KINGSBURG — Henry Wildes signed a national letter of intent to play soccer at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, in a ceremony in front of family and teammates in the boardroom at Kingsburg High School on June 1.
Wildes was Kingsburg’s goalie this past season and earned the Central Sequoia League defensive player of the year despite the Vikings 5-16 record. He notched 100 saves for Kingsburg.
The senior’s dedication to his academics and a chance to play soccer in college were some of the reasons in his choice. He applied to seven other universities, but those schools weren’t as appealing to him as Earlham College was.
“After meeting with the coach, they seem like good guys,” Wildes said. “They really take care of their players, and it's academics first. Its a student-athlete and not an athlete-student [environment].”
The Earlham College Quakers compete in NCAA Division III and the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) and is a private institution.
Before he decided on the Quakers, Wildes had been in contact with head soccer coach Sam Byrd since his sophomore year. Byrd contacted him sometime this past season to be the team’s goalie for next year. Once he researched the school and the soccer program, it was a no brainer for Wildes.
“Wherever I went, I was going to see if I could play soccer or not,” Wildes said. “The coach [from Earlham College] had contacted me. He was like ‘Come play for us’ and I was like ‘Cool.’”
Wildes’ former travel ball coach, Rick Pendergrass, said it’s “pretty cool” to see him get an opportunity to play in college.
“I coached for a lot of years, for about 33 years, and very few of those players actually go and take it to the next level,” Pendergrass said. “A lot has to do with Henry’s work ethic, it has to do with his drive and the years he put into this. He did it to the point where he could get noticed.”
Wildes said he’s going to major in exercise science to become a physical education teacher. He also aims to get a teaching license in Indiana after he graduates from college.
“That’s a lot to do in four years,” Wildes said, “but it’ll get me a head of the game looking for jobs later.”
Making the move to Indiana from California will be an adjustment, Wildes said, but he is looking forward to the change.
“It’s totally different,” Wildes said about the culture Indiana. “But it’ll fun to try something new.”
His parents, Dave and Kim Wildes, lived in Indiana for three years, which makes Henry’s move more comfortable for them.
“Indiana wasn’t new to us,” Kim Wildes said. “It kind of had the home-type feeling for us.”
Even though their son will be miles away, Kim Wildes said that won’t stop watching him play next year.
“We’re used to seeing all his games in person, but they do live stream all the games,” Kim Wildes said. “So we’ll be looking forward to still watching him even though it’s not in person.”
Outside of soccer, Henry Wildes played tennis at Kingsburg and was the Vikings No.1 singles player this past season. He also played water polo from freshman to junior year. He decided not to play water polo this year to focus on soccer.