Jeff Kolpack, Published March 03 2013
Former Minot standout Wrona will play soccer professionally for an Ohio teamFARGO – Probably the final straw in John Wrona’s Division I soccer adventure last fall was walking into his dormitory room at the University of Detroit Mercy and not seeing his Xbox video game. He and his roommate were robbed.
Another time, he said he witnessed a drug deal going down in the hallway through the peep hole of his dorm door. There was also the time when three men approached him in an aggressive manner that had Wrona quickly changing direction.
“Later I find out an hour later they shot a kid,” he said.
He was sitting in the North Dakota State Memorial Union last week laughing about it now. The former Minot High standout transferred to NDSU this semester to continue his engineering studies.
He’ll leave in early May to play with the Zanesville (Ohio) Athletic Football Club in the National Premier Soccer League. The team will not affect his NCAA eligibility and he’s still keeping his D-I options open to transfer to another school.
Wrona committed to Detroit Mercy before his senior year at Minot. What he went through last fall semester, he said, was nothing he envisioned when he signed his letter of intent. Mercy is a private school with an enrollment of about 3,000 students that plays in the Horizon League. The Titans won the regular-season title last fall, although Wrona redshirted and didn’t play.
“I remember me and my roommate were sitting there that first night saying ‘it didn’t look this bad originally,’ ” he said. “I liked Detroit as a city and I had a lot of fun checking out the history part of it. But to think I was going to spend five years in that environment didn’t do it for me.”
He laughs that he still looks over his shoulder when walking around NDSU and Fargo. When stopped at a signal light around the Mercy campus, he said, he would move his head back and forth because of the feeling a gun was pointed at him.
“Part of going there was actually a good thing for me because I pretty much saw the hardest part of the country,” he said.
Forbes magazine backed up that statement naming Detroit No. 1 in “American’s most miserable cities.” But that’s all behind Wrona now, a defender who will be part of a fourth-tier soccer league behind United Soccer Leagues, North American Soccer League and the top dog Major League Soccer.
He’s already put in thousands of miles. While at Minot, he played for the South Dakota United Juventus team based in Pierre, meaning he drove 315 miles one way to Pierre to practice once a month.
Wrona is a rare North Dakota D-I soccer recruit with the likes of Fargo South’s Jacob Weiler, who recently signed at Nebraska-Omaha, and Jamestown goalkeeper Phil Boerger, who played at the University of Evansville and Syracuse University, finishing his eligibility in 2011.
The Zanesville club is part of a 59-team, four-division league. It plays in the Midwest division that includes a road game at Detroit City Football Club this summer.
It’s doubtful Wrona will have the warm fuzzies going back to the city.
“There were so many things that happened,” he said.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found