National Signing Day: National I-AA champs get Witte
By Bret Strelow
Salisbury football star Gordon Witte helped deliver an outright conference championship to coach Joe Pinyan.
Pinyan, a graduate of Appalachian State, reacted in a similar manner when Witte revealed his college choice.
“He had that CCC championship smile on his face,” Witte said. “I guess I did something pretty good.”
Witte, an all-county defensive tackle, capped a memorable six-day stretch by signing with two-time national champion Appalachian State on Wednesday afternoon.
Witte is a member of Salisbury’s varsity basketball team, which clinched an outright CCC title Friday. He’s also an outstanding wrestler, and he won his state-leading 61st consecutive match Tuesday.
Salisbury officials threw a signing party Wednesday for Witte, who also had scholarship offers from Elon and Western Carolina.
“When I went to App, I was thinking the main thing that would make me want to go there was the fact they won two national championships,” Witte said. “When I went up there, I did enjoy myself and felt like I was at the right place when I met the players and coaches.
“I felt like I fit in with the school, and I really couldn’t think of any reason not to go there. It seemed like every question I had, they had the right answer to it.”
Witte left straight from a wrestling tournament in High Point to visit Appalachian a few weeks ago.
The Mountaineers claimed their second straight football championship by beating Massachusetts on Dec. 15, and Witte said ASU’s coaches will allow him to wrestle at the school if he wishes to pursue that opportunity.
“I’ll probably try it out and see how it works out,” Witte said. “If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, I’ve still got my first love, and that’s football.
“Football is really the only sport I knew I liked and had fun doing before I really started playing. Any chance I got to play football, I’ve always taken it. Wrestling is the second sport I got off to, and when I started wrestling it felt a lot like football. I didn’t want to sit still too long, so I always played football and wrestled as much as I could.”
Witte won the 1A/2A state wrestling title in the heavyweight division last year. He’s a four-time all-CCC performer and two-time county champion.
He didn’t amass eye-opening football statistics while plugging holes as an interior lineman for Salisbury’s defense, but Pinyan considered him a key component to the team’s success.
Witte also contributed to the Hornets’ offensive line, but Appalachian was looking for depth along the defensive line because three of its four starters were seniors.
“Everybody likes to have big guys on the field, but big guys that don’t play like they’re big guys and like to move around just as much as anybody on the field,” Witte said. “They see, I guess, the size and liked the hand speed and footwork.”
N.C. State, East Carolina and Marshall showed interest in Witte, and he attended the season-opening game between N.C. State and Appalachian.
The Wolfpack won that September contest 23-10, but the Mountaineers rolled off 14 straight victories to conclude their season.
That winning streak doesn’t compare in size to the one Witte has compiled on a wrestling mat, but he left Carter-Finley Stadium impressed with Appalachian State’s effort.
Now he plans to call Kidd Brewer Stadium home.
“His best football is probably ahead of him once he concentrates on it,” Pinyan said. “Even if he’s not wrestling, he can go watch it. It’s a great opportunity because they’ve had a lot of success the last couple of years.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com.