U of T welcomes Matt
Saint Michael’s Matt Wedler (22) has signed to play football at the University of Toronto.
There was no fancy signing ceremony Matt Wedler.
The Grade 12 student at Saint Michael spent a weekend at the University of Toronto in early March and about a week later, he received a letter of intent from the school offering him a football scholarship.
Normally the university would visit Saint Michael to make things official, but COVID-19 has tackled any such displays of recruiting affection for the rest of the spring.
Choosing the Varsity Blues was a no brainer for the 17-year-old Niagara Falls resident. He attended a Varsity Blues game in the fall and was impressed by the school’s football facilities and equipment.
“I knew that it was definitely the place,” Wedler said. “I really saw myself growing there as both a player and a person as well.”
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back chose Toronto from a list of potential suitors that included Guelph, Queen’s, Laurier, Windsor and Western.
The deciding factor for Wedler was the education he would receive at Toronto.
“I am a big school guy and the U of T is the most prestigious school in Canada and is the best education that I can get.”
Wedler, who boasts an average in the high 80s, is planning to study social sciences at Toronto with a major in criminology.
He played one year of minor football when he was 13 and has played with the Niagara Spears since then. He wasn’t intending to play with the Spears this summer so he could focus on strength and conditioning.
Wedler started to think about playing Ontario University Athletics football when he started attending Football Ontario and Canada Football Chat showcase events in Grade 10.
“I was performing well at them and then I got my first invites to camps from Waterloo and Laurier,” he said. “I started thinking that this could really be a thing. I didn’t really think I was on that level before.”
Wedler describes himself as a physical player who has a good awareness on the field, is able to read offences well and is an excellent communicator with his teammates.
His coaches at Saint Michael are effusive in their praise of him.
“Matt is one of the hardest-working, team-oriented, attention-to-detail and coachable players I have ever coached,” head coach Brian Carter said. “He is always happy to help out the team where needed.”
Carter loves that Wedler doesn’t get tired or hurt and he never complains.
“His skill set is very broad and he can be used on both sides of the ball and in many positions. His football IQ is large and heart is big,” he said. “We are going to miss him dearly at Saint Michael.”
Assistant coach Mark Antonelli called Wedler the Mustangs’ most dependable player on both offence and defence this past year.
“Defensively, he anchored the secondary and was dependable to make big tackles, interceptions and knockdowns when we needed it the most,” he said. “ He stepped up when our starting tailback, Jomer Mateo, went down in the semifinal with an ankle injury to take over tailback duties.”
Antonelli is excited to see Wedler land at Toronto.
“He has had experience with Team Ontario in the past and that will help transition him to thrive in a U SPORT training camp environment.”
Wedler knows he will need to step up his game to succeed at post-secondary football.
“To be at the next level, I have to get better at everything,” he said. “It’s strength, speed, endurance and everything physical and mental as well.”
It will also involve getting used to living and breathing football.
“You have to adjust to doing that many hours of football every week and it is a big increase from what everyone is used to,” Wedler said.
His goal for his rookie season is to get some playing time.
“I’d like to get on the field in some way, most likely special teams,” he said. “I really want to adjust to the lifestyle of being an athlete in university.”
He is looking forward to the entire university experience.
“It’s meeting new people and starting the next chapter of my life.”
To prepare for the upcoming season, he had been working out at home and following a strength and conditioning program he received from Toronto. If things return to some degree of normalcy this summer, Wedler is expected to start training camp Aug. 13.