Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Choinski, Azarian represent UWO

Sophomores Mark Choinski and Kody Azarian capped off the 2016-17 season for UW Oshkosh wrestling at the Division III Championship in La Crosse last weekend.

Choinski placed sixth at 157 pounds, racking up a 2-3 record in his first championship appearance. He defeated a pair of seeded opponents, advancing to the semifinal round of the 18-wrestler bracket.

Choinski fell in the semifinals by a score of 7-1 to second-seeded Logan Thomsen of Wartburg College (Iowa).

Choinski said he used the big stage as a lesson for greater goals as he enters his upperclassman years at UW Oshkosh.

“The experience at La Crosse was one to remember,” Choinski said. “It was also a lesson for the future. I am young, so I still have time to reach my goals. I will keep this in mind while I prepare myself for the next season.”

The West Allis native became the 11th Titan wrestler to receive NCAA Division III All-America honors and 20th among all UWO student athletes.

Choinski said he is not content with his accomplishments this season, and he will continue to work hard to reach the ultimate goal of winning a national championship.

“I always believe in myself so I never lacked confidence when it came to competition,” Choinski said. “Becoming an All-American is really great but I have my eyes set on a national championship. This experience has just given me more fuel to motivate my intentions on becoming the best in the nation.”

Head coach Efrain Ayala said coaching Choinski this season has been a privilege.

“Coaching Mark has been nothing short of an honor,” Ayala said. “He comes to us with a very unconventional background, and he has worked his way through many challenges. He has the work ethic and the drive needed to be a national champion, and that is someone who is very exciting to coach.”

Azarian said he enjoyed watching Choinski upset some of the high-seeded athletes in his bracket.

“I saw Mark determined to walk away with some hardware,” Azarian said. “Even though he didn’t get what he wanted, he still out-wrestled two people ranked ahead of him and also got revenge. I like to see him compete in a dominant matter.”

Azarian, a first-year transfer student from UW-Platteville, tore his LCL in a takedown of fourth-seeded Tim Ambacher of Delaware Valley University (Pa.) in the opening round of the 141-pound weight class. His injury led to him falling to fifth-seeded David Flynn of Augsburg College (Minn.) in the quarterfinal and then Brendon Seyfried of Williams College (Mass.) in the second-round of the consolation section.

Azarian said it was an unfortunate time to suffer a key injury, but he said he enjoyed the experience representing UWO.

“Competing on the big stage wasn’t anything new,” Azarian said. “I’ve wrestled in national tournaments all my life and there wasn’t much of difference. I enjoyed being there. But I’m not satisfied. I knew working hard and putting in the time would get me to where I need to be. I have the talent and mind set to beat anyone. If it weren’t for tearing my LCL, I would have been on the podium.”

Ayala said he was in complete awe of how Azarian continued to push through his injury.

“His win in the first round was nothing short of incredible,” Ayala said. “[After the takedown] Kody and I spent the next few hours trying to minimize the damage, ultimately a decision had to be made. There was no question about it, Kody wanted to wrestle. He gave it his all, but ultimately his knee was too damaged and he lost his next two matches.”

Choinski talked about Azarian’s competitive spirit and said they treat approaching their goals in similar ways.

“We want to be the best,” Choinski said. “Kody competes at a high level and has what it takes to be on top. I stood with him through a tough season and know first-hand what he is capable of. You will see big things from him in the next season.”

The Titans had 28 underclassmen on the team’s 31-man roster. Experience has not been on the Titans’ side recently, but the future remains bright with 96 percent of the roster returning next season.

Ayala said he is excited for the potential the future brings and the progress this group has made with experience in short supply.

“As a team, and individually, we are right on track,” Ayala said. “I look forward to next year and bringing Mark and Kody as well as others back to the national tournament. I am very proud of how far they have come in such a short time.”

Azarian said the work ethic of the squad and the talent that comes with it will be a perfect recipe when the experience level catches up to the potential of this team.
“UWO wrestling will be put back on the map coming soon,” Azarian said. “The talent is crazy in the wrestling room and there is no means of having a bad team. Everyone just has to put in the time and be positive about the results that come out of it.”

Choinski attributed the coaching staff for the success of the program.

“We are a young team, and we are still in the building process,” Choinski. “We are more than capable to being a top team in the nation. We have already competed with big teams, but we haven’t put all the pieces together yet. The Oshkosh wrestling staff has some of the best coaches around. They are the reason our program is going to be so successful in the future.”

UW Oshkosh says goodbye to the 2016-17 season and to senior Joe Pelkey who completed his college career with a record of 32-57 and four varsity letters. Pelkey was named to the 2015-16 NCAA Division III Academic All-America Team by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. He is also a member of the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 WIAC Scholastic Honor Rolls.

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