With a new head coach at the helm, RIT’s wrestling team is off to a brand new and exciting start. Head coach Jason Bovenzi, who has smoothly made the transition from his former assistant position, is very eager for what this next chapter may have in store for the team.

“I am excited to see where we can take the program. And I think these guys are excited to see where it can go,” he said. “In just a few months we’ve seen some visible changes having to do with work rate. We’re really starting to sort out those who have goals, and those who just thought they’d join a college wrestling team because they wrestled in high school and figured they’d join the team. That’s not what college athletics are like - you’ve got to be focused, you’ve got to be driven.”

"With wrestling, you could do everything you want and work hard - but you've got someone else who is out there on the mat that wants the same exact thing as you."

Wrestling is an inherently taxing sport that demands a lot of out its atheletes — so the ability to find that drive and focus is absolutely critical W. “With wrestling, you could do everything you want and work hard - but you’ve got someone else who is out there on the mat that wants the same exact thing as you,” explained 5th year Game Design and Development major Nick Greenquist. “They’re going to try to kill you to get it. We have to go through that every weekend. I don’t think many people understand how difficult that can be.”

Greenquist’s teammate Sam Weinger, a 3rd year Business Management major, was in agreement. “If I could convey anything about the sport, it’d be how much your mind gets focused on it,” said Weigner. “Because before a match, when you’re about to step out — if you mess up or do something wrong, everyone sees it, and it directly equates to a harder time for you.”

However, according to Bovenzi, the team is constantly rising to the challenges that the sport presents. “The guys that we have want to be good. They’ve really embraced the training and the technique, and they’re applying it,” he said.  

For some of his athletes, the trials that come with wrestling were what actually led them to pursue the sport in the first place. “One thing that drew me to wrestling when I was younger was that wrestling is very difficult,” said 4th year Criminal Justice major Jake Sepor. “It’s something that you can’t master. You spend time, day after day, working hard to perfect it.”

For others, it was the discipline and structure that wrestling provides that initially attracted them. “I do a lot of other things, but wrestling is my main focus,” said 2nd year Civil Engineering Technology major Dempsey King. “It gives me a purpose, and it helps me stay disciplined academically, and stay on a good sleep schedule. If I don't dedicate myself to something in the off season, I lose that.

The motivation and discipline these athletes posses will prove very useful in the challenging months ahead.  “It’s tough to be at the top of your game and sustain it for four months. It’s impossible,” said Bovenzi. “We just have to make sure that we are healthy, fit and mentally trained for the regional tournament.”

If the demands of wrestling season were not enough, these guys have placed some difficult expectation on themselves as well. When asked what their goals for the rest of the season were, Sepor, Greenquist, Weinger, and King all immediately answered that they would like to be an All-American, an award given to the top 8 finishers in their section at nationals.

In order to make that dream a reality, the team will be back at it practicing after a mere 13 days of winter break. “They’ll be here for about a month without classes - and that’s where real progress is made,” reported Bovenzi. “So it’ll be taking care of your body, training and getting better technically, wrestling smarter, and managing matches.”

Despite the demanding practice schedule and the challenges ahead, Bovenzi’s athletes would not have it any other way. “Wrestling has enhanced my college experience,” said Weinger. “I feel like if I was just taking class, that is less than half of what I experience at RIT. A lot of it is being down here [Clark Gym] working with my team, and traveling - if all of that was gone, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing.”

For Greenquist, wrestling has been a process of self-discovery. “It’s made me the person that I am. It sounds really cheesy, but I found myself through wrestling,” he said. “It really hit home when I took a year off that I realized what I was missing.”

With the leadership of these four dedicated athletes and the guidance of coach Bovenzi, the future looks very promising for the wrestling program. In the next handful of years, Bovenzi hopes to only further the strength of the team. “My hope is that in the next two years, we’ve evolved into a program where we’ve got 35 guys who are strong and all want to be competitors,”

"I want to create an environment where they feel like they can be successful."

In the meantime, Bovenzi hopes to assist his current team in having their best season yet. “I want to create an environment where they feel like they can be successful. I want it to be fun,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of exciting things going on right now. We’ve got new wrestling mats, we’ve upgraded murals on the wall - you have to spend so much time in their working hard, it’s nice when it looks good. We’re also getting a new locking room. So these guys work hard, and they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. If there are things that I can to do generate funds to enhance their experience while they’re here in college, I’m going to do that.”

Without question, this is a thrilling time for RIT’s wrestling program. In order to see the team compete, come to the Clark Gym on January 25 as they take on Brockport in a key matchup before regionals. Not only will this competition be the team’s Tiger Den event, it will also be the senior night for many of the team’s top performing athletes. So come out and show your Tigers some support!