Captain Spotlight: Team Leadership in an Individualized Sport
By Colin Lawless, Staff Writer
The Gettysburg wrestling team finished in fifth place at the 2023 Centennial Conference wrestling championship at Ursinus after scoring 47.5 points. They had four individual top-three finishes, led by Luke Kowalski’s ’24 individual title win at 133 lbs that earned him Most Outstanding Performer. Brendan Loder ’23 was runner-up at 197 lbs, Jake Stein ’23 finished third at 141 lbs, and a few others rounded out a strong effort by the Bullets.
As the end of his senior year approaches, team captain Cooper Leszczuk ’23 reflected on his leadership of the team.
Leszczuk is from Indian Hill, Ohio, and will graduate with a degree in Business, Organizations, and Management.
Leszczuk said he decided to attend Gettysburg to wrestle because, “I was looking for a school that had good academics, was smaller, and seemed like home. After visiting numerous colleges, Gettysburg had such a community feel to it.”
In addition to his connection to wrestling, Leszczuk has always appreciated the other opportunities available to him at Gettysburg.
“What really pushed me towards Gettysburg was the balance of social life, student life, and athletic life. All three of these things are important and difficult to manage equally, but the coaches here put an emphasis on academics and enjoying life outside of wrestling,” said Leszczuk.
Wrestling, while a team sport, is also individual in nature, making it somewhat different from other sports at Gettysburg. Like with all athletics, however, there are highs and lows. Because of this, Leszczuk experienced many rewarding and challenging parts of wrestling at Gettysburg.
He explained, “The most rewarding part of wrestling at Gettysburg has been watching myself and the team grow as a whole. For the first time in over two decades, we beat Messiah in a dual 20-19 this season.”
Leszczuk explained that Messiah is an athletic powerhouse in almost every sport, so this win was one that he will not soon forget.
He highlighted that the most challenging aspect of being on the team is balancing school and his social life throughout their six-month season. Leszczuk said this is an especially heavy workload, given that the team competes in both the fall and spring seasons.
However, he highlighted that his teammates kept him going if he ever started to struggle with the workload.
“It is challenging to stay motivated both in school and on the mat, but that is where my teammates come in. We constantly push each other on the mat but also off the mat. We want to be Scholar All-Americans and to show that you cannot just be a good wrestler, but you need to be a good student,” said Leszczuk.
For Leszczuk, making the most of his final season has been something he has focused on.
He shared, “In my senior season, I have never been on a team that is so close. The team chemistry is a ten out of ten. Everyone on the team has each other’s backs. We sit together after every practice for hours in Servo, even when some of us can’t eat as much because we need to make weight!”
As a captain, Leszczuk has gained leadership skills, which he hopes will help him in post-grad life.
When asked about how he will use these skills after college, Leszczuk said, “Being a captain is not just pushing people to be better wrestlers, but I also needed to be there for people this year. Something I have learned as a captain is some people lead by yelling, some by example, but I am a leader in the sense that you can always count on me and always come to me if you need anything.”
Regarding his plans after graduation, Leszczuk shared, “I have already accepted a position in Milwaukee, WI, at Kohl’s headquarters where I will be working in their marketing division. The skills I have learned as a captain will aid my communication skills, help me be accountable, and improve my overall leadership.”