JACKSON TWP — He faced an ultra-competitive weight class from his freshman year on.
Drew Vlasnik never reached the PIAA Wrestling Championships as a result.
As for reaching success? The Seneca Valley senior has already latched on to that — and he's not letting go.
“He's had a number of impressive wins in his career. He's beaten eventual state placers ... came within 45 seconds of beating (Pine-Richland's) Cole Spencer and he was the WPIAL champion,” SV assistant wrestling coach Joe Montalbano said.
Vlasnik was a four-year WPIAL qualifier. He won 118 matches and lost 46 in his high school career, including three straight seasons of 30-plus wins.
But he wrestled at 138 pounds as a freshman and at 152 as a senior.
“Drew had a tough go of it,” SV coach Kevin Wildrick said. “Two of his years, he came within one win of getting to states. He had to wrestle at 138 as a freshman. It's always harder to break in that high because you're facing more experienced kids.
“This year, 152 was one of the deepest weight classes in the district and Drew was battling an injury the latter part of the year.”
Vlasnik suffered bruised ribs during a match in late January.
“Six of them were knocked out of place,” Vlasnik said. “It was painful, but I had to fight through it. This was my senior year. I wanted to help the team win duals, too.”
During Vlasnik's sophomore and senior years, the Raiders placed among the top six in the PIAA team tournament.
“Drew was a big part of that,” Wildrick said. “He was willing to move around (in weight class) to help structure our lineup.”
While Vlasnik has been a wrestler since third grade — “My mom saw a flyer about the sport and wanted me to try it” — he's been a stellar student as well.
He carries a 5.4 grade point average and plans to major in computer science and economics at the University of Chicago. Vlasnik will be wrestling at the Division III school as well.
“That's a high academic school,” Montalbano said. “Drew will be enjoying the best of both worlds.”
He plans to thrive in both worlds as well.
“I'm excited about having the opportunity to join a college program and continue my wrestling career,” Vlasnik said. “I know the competition will be tough, but my goal is to crack the lineup as a freshman.”
Chicago State was ranked 14th nationally in Division III at the end of last season. Leo Kocher has been head coach of the Maroons for 41 years and has produced 25 All-Americans, along with a pair of Division III national champions.
His teams have won 17 University Athletic Association titles.
“Everybody on this team has high academic standing. Our admissions office demands that,” Kocher said. “We've been able to put together an extremely talented roster with that stipulation.
“We have three Fargo (national freestyle) All-Americans on our team. Two, a freshman and a sophomore, qualified for nationals this year. We have three Illinois high school state placers on the roster.”
Kocher has a few former Pennsylvania high school matmen as well, with Vlasnik joining that list.
“I'm thrilled to get Pa. wrestlers because I know how driven, hard-working and tough they are,” the coach said. “Drew fits that mold. He'll be a good fit here.
“Kids are running out of places to wrestle. There's only 70 Division I programs left and there are plenty of Division I caliber wrestlers. We get our share of them.”
When Vlasnik graduates from college, he plans to pursue a career in computer programming.
And take a sabbatical from wrestling.
“When I have kids of my own someday and if they get into wrestling, I'll get back into it,” he said. “I'd love to see my kids benefit from the sport the way I have.”