Not too long after he was old enough to hold a stick, Matt Wylly had his future in lacrosse mapped out to the point where he was prepared to have just about every article of clothing in his closet colored navy blue-and-orange.
“I was going to the 'Cuse, and I was going to play for the national championship on Memorial Day weekend,” he said of Syracuse University. “That was my dream school and that was my dream weekend.”
Wylly, a Worthington Kilbourne graduate, has seen part of his dream come true, but will be wearing a Towson uniform for a Final Four semifinal against Ohio State at noon Saturday.
What drips with irony is that Wylly and the Tigers got to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, by defeating Syracuse in a NCAA quarterfinal. Wylly scored two goals.
This Final Four will be a central Ohio block party of sorts with Tyler Pfister of Upper Arlington and JT Blubaugh of DeSales captains for Ohio State, and Jake Nolan and Danny Logan of Upper Arlington playing for Denver against Maryland in the other semifinal.
Wylly, a senior midfielder, received interest from Towson after Kilbourne coach Drew May told Tigers associate head coach Anthony Gilardi about him. May and Gilardi were teammates at Ohio State.
It turned out to be the greatest break of Wylly's life. On Wednesday, he received a degree in international business.
But Wylly sometimes had to feel like a salmon fighting to get upstream playing on a team composed of players from the East.
“Coming in, I was the second-to-last or last recruit of what has become the most successful class in Towson history,” he said. “I started as a scout-team player. Last year, I was the plug-in-and-play guy, the seventh midfielder. This year, I’m the senior leadership-type guy and playing a lot of second midfield. I love this place and I love my team.”
What does Wylly think about so many Columbus men playing on the big stage in a sport that primarily has been dominated by East Coast players?
“There are more and more recruits coming out of Ohio, and I think this could just be the start,” Wylly said. “I played with JT Blubaugh in summer league in seventh and eighth grade and I competed against JT and Tyler Pfister in high school so many times. We went toe to toe. Now, you get on the field and see guys you have known most of your playing career.”
Blubaugh, a senior midfielder, is not surprised by the rise of Columbus players.
“We were part of the first wave of Ohio kids committing to big Division I schools, and now we’re playing on championship weekend,” he said. “Jake Nolan has won a national championship for Denver. I think you are going to be seeing more and more players from our state playing for the big schools.”
Pfister, a senior midfielder, played for a UA program that has dominated the sport with 16 state championships.
“But now I think you are going to see teams popping up in different areas in Ohio, and that’s going to be great for the sport,” he said. “It’s interesting because we have been saying all week that we’re Ohio boys going to the Final Four.”
Pfister and Blubaugh coach for Resolute Lacrosse, a company that fields elite teams for youths from grades four through 12 and conducts clinics and camps, and offers individual instruction.
“Part of that process in coaching this younger generation is telling them about the recruiting process,” Blubaugh said. “We’re some of the first people they know playing major-college lacrosse. They ask us a lot of questions about getting to major colleges.”