CHEYENNE – Before he got to Cheyenne East, Carter Rich was accustomed to being one of the fastest, strongest and best players on any soccer field he stepped on.

That changed during his freshman year with the Thunderbirds.

“Before that year, I had always played with kids who were my age and my size, but I was thrown in there with bigger and older kids,” Rich said. “I had to adjust, and I had to develop a mindset that I was never going to back down or give up.

“I may not be the biggest person on the field, but I have to get in there and make life tough for people.”

That fearless approach helped the 5-foot-9 midfielder score the game-tying goal during the 78th minute of the 2017 Class 4A state championship match. East went on to top Cheyenne Central 5-4 in overtime that afternoon.

His relentlessness earned Rich all-state honors as a junior. It also made him an attractive recruit for the Laramie County Community College men’s soccer team.

Rich recently signed a letter of intent to join the Golden Eagles this fall.

“He has all the qualities we’re looking for,” LCCC coach Vince Gibson said. “He is tough, his work ethic is good, he is dependable, and he learns quickly. He is college-ready physically, but he needs a little work on some things.”

“A lot of guys don’t understand the physicality of the college game, but I think he does. He doesn’t back down from anyone; he just goes and gets the ball. A lot of times, you have to teach players to be physical, but he already has that.”

Rich wasn’t sure he was going to play soccer collegiately until LCCC offered him a scholarship last month. He had offers to continue his career, but wasn’t sold on them. Instead, he was going to attend Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and focus on his academics.

“LCCC is the perfect opportunity for me,” said Rich, who plans to study business. “I get to stay home and play a really high level of soccer.

“I’ve always wanted to play college soccer, especially after my senior year was canceled (because of the COVID-19 pandemic), but I wasn’t going to go just anywhere.”

The Eagles made their first National Junior College Athletic Association tournament appearance this past fall, advancing to the semifinals.

LCCC is getting a player who rises to the occasion, and is one of the best players in Wyoming, East coach Ryan Cameron said.

“He was a role player his freshman year, but you could tell he was a gamer and was one of those kids who would compete at the highest level he possibly could, no matter what,” Cameron said. “He is not overly gifted with size or speed, but I don’t know anyone with a bigger heart than him. He is a scrappy little dude who doesn’t back down from anybody.

“One of the shames of our season being canceled is that he had a chance to be recognized as one of the finalists for Wyoming’s Gatorade player of the year, or even be a recipient of it. There are several good players in this state, but he is right there among the best.”

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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