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Mara makes a splash as senior newcomer on wrestling mat

It was far from easy. And, frankly, some days he felt like giving up. But he didn’t. No matter how tough it got, Chris Mara stuck with it and earned his stripes. Now, Mara can proudly proclaim: I am a wrestler.

A Tonawanda High School senior, Mara, who was a stand out for the Warriors football team, decided he wanted to cap off his final year of scholastic sports with a new challenge. So, at the urging of co-captain and close friend Tim Barnard, Mara made his first journey into the wrestling practice room.

“Yeah Timmy and his dad have been getting on me since [football camp],” Mara said. “And since this was my senior year, I just wanted to give it a try.”

Longtime friends and teammates on the gridiron, Barnard knew Mara had the physical tools to succeed on the mat. But it wasn’t just Mara’s raw strength and athleticism that indicated to Barnard his friend could cut it as a grappler. It was something much deeper.

“He had such dedication to football that I knew he could apply it to anything he did,” Barnard said. “I knew he had the athletic ability and the heart to get through the season and he hasn’t failed yet.”

Mara, who wrestles at 189 pounds, found out quickly that wrestling was so much more than brute force. He saw that it was about technique, conditioning and relentless work like he has never seen or experience before in athletics.

“I did not expect this at all,” Mara explained. “It’s a lot of hard work and [I’m with kids] who have been doing it since they were 4- or 5-years-old. So they have so much more experience. It’s a little tough, but it’s alright. The first couple weeks, I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into but I can’t quit. And Tim and Cody [McGregor] just keep helping me.”

Most newcomers enter wrestling completely unaware of just how grueling the sport really is and end up quitting because they get tired or discouraged by the lack of success early on. A true gamer in every sense of the word, Mara’s heart would not let him check out early.

“He’s just got that desire to win,” said Barnard. “He wants to win and he’s learned to do what it takes to get good enough to win.”

Mara’s hardwork paid off when he scored back-to-back wins at Maryvale and Lackawanna in dual meets Dec. 18-19.

But the real payoff was when coach Jeff Hess gave him the Warrior of the Week award. Mara said receiving that honor is what told him he had officially arrived. He was a wrestler.

“It felt great,” Mara said. “It felt like all of the hardwork has finally paid off.”

Mara was fast to say none of it would be possible without the support and help from all of his teammates, especially Barnard and McGregor, who’s also a captain.

“After my first loss, they told calm down. More wins will come; it’s my first year,” Mara said. “They beat me up in here and give me a lot of tips and just make it easier for me.”

With a new frontier already conquered, the next question is, will Mara try a new sport when spring rolls around?

“No,” Mara said with smile as he shook his head. “Tim’s been trying to get me to do baseball.”

But Barnard, a member of the Warriors baseball team, has other ideas. “I’m going to try to drag him with me,” Barnard joked. “No matter what.”


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