shared this experience with.”
Rogers, a wrestler whot moved to Stillwater from Spokane, Wash., before the school year started, will also have some comforts of home in Gallagher-Iba Arena. His brother, Jordan Rogers, is a redshirt freshman for the Cowboys.
“It’s a neat deal that we’ve got kids going straight from here straight to a Division I college in all these different sports,” Stillwater High School wrestling coach Doug Chesbro said. “It says a lot for our programs here at Stillwater High School and it says a lot about the programs at Oklahoma State that they’re looking right here at home. They’re not forgetting about the people right here that have been Oklahoma State fans all their lives.”
Not everybody who signed a national letter of intent in the overcrowded Pioneer Fieldhouse lobby will be staying in Stillwater.
Stillwater volleyball players Carley Geer and Maggie Ireton will each take their talents to Alva to play for Northwestern State.
“It’s really awesome because we already knew each other before,” Ireton said. “It’s comforting, knowing that you’re going to a completely new place with at least somebody that you’ve been with for a year or so.”
Ireton may rely on Geer for comfort, but Geer has her own supporter already at the school — her sister Alexia Geer.
“It’s really exciting,” Geer said. “I’m really looking forward to playing with my sister again and continuing on and playing with Maggie, as well. It makes me more comfortable knowing that I’m going to have someone to lean toward if I ever get in trouble or have troubling times.”
And while Geer and Ireton may be skipping town, Ireton said it’s those comforts of home that made Northwestern State seem like the right choice.
“I’m going to feel like I’m at home,” Ireton said. “Coach (Gene) Krieger is a great coach and I like Alva. It’s a small town, but I like country and small towns. Just the volleyball scholarship, the coach, the team and being able to bring my horses made it a great fit. It’s also a little over about two hours away from here, so it’s a pretty good deal.”
Whether their college endevors bring them just down the street at Oklahoma State or a couple hours away in Alva, one thing is certain: There will always be family and friends nearby.
“I love every opportunity I get to watch Chris Perry wrestle, and I’m sure a lot of the other coaches feel the same way about kids they’ve coached,” Chesbro said. “I will love every opportunity I get to watch Chandler wrestle. It’s exciting to get to see kids move on. I haven’t had a great deal of history with Chandler, but I’ll have a full year with him and I know him well already. We’ll be rooting for him over the next five years as he wrestles for the Cowboys.”
The only challenge for Littell and Teel? Trying battle Holliday and Hassel for enough tickets to get everybody into the games.
“I hope it’s tough,” Littell said. “I hope a lot of people get out to those games and start supporting the Pioneers that are now Cowboys. It’s going to be great. Being able to play for coach Holliday is going to be an amazing time and I hope the Pioneer family comes out and supports us as much as possible.”