Chris Perez '16 (Beverly Schaefer)

Chris Perez ’16 (Beverly Schaefer)
Chris Perez '16 (Beverly Schaefer)

Wrestler Chris Perez ’16’s path to the NCAA Championships this year was a demonstration of English writer Samuel Johnson’s statement that “great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.”

A Long Island native, Perez tore his ACL near the end of a strong freshman campaign during the 2011-12 season. Taking the following year off from school to heal, he experienced the sudden death of his father, Hubert, and tore his ACL a second time. When he injured his ACL a third time at the beginning of his sophomore season, Perez’s future prospects on the mat seemed grim.

But despite doctors’ recommendations that he stop wrestling, Perez refused to give in. “After I tore my knee the third time, I said to the coaches, ‘ESPN is going to make a sweet story when I win the NCAAs,’ ” Perez said. With his right leg completely wrapped, he became the starter at 149 pounds this season and compiled a record of 19-11.

At the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships at Lehigh University, he upset nationally ranked opponents Cody Ruggirello of Hofstra and Penn’s Charles Cobb. Perez finished second in the tournament as he and 141-pounder Jordan Laster ’17 made the finals at consecutive weight classes. The two were among five Tiger wrestlers who landed berths at the NCAA Championships March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo., matching a program record.

At the NCAA tournament, Perez suffered a close loss in his first match against Alex Richardson of Old Dominion, but moved quickly through the consolation bracket. In his second wrestleback match, he gained revenge with a 10-6 decision over nationally ranked Ken Theobold of Rutgers, who had beaten him in February. Perez ultimately fell in the Round of 16 in a close 7-5 decision to Bryant Clagon of Rider, two matches away from All-American status.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from these experiences is that life is unpredictable,” Perez said. “I never really lost focus on my goals, and just looked at it all as part of my journey.” Looking ahead to next season, that postseason journey could continue closer to home: The 2016 EIWA Championships will be held at Princeton, and the 2016 NCAA Championships will be at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Quick Takes:

TRACK AND FIELD throwers competed at the Monmouth Season Opener on Saturday, where junior Brielle Rowe threw a personal best in the hammer throw of 47.58 meters.

MEN’S TENNIS, currently ranked No. 28 in the nation, took down No. 57 Penn to open Ivy play on Saturday at Jadwin Gym. Senior Zack McCourt and sophomore Tom Colautti led the way in the Tigers’ 6-1 win.

WOMEN’S TENNIS also posted an impressive 6-1 victory over Penn to start the Ivy season. After posting a 7-0 league record last season, the Tigers have won their last eight Ivy matches.

SOFTBALL began its Ivy season with consecutive wins over Brown in a Saturday doubleheader. Senior Alyssa Schmidt’s home run in the top of the first was the only run of the first game, as junior Shanna Christian posted seven shutout innings to maintain the Tigers’ lead. Another low-scoring contest followed, with the second game scoreless until the final inning. With freshman Kylee Pierce on third, sophomore Haley Hineman dropped down a bunt to bring home the game-winning run and give the Tigers their second 1-0 win of the day.