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Family influence has Wendling headed to Purdue to study Engineering

The pandemic allowed Ethan Wendling more time to make money.


Southwestern High School was forced to go to virtual learning in March 2020 because of COVID-19. Students were outside of the school walls for nearly five months.


“I didn’t get much of a break because my dad is his own boss in construction so I was working with him,” said Wendling, the son of Albert and Tonya Wendling. “I always worked for him in the summer but I got an extra two months to work.”


The extra time to work did not bother Wendling but he was surprised when he returned to Southwestern in August for his senior year how much he missed his friends and classmates.


“It was more the lack of social life that I missed. I was with my family all day,” he said. “When I got back to school, I kind of forgot what it was like to talk to all my friends. It was kind of nice to come back.”


Wendling slipped right back into his school routine and finished his final year as salutatorian of the Class of 2021.


Wendling will attend Purdue University in the fall to study Engineering.


“I have known for awhile I wanted to do engineering-type things,” he explained. “My great uncle worked at Cummins his whole life, so I got to go there and experience some things which was cool.


“Purdue is a really good engineering school and once I got in, I knew that was where I wanted to go.”


Engineering is still a broad major but Wendling likes Purdue’s approach to helping students find their area of interest.


“The first year, all freshmen in Engineering take the same classes,” he said. “Your sophomore year is where you go into your areas. So you get a whole year to decide what you want to do.”


Wendling is leaning toward Mechanical Engineering or Construction Management.


“I want to see more of what it’s like (at Purdue) before I choose,” he said.


Southwestern honored the Class of 2021 Friday with commencement ceremonies at the school. And while Wendling is officially done as a student, he still has his baseball uniform.


Wendling is part of Southwestern’s record-setting baseball team that will make its first regional appearance Saturday since 1999. The Spartans take on Shakamak at 10 a.m. in the first regional semifinal game at Morristown.


Wendling is a Southwestern lifer, coming all the way through the school system. That has led to some special memories.


“This year for our senior class, we kind of got our own little field day,” he said. “And we played our final basketball game at the elementary playground. We were always playing basketball every day at recess … that was the best.


“Some days you had people coming in mad. It was always a fun memory. One time I even rolled my ankle so bad I ended up in a wheelchair. Someone dove in water one time. It was always crazy.”


The next time he steps into a classroom, it will be in West Lafayette, Indiana. Pandemic protocols are still a concern for colleges and universities, though, which could send students back to virtual learning.


“(Purdue) wants people to get vaccines and I already have mine so I don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “They are still trying to make it normal for people not vaccinated. I think they are trying to equalize it for everyone so they don’t have to get it.”


Until then, Wendling will play baseball and, of course, work.


“I will be working and making as much money as I can and, hopefully, having a little fun before I have to leave for Purdue,” he said with a smile.