Eight Canisius High School seniors formally announced their college choices Wednesday in the Canisius High School Brady Conference Room. Each student-athlete also paid tribute to those who helped them throughout their career.
The group included four lacrosse players, three baseball players and a swimmer.
For the 2020-21 school year, 10% of the Canisius High senior class committed to play collegiate athletics; the national average is less than 2%. More signings will be announced throughout the school year.
Here's a rundown of the signings and what each senior had to say Wednesday before Director of Athletics Jim Mauro, family, friends and schoolmates.
Will Dunn of Buffalo
John Carroll University (lacrosse)
"First off I'd like to thank my mom and dad, none of this would be possible without you guys. ... Coach (Bruce) Popko, you've been with me since sixth grade, it means the world to me that you're still with me, I really appreciate it. Coach Murray, you too, you've been coaching me since I've been 9 years old.
"Coach Albert, I really don't know where this program would be without you. You work so hard day-in, day-out. The four of us really appreciate it. I'd like to thank the boys in the back for coming – and all my teammates, you guys are amazing, I love you all."
* One of two Crusaders headed to the nationally-ranked Division III Blue Streaks, Dunn is a senior leader who is always supportive of his team. Crusader coaches are looking forward to seeing his impact on the team in the Spring 2022 season.
Tommy Lynch of West Seneca
SUNY Cortland (baseball)
"I want to thank all the students and my teammates these past four years – they really made me craft my work to where I am now. I want to thank my mom and my dad for making sacrifices for me to go to all these tournaments, like far away in Georgia. I can't thank you guys enough.
"I'd like to thanks coach (Justin) Santonocito and coach (Dale) Podlas, they really crafted my work and helped me go to Cortland. I'd like to thank Mr. Mauro for getting our schedules out, even thought these past Covid years have been really hard. And thank all of you guys (students) for coming out."
* First-team All-Catholic as a junior.
* The ace of the Crusaders’ staff.
* CHS coach Justin Santonocito: “Tommy can put the team on his back in any situation.”
* Named the Monsignor Martin Boys Volleyball co-Player of the Year after helping lead the Crusaders to their 22nd straight league title.
Victor Mazzara of Tonawanda
University at Albany (baseball)
"I appreciate everybody's support, from my siblings, my parents – I definitely wouldn't be here without them. A lot of sacrifice they've put into me, getting me to where I am. I also want to thank my coaches, coach Podlas, coach Justin, helping me out along the way and helping me work on my game. Thank you everybody."
* Second-team All-Catholic as a junior
* CHS coach Justin Santonocito: “Complete game changer … Instincts are second to none. Vic is a great teammate and always has the dirtiest uniform on the team.”
* First team All-Catholic in soccer, helping lead Crusaders to regular season championship.
Billy Paladino of West Seneca
John Carroll University (lacrosse)
"I just want to thank my family, friends, all my coaches -- Mike, Marty and especially Mr. Popko for getting me into this sport. I don't know if I'd be here without that. And thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way."
* One of two Crusaders heading to the nationally-ranked Division III Blue Streaks.
* CHS coach Michael Albert: “Has as much upside as anyone I have ever coached.”
* Crusaders’ standout at right attack is the team’s only four-year starter and set to have a big spring season and, Albert says, “his experience will be vital to our success.”
Drew Podlas of Orchard Park
Canisius College (baseball)
"I would like to thank Canisius High School for teaching me how to work hard, and to set goals, and that with a lot of work you can achieve those goals. I'd like to thank Coach Justin for always having confidence in me on the ballfield.
"I want to thank my parents, especially my father for coaching me all those years – everything I know about the game comes from him. All the road trips that we've taken though all the tournaments we played – that doesn't go unnoticed, all the time and effort that you put in for me to get to this point. Mom, thank you for all the support all throughout these years."
* Second-team All-Catholic as a junior.
* CHS coach Justin Santonocito: “Great competitor with high motor who goes 100% on every pitch. … Drew has a well-balanced skill set. He can positively impact the game in multiple ways.”
Walker Popko of Buffalo
Stony Brook University (lacrosse)
"I'd like to thank my parents, my dad really nurtured the love for the game, and my mom ... we drove back and forth to Long Island six or seven times this summer.
"Coach Albert, I don't even know where to begin. You trusted me as a freshman to join the team. The hardest-working man I know, day in and day out you're always there for us, all four of us here. My gratitude to you and all (teammates) is just through the roof. Also, shoutout to all the boys for coming. Thank you guys, I truly appreciate it, and Go Seawolves."
* First-team All-Catholic as a junior.
* CHS team captain.
* Headed to nationally-ranked Division I Seawolves.
* CHS coach Michael Albert: “Walker is a tall, athletic, lefty sniper. … He has put in a significant amount of work and that attracted much interest from colleges.”
* Walker will join Dan Newton ’19 with the Stony Brook next fall.
Ryan Spiesz of Hamburg
Mercyhurst University (lacrosse)
"I want to thank, firstly, my mom and dad. They believed in me all these years. They put me through countless sports that I tried, and failed, mostly. But the long trips to Long Island and Delaware this summer, mom, I wouldn't trade for the world. And Dad, just believing in me and getting me the right equipment and always keeping me down-to-earth whenever I'm having a bad day.
"Coach Albert, and all the Canisius coaches, I can't thank you guys enough for believing in me all these years, even when I didn't believe in myself. You guys kept me pushing and kept me committed. I want to thank all the boys from coming out today. Love you guys. And Go Lakers."
* Headed to the Division II Lakers, who are ranked second in the nation.
* CHS coach Michael Albert: “With his continued commitment to the CHS Lax process, Ryan impressed Mercyhurst with his academic and athletic ability. … In the last 3-1/2 years, Spiesz has showed character, academic success and pride for our school. These qualities will continue to help him as he grows.”
Matt Woyksnar of Niagara Falls
Iona College (swimming)
"I want to thank my parents for always being there for me and always believing in me and always trying to come to my meets. Without them I don't think I'd even be at this school, or in the position I am in today.
"I would love to thank the swim team, for always pushing me to try my hardest at swim meets. In swim there's a lot of highs and lows, and I'm just really grateful for them for pushing me all the way to be who I am. Thank you."
* Junior season: Undefeated in dual-meet competition (no All-Catholics due to Covid).
* Sophomore season: All-Catholic champion in 100 freestyle as well as the 200 and 400 free relays; state qualifier in those and the 200 free.
* Freshman season: All-Catholic champion in 200 and 100 free as well as the 200 and 400 free relays; at states was the third-fastest ninth-grader in the 200 free.