Wrestling: Chris Katsafaros looking to advance to state finals
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent February 7, 2013 9:16PM
Chesterton senior Chris Katsafaros tries to flip Portage senior Stephon Wilkins during the Duneland Conference wrestling tournament Saturday, January 12, 2013, in Crown Point, Ind. Katsafaros defeated Wilkins in their 145 pound bout. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:35AM
Considering everything he endures in practice each day, it’s no wonder Chris Katsafaros looks forward to matches so much.
“I’ve loved the meets this year,” said Chesterton’s 145-pound senior, who’s won 37 of 38 outings heading into Saturday’s semistate.
“He’s had a really good year because we have some pretty good support kids (Hunter Rucklos and Sawyer Hallas) for him to practice with,” Trojans’ head coach Chris Joll said. “My assistant coaches (Jason) Cook and (Brian) Swallow work him pretty good in practice, too.
“We all make sure Chris goes a little bit harder and gets a little bit extra. We make sure he crawls out of practice a little bit slower every day. We work him to the point of exhaustion. We’re always pushing him — trying to give him a good practice no matter what — one that requires a substantial amount of effort.”
Katsafaros believes his teammates and coaches have really prepared him in the quest to realize his dream of placing at the state finals.
“Wrestling with Coach Cook is like running 100 sprints,” he said. “He has a motor that just never stops. I have to keep going no matter what, or he’ll beat the crap out of me. Coach Swallow is more of a teacher. He knows what works and what doesn’t — like the cradle. He’ll teach me how to tap-out someone in pain, or how to get the pin real fast. He’s more technician with me.”
Those grueling practices with teammates and coaches have only bolstered the talented wrestler’s confidence and made him believe he can attain his goals.
“Right now, my goal is to win semistate, and I think I can,” said Katsafaros, who qualified for state the past two years. This time around, the hard-nosed Trojans’ star, who absolutely detests losing, has specific goals to place and make it to the finals.
First things first, though.
“We’re just worried about our next match right now,” Joll said. “We’re worried about semistate and just getting out of there with the highest place we can. We’re not going to count our chickens before we open the carton and see what we’ve got going (next).”
Yet, Joll believes Katsafaros could have a big day Saturday.
“I really think there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to win that,” he said. “Winning semistate clearly puts him in a better position for the next weekend.”
There are at least two really difficult semistate opponents Katsafaros could face.
The first is Mishawaka’s Tristan Macri — who beat him in a 2-1 double overtime decision in the title match at the Al Smith Invite six weeks ago.
While Katsafaros captured his fourth straight sectional title two weeks ago, and his first regional crown last week, he welcomes the opportunity to face Macri again.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “He was really good on defense. I couldn’t take him down, but he couldn’t take me down, either. That’s why the match was so close.”
Another challenger is Lowell’s Mitch Roadruck, whom Katsafaros pinned in 3:35 to win last week’s Crown Point Regional.
“If I meet Mitch again, it would probably be in the finals, since he’s in the opposite bracket,” Katsafaros said.
Regardless of the opponent, Katsafaros has proven to be a difficult matchup, because of his ability to adapt and overcome whatever comes his way.
“Chris can come at you really, really hard,” Joll said. “If people wrestle him that way, things don’t usually go very well. If you’re actively trying to attack him, he’s very good defensively, so it’s easy for him to win those kinds of matches. Technically, he can cut you up. If they stay hard in their stance, he’ll get tough with them.”
In other words, Katsafaros is versatile enough to wrestle any style.
“He can either run the ball up the middle, or run the option, I guess,” Joll laughed, in obvious reference to his success as the quarterback for Chesterton’s football team. “With all the experience he’s had, he’ll fight his way out of anything he gets into.”
This is Katsafaros’ 14th year in the sport.
“I think my best asset is on top,” he said. “I like cross-facing people and just trying to hurt them — not even going for the pin and just trying to break ‘em before I pin them. I think I’m just as good on defense as I am on offense. I’ll try and do something so fast, that they can’t react to it. By then, I’m getting my takedown or they’re on their backs.”
Katsafaros has proven himself very difficult to contend with, whether he’s quarterbacking his team’s offense, or having his arm raised after beating another opponent before exiting the mat.
He doesn’t plan to wrestle in college, but Katsafaros has designs on playing football next fall.
“Right now, I’m going to Indiana State and will walk-on,” he said. “If I get accepted at Purdue, I’ll go there and tryout as a walk-on. Most of my family has been at Purdue (two aunts, one of whom is a pharmacist) and I’d like to go there myself.”
Somehow, one gets the feeling Katsafaros can accomplish whatever he sets out to do.