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Wrestling Team Buys in to New Coach’s Style

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As the fall sports season comes to a close, wrestling has already been in full swing for nearly a month. This wrestling season marks a new chapter in Fenwick sports, as first year head coach Peter Kowalczuk looks to make his stamp on the program.
Last season was highlighted by both team and individual successes, and the new coaching staff will look to capitalize on the positive momentum.
Kowalczuk does not need to go far to find his new wrestling home. In fact, he can stay on East Avenue. After graduating from OPRF in 2007, Kowalczuk returned to his alma mater as part of the wrestling coaching staff. In between his times at OPRF as athlete and coach, he led an accomplished wrestling career on both the national and international stages.
Although the two schools are different (OPRF is in the 3A division while Fenwick is in 2A), Kowalczuk will look to elevate Fenwick to the same level as OPRF, a level that has led OPRF to win four state championships since 2009.
The new coach has already used his connections with OPRF to benefit Fenwick. During the offseason, Friar wrestlers traveled down the block to wrestle with OPRF for practice.
While Fenwick commences the changing of the guard, it was a given that there would be differences between one coaching staff and another. Captain Adam Aguilar likes this change, however, saying, “Personally I like the new staff’s approach to wrestling: an aggressive heavy hands offense and overall explosive wrestling philosophy. The practices also have a different look.”
These practices are challenging, but are required of a successful team. After the practices, which usually run between two and two and a half hours, Coach Kowalczuk always ends with a talk to the team. The topics of these talks include toughness, proper diet, and gratitude. The wrestlers often find these end of practice talks as a motivation for the season.
A common theme that keeps reoccurring when talking to the team is the intensity of conditioning under the new coaching staff. A typical week includes practice after school everyday. These practices are supplemented by weightlifting before school on Mondays, and an additional lift after practice on Wednesdays.
Jacob Kaminski agreed that he enjoys the new practice format. When speaking of the practices Kaminski said, “Practices usually start with warm ups such as tumbling. From there we do a number of things such as takedowns and defense from the top and bottom positions, different variations of tilts. After that we might learn a new technique, then we go into live wrestling. Practices are then ended with conditioning.”
Although it may seem excessive, the conditioning will prove critical, as it gives Fenwick wrestlers additional energy late in matches. Many of the wrestlers are multi-sport athletes, and have stayed in shape over the course of the offseason by playing other sports. This has made the transition back to practice not as difficult as it may seem.
Liam Mahon is an All-Conference rugby player, while Jacob Kaminski has started on the defensive side of the ball for Fenwick’s varsity football team the past two years. Having the majority of wrestlers compete in other sports gives Fenwick an advantage once the season comes around, since they are already in top athletic shape.
Most important of all, however, academics will most definitely be a focus of this regime. Coach Kowalczuk has already implemented a study hall after school on Tuesdays.
When talking about the added study hall, sophomore Michael Adler said, “We have more than enough time to do our homework for that night as well as a chance to get ahead for the week in whatever classes we can.”
Balancing the tough work schedule of wrestling with the academic workload that Fenwick requires is something that members of the team have done well. The team features multiple National Honor Society members, along with a constant representation on the honor rolls.
Outside of the classroom, the team already has lofty goals as the season begins. Regional and sectional titles are in the team’s sightlines, and Fenwick has more than enough firepower to get the job done.
Adam Aguilar looks to place at the state tournament after making it the tournament last year. Similarly, Jacob Kaminski will attempt to capture the state championship after his remarkable run last year.
Over the course of the season, Fenwick will look to take down fellow Chicago Catholic League schools, as well as area rivals such as Riverside-Brookfield and St. Patrick High School, the latter being one of the main blockades to a regional title every year.
The tool that Fenwick will use to drive their team success is energy. Aguilar exclaimed, “A strength this year is the energy that the team brings everyday. Practices get hard but with great teammates who want to get better and bring a great attitude, it’s easier to work through them.”
This year’s team will look for a mixture of veteran and youth leadership in order to accomplish their goals. Accomplished senior wrestlers such as Adam Aguilar, Liam Mahon, and Aidan Flaherty are sure to make the transition between coaches smooth, as each have already proved a history of hard work and determination throughout their careers.
Also helping with the transition will be Fenwick’s not so secret weapon, Jacob Kaminski. As a freshman last year Kaminski amassed a perfect record heading into the state playoffs. He would eventually go on to take fourth in state, leading to him being named an All-State honoree.
Kaminski kept it rolling onto the summer circuit where he competed in multiple national tournaments such as the Cadet National Dual Tournament, where he was coached by none other than Peter Kowalczuk. This combination of depth from various classes will given the team a unique chemistry, as well as allow the program to flourish in the coming years.
Although the team is still in a transition period, one thing is clear: the team is headed in a positive direction. The wrestlers have responded well to the tutelage of Coach Kowalczuk, and his track record shows his great potential at the helm of the Fenwick wrestling program. As the season carries on, look for the team to improve by leaps and bounds in its campaign to capture both team and individual championships.

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Wrestling Team Buys in to New Coach’s Style