By Joe Scalzo
Two of the best safeties in the Mahoning Valley are moving on to the next level.
Mooney senior Ray Vinopal committed to Michigan this week and Poland senior Luke Wollet chose Kent State, the latest commitments from one of the most talented senior classes in recent memory.
Vinopal (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), a first team All-Ohioan, committed on Wednesday night but kept the decision quiet so the focus would stay on the Cardinals’ quest for a seventh state title. Vinopal scored the first touchdown in Friday’s Division III state championship game against Columbus DeSales, which Mooney won 35-7.
“I really liked it when I went up for a visit for the Ohio State game,” said Vinopal, who actually grew up a Buckeyes fan before his interest waned in recent years. “It felt good and it’s close — only three hours away — so my family can come see.
“Home or away, the games will be pretty close.”
Vinopal, who also won two state track championships as a member of 4x100-meter relays, is a fast and physical defender with a reputation for being a serious gym rat. (He’ll occasionally wake up at 4 a.m. to lift weights.)
That dedication should serve him well for a Michigan program trying to bounce back from back-to-back losing seasons.
“Obviously I’ve noticed it [the losing], but it’s not really a big concern,” said Vinopal, who also had offers from Bowling Green and Kent State. “Rich Rodriguez just got in there and he’s still getting things in place and just starting to get in his players.
“He knows what he’s doing. He did a good job at West Virginia and I think he’ll turn things around.”
Vinopal was Mooney’s second-leading rusher with more than 650 yards and had four interceptions on defense, helping the Cardinals (15-0) set a school record for wins in a season.
“To tell you the truth, it still hasn’t hit me,” he said of the title. “I’m still excited and still kind of in shock, waiting for it all to set in.”
Vinopal isn’t sure about his future career, but is learning toward a business degree (“the math end of it”) and is happy his focus can be fully on football and not on recruiting.
“The whole process can get kind of tedious and you hear a lot of the same stuff,” said Vinopal, who does not plan to run track next spring. “It’s a relief that I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Wollet (6-1, 195), a first team All-Ohioan who was also the district defensive player of the year, committed earlier this week and was in Kent on Saturday for his official visit.
He also considered Eastern Michigan, YSU (until the coaching change) and Virginia Military Institute, but liked the fact that Kent was close enough for his friends and family to visit, but far enough away to get the college experience.
“I love to compete and I’m ready to play on the next level,” he said. “It’s a great sport and God has blessed me with the ability to play at the next level. I just want to use my ability the best I can.”
Wollet, who also plays basketball and was a state qualifier in track, plans to major in education so he can eventually teach and coach. He was a two-way standout for the Bulldogs, who shared the conference title this season and gave Mooney its toughest test of the postseason.
He, too, is happy to be done with the process.
“Yeah, it’s a big relief,” he said. “It’s beautiful down here and I’m happy I can concentrate on other things and enjoy the rest of my senior year before I play Division I football.”