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Prep zone: Witkowski to hold off on college to train with Fire

Cody Witkowski is operating in reverse – he’s going to receive a glimpse into the professional world before heading off to college.

While many of Witkowski’s fellow class of 2012 Batavia soccer players are departing for college later this month, Witkowski is sticking around, though he won’t exactly be a homebody.

Witkowski will train and play with the Chicago Fire Academy this year in preparation for a college soccer career at Northern Illinois, starting in fall 2013. Witkowski accepted an offer from the Huskies in July.

“It’s going to help me for college,” Witkowski said of his decision to put off college soccer for a year. “I just loved how they do things over with the Fire, so I didn’t really mind staying another year and playing with them. I actually wanted to.”

Witkowski plans to take classes at Waubonsee Community College but it will be a soccer-intensive year ahead, giving Witkowski a bit of insight into the life of a pro athlete. Witkowski has trained intermittently with the Fire’s developmental program since he was 16 but, now unencumbered by the time commitments of high school and Bulldogs soccer, he can immerse himself more fully into a rigorous training and travel schedule.

Witkowski, who said he will start training with the Bridgeview-based program in the next couple weeks, considered going straight to college but thought his long-term prospects would be improved by the extra year of intense training.

“I didn’t really get any [college] offers that really interested me,” Witkowski said. “I got an offer in 2012 from Northern that I was debating on taking but I talked to [Fire Academy director Larry Sunderland] and decided I could get more money from schools [later] so they said wait another year, play another year for the Fire, and I did get more scholarship money, which is what happened this year.”

Witkowski was a First-Team Chronicle All-Area selection after scoring 18 goals to go with 13 assists as a senior forward for Batavia last fall. He was part of a talent-rich senior class that included soon-to-be college soccer players Anthony Torres (D-I Belmont), Eduardo Cuautle (Aurora University) and Cody Balogh (St. Mary’s, Minn.).

Seeing those ex-teammates and others scatter in the near future might leave a lump in Witkowski’s throat, though he knows he won’t have much time for melancholy.

“It’s going to be different to see all my friends going away for school in the next couple weeks but I’ll be busy in soccer and I’ll be able to see them on breaks and stuff, so I’ll be fine with that,” Witkowski said.

Saints officially in Proviso field: As we reported in January, the St. Charles East boys basketball program will join the expanded, 32-team Proviso West Holiday Tournament this year.

The tournament officially announced its full field this week which, in addition to the Saints,  includes Wheaton Academy. The other teams in the field are Benet, Bogan, Brooks, Crespi (Calif.), Ellison, Hinsdale Central, Homewood-Flossmoor, Hope Academy, Lincoln Park, Maine South, Morgan Park, Morton, Nazareth Academy, New Trier, Oswego, Proviso East, Proviso West, Rockford Auburn, St. Joseph, Stevenson, T.F. South, Urban Prep West, Von Steuben and Westinghouse.

The tournament is slated to run from Dec. 22 to 31. The event will be the Saints’ third different Christmas tournament in a three-year span after switching from York to Glenbard West last season.

Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or

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