K-M alumni leaves U of M with his head held high
Chase O’ Connor had a prolific varsity wrestling tenure at Kasson-Mantorville High School. He was an All-State selection two times, an All-Conference honoree two times, earned three varsity letters and helped the KoMets defeat Simley for the 2013 state team title.
After graduating in 2015, he began his career at the University of Minnesota by redshirting his freshman season. Over the next four years, he earned a 10-15 record while dealing with a slew of injuries. His collegiate career came to an end when he completed his redshirt senior season this spring.
Even though he didn’t achieve as much individual success at the collegiate level as he did in high school, he’s still enjoyed his collegiate wrestling career.
“In the past five years, I think the thing that I enjoyed most was watching how the team has grown together and just being able to be a part of it. I [also] enjoyed spending time with my teammates and seeing where everyone came from with the diverse backgrounds that seemed to come together and make up the team,” he said.
While wrestling is ultimately a team sport, it takes each wrestler putting in the work and wanting to be the wrestler they can be and O’ Connor was no exception.
Over his five years wrestling for the Golden Gophers, he felt like he got better and better each year.
“Over the last five years, I think the thing that I improved upon the most was just an overall better understanding of what it takes to be a great wrestler,” he said. “I think this helped me improve each year because it gave me something to focus on and things to improve upon.”
He enjoyed the individual side of wrestling, but he relished the team camaraderie and fans even more.
“I think the highlight of my last five years of wrestling had to be any exciting home match that we had. There was nothing like watching the fans get into the matches,” he said.
Unfortunately, O’ Connor’s collegiate career also had its share of lowlights.
“I seemed to be very unfortunate when it came to injuries. I had some sort of injury every year that I was here,” he said.
His injuries included multiple sprained ankles, torn meniscus, torn ACL, torn MCL, partially torn hamstring and a separated shoulder.
One silver lining of getting injured so frequently is he got accustomed to handling that adversity.
“The thing I learned the most was just being able to push through mental side of the injuries and to rehab right in order to get back on the mat,” O’ Connor said.
Despite having to push through those injuries and miss so many matches, he’s still satisfied with how his collegiate career went.
“It is hard not to be grateful for what wrestling gave me while I was at the university. My on the mat stats are not the prettiest but what I have been able to do off the mat [getting a job in the athletic department] is what’s going to drive my career in the future and it’s so much better than it otherwise would have been if I hadn’t been a wrestler,” he said.
O’ Connor currently works as an administrative assistant position in the Gopher Athletic Department. Unfortunately, it too has been affected by COVID-19.
“The biggest impact has just been not being able to be in the office and see people everyday. A lot of what I do in the office is face-to-face contact so it has been different trying to do everything from home,” he said.
After so many injuries, he’s more than ready to take on the adversity of working from home.
Whether he’s working at home or not, his career advancement and the relationships he’s gained wrestling are the main reasons he wouldn’t change anything about his past five years.
“I enjoyed my time here and all of the relationships that I made are irreplaceable,” O’ Connor said.
While he’s treasured his time as a wrestler, he’s ready to step away from the sport.
“Wresting will always be a part of me as I have learned valuable life lessons from it, but as of right now I have no future plans of getting into coaching,” he said.
Instead, he plans to use his sports management degree to go from being a student worker to obtaining a salaried position in the athletic department.