Surrounded by his parents and others who have helped pave the way, Bemidji High School swimmer Matt Wilcox signed a letter of intent Thursday at the high school to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. next fall.
Wilcox is coming off a senior season which was capped by the individual 100-freestyle championship at the MSHSL state meet. He also finished second in the 200 and helped the Lumberjacks place second at state in the 400 free relay and third in the 200 free relay.
"It takes good coaching and many good people to get as far as I have," Matt Wilcox said. "I was fortunate to receive so much support from my parents, coaches and friends."
"We're very proud of our son and all of his accomplishments," said Matt's mom, Jane.
"I think Matt is on the cusp of the most exciting thing we can imagine," said his father, David. "By attending Northwestern Matt has reached the big-time in swimming and the big-time in education."
According to Matt, Northwestern traditionally sends swimmers and divers to the NCAA national championships. And those athletes have made their mark on the national scene.
"I'm going to Northwestern with more than just the hope of seeing how it goes," Matt said. "I want to contribute as much as I can to the program and become part of the rebuilding process."
Bemidji head coach Woody Leindecker knows that Wilcox will make his mark at Northwestern once the transition period is completed.
"It's going to be a flip-flop for Matt," Leindecker said. "This year at the high school Matt made everybody better because they had to work extra hard just to stick with him. But in college, everybody will make Matt better and the new workload will take some time to adjust to.
"To compete at the collegiate level you have to be well organized with life, as an athlete and as a student," Leindecker said. "It can take a lot out of you and the key is to make the most out of all the time you have. And I know Matt will be able to do that."
Matt appears to fully understand his challenges and his responsibilities.
"Natural talent will only take you so far," he said. "You have to work hard, put in the time and remain motivated.
"I was very pleased with my high school career. You can't ask for much more than to be a state champ. But I'm excited about continuing at Northwestern."
"I've admired Matt's perseverance," David said. "He has dedicated himself to everything you need to do to become a state champion. This (signing the letter of intent) represents a happy ending to high school but also a new beginning."