For Ryan Winkler, school has always come first and then soccer second. So when the Monroe, Conn., native’s college recruiting process began, he ensured that approach never once wavered.
“Playing at such a high level was only going to be feasible if there was the high academic piece as well,” Winkler said. “I want to have a college experience that sets me up for life, whether that’s playing professionally or getting a good job.”
Winkler, a 17-year-old forward from Monroe, Conn., kept that value true to heart as he navigated the waters. And he solidified it all in early July by committing to the admissions process at Princeton, with plans to matriculate for the Fall 2019 semester if admitted.
Deciding on the Tigers was but another chapter in a hectic six months for Winkler, who received All-New England honors as a junior, having recorded 36 goals and 14 assists at Masuk High School.
The busiest part, arguably, was switching clubs. Since the third grade, the youngest of two boys had played for Connecticut FC. Through February, he played for them in the Boys ECNL, but made the “difficult” decision to join Beachside in the Development Academy.
“That was a very emotional decision and wasn’t easy,” Winkler said. “I decided I had to do what’s best for me if I want to play high-level, D1 soccer. There’s no doubt that was the right decision purely because I wasn’t getting the same exposure and looks that some of the DA players were getting.”
Shifting into the DA kicked Princeton’s interest into second gear, and Winkler produced, scoring five goals in 17 games this past season. He also drew serious interest from Notre Dame and Northwestern, but eventually the Ivy League program won out.
The Tigers haven’t recorded double-digit wins since 2015, as Dartmouth has run rampant in the conference. But that didn’t bother Winkler one bit. Far more important to him was the student-athlete experience and the chance to possibly study financial engineering.
“Honestly, whether or not they’re the best team in the Ivy League doesn’t really matter to me right now, because I know the school makes the most sense for me,” Winkler said. “Hopefully if I get the chance to play for Princeton I would do everything I can to get them back on top.”
In 2018-19, Winkler will also strive to raise the level of Beachside, a club that propelled his college soccer dream. He’ll be joined by two other early D1 commits, including center back Zach Dedrick (Wilton, Conn./Notre Dame) and goalkeeper Cam Pelle (Fairfield, Conn./Elon).
Winkler said he needs to work on his finishing and hold-up play in possession. He can do that, however, knowing his college soccer future is on its way.
“Princeton will really allow me to get the best of both worlds,” Winkler said.