College-bound Highland Park athletes honored on Wednesday include, from left, Aidan Conner (Princeton), Ethan Nguyen (Austin College), Henry Wang (MIT), and Harrison Hall (Texas A&M). (Photo: Melissa Macatee)
Aidan Conner was contacted by some of the top wrestling programs in the country. But Princeton provided something none of the others could — an Ivy League educational opportunity.
Conner, who will compete for the Tigers beginning next year, was one of four Highland Park seniors recognized for their college athletic commitments during a ceremony on Wednesday.
Other honorees included swimmers Henry Wang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Ethan Nguyen (Austin College), and football player Harrison Hall (Texas A&M).
One of the most decorated wrestlers in school history, Conner won his third Class 5A state title in February. The gold-medal performance capped his first season in the heavyweight division after previously earning two championships at 195 pounds.
“The program is growing,” Conner said of Princeton. “I’m really excited to get some new competition and some new partners.”
Hall’s journey to securing a preferred walk-on spot with the Aggies didn’t follow the usual recruiting path. In fact, the HP offensive lineman wasn’t even sure he wanted to play college football until after the Scots won their third consecutive 5A state title in December.
A longtime Texas A&M fan, he wrote a letter to the school’s offensive line coach with his statistics and measurements. About a week later, he got a call. The Aggies were interested.
“I just felt this aura around the school and it just enveloped me. A&M has such a rich tradition,” Hall said. “I’m extremely excited. After I met with the coaches, I felt very comfortable.”
When Hall drove down to campus a few weeks ago, the coaching staff offered him a spot. He was accepted into the university last week, and will enroll this summer.
Wang, who was a key contributor behind a resurgence in HP boys swimming in recent years, plans to swim at MIT while pursuing a cutting-edge degree in computational neuroscience.
“Swimming is something I wanted to continue to do in college, but I wanted an outstanding academic opportunity, too,” said Wang, who received his acceptance letter from the school in December. “MIT had the best balance.”
Nguyen, who also was a standout on the Blue Wave’s 5A state title teams in 2017 and 2018, will swim collegiately alongside his older brother at Austin College in Sherman.