Verona Signings

Verona seniors Adam Vandervest (left) and Paige Zahler pose after signing their National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Verona Area High School. Vandervest will play football at Western Michigan, and Zahler will play lacrosse at Lewis University.

Verona seniors Adam Vandervest and Paige Zahler play different contact sports, but both are similar in two aspects of their recruitment.

Both announced verbal commitments to their future homes before the start of their seasons, and both signed a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Verona Area High School.

Vandervest will continue his football career at Division I Western Michigan University, and Zahler is headed to DII Lewis University to play lacrosse.

Vandervest received 10 DI offers, but verbally committed to WMU in early June after attending the Broncos’ camp in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day after the recruiting process and overcoming the adversity I’ve been through,” he said. “It’s relieving to start a new chapter in my life.”

Vandervest earned his third varsity letter and was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference in 2019. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound left tackle helped Verona’s offense average 40.3 points per game and had a Western Michigan connection on the sidelines in Wildcats defensive coordinator Scott Cramer, who played linebacker at WMU from 1987-1990.

“I didn’t want to worry about recruiting or going on any visits during my senior season,” he said. “I wanted all my focus on the season.”

Vandervest was one of 20 commits for the Broncos and third-year coach Tim Lester on the first day of the 2020 early signing period. He is rated as a three-star recruit and the No. 20 prospect in the state by 247sports.com.

Vandervest will not enroll early at WMU for spring practice. He will, however, have to adjust to playing games midweek.

The Broncos compete in the Mid-American Conference, which plays most of its league games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. WMU (7-5) will play Western Kentucky in the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 30.

“The last time I played a game on Tuesday was probably youth football,” Vandervest said. “The coaches made it clear that my schedule will be alright. It’ll be tough with classes, but it should be all good.”

Zahler had no Division I offers, but that was fine by her.

“I didn’t want to go DI because it’s such a life commitment,” she said. “I wanted balance in college.”

Zahler verbally committed to Lewis in late October for a reason similar to Vandervest’s.

“I wanted to commit before Thanksgiving. It was a huge weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about my recruitment, and I could just have fun in my senior season.”

The attacker/midfielder has been named first-team all-conference in her first three seasons at Verona. She also plays for the Madison-area club team Vibe Lacrosse.

Lewis is located in Romeoville, Illinois. Zahler also showed interest in Division III North Central, which is located in another Chicago suburb (Naperville), but picked the Flyers over the Cardinals.

“I really liked the campus and the coach,” she said. “I looked at a bunch of different colleges in Illinois, but Lewis felt like a good fit for me.”

The Flyers compete in DII’s Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Lewis went 1-12 in their inaugural season last spring, and Zahler is hoping to help the Flyers become a strong program.

Fellow senior Gunnar Kilen was slated to sign his NLI to continue his football career Wednesday, but his recruitment is still open.

Former Colorado State coach Mike Bobo had targeted Kilen as a potential anchor on the Rams’ offensive line, but Bobo left after the season to become the offensive coordinator at South Carolina. The Rams named former Boston College coach Steve Adazzio their next coach on Dec. 11.

Kilen, who plays center at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, has received 22 Division I offers. Verona will hold another signing day Wednesday, Feb. 5.