Sophomore Peter Gianaris has gotten a headstart on his varsity athletic career at Loyola. In the fall, the Park Ridge resident started on Loyola’s offensive line, helping the Ramblers capture the Catholic Blue championship and take second in Class 8A. On Saturday, Gianaris will make his postseason wrestling debut in high school when he competes at 220 pounds at the Class 3A Glenbrook South Regional. Gianaris’ father, Nick Gianaris, and uncle, George Gianaris, both graduated from Loyola, where they played sports. George (Class of 1995) was a junior linebacker on the school’s 1993 Class 6A state title team. Nick (Class of 1981) was an offensive lineman for the Ramblers.
MAROON & GOLD: You missed nearly the first month of the wrestling season because of football and injuries related to football. What is your mindset as you prepare to enter the state series this weekend?
PETER GIANARIS: I am happy with where I am. After football, it was tough to get into it because every match at the varsity level is tough. But I am in great shape now and feeling confident. I’m going to take it one match at a time, but if I wrestle the way I know I can, I can beat anybody. My goal is to get to sectionals.
M&G: Monday, you practiced against Loyola graduate and former state qualifier Pat Dougherty (Class of 2010). How did that go?
PG: It was hard, but it was great. I’m trying to learn some final moves before regionals. I doing everything I can to get ready. I just want to do my thing and not get caught up in thinking about anything else.
MG: Each wrestler seems to have his own way of preparing himself for a match. What is your routine?
PR: I get nervous before every match. I jump up and down and stretch and try to get into the zone. I focus on my opponent and go through the game plan in my head. Mental toughness is huge in wrestling. It’s one of those sports where you can be evenly matched with someone, but you win because you mentally outlast your opponent.
M&G: You grew up in Park Ridge and went to Emerson Middle School. I imagine it was difficult for you when Loyola lost to Maine South in the Class 8A state final your freshman year.
PG: Yes, it was. I know a lot of those kids. Most of my friends went to Maine South, and I was expecting to go to Maine South. But I shadowed Loyola in seventh and eighth grade, and I really liked it. I took the test, and I got accepted. It helped that my dad and uncle both went there. My younger brother [Teddy Gianaris] who is in eighth grade plans on coming to Loyola.
M&G: Did you find it hard to make the transition?
PG: I was nervous for the first day of football because I didn’t know anybody. But everybody was super nice, and it made going into the school so much easier.
M&G: Mike Kotowski told me he’s never started a sophomore in his 12 seasons as Loyola’s offensive line coach. You started at right tackle in Week 1 and later were joined on the line by sophomore Christopher Kelly. What was the experience like?
PG: It was an honor that the coaches thought I could handle the job both physically and mentally. It was a lot of hard work to get there, and it was challenging at times. I feel like I held my own out there.
M&G: You played multiple positions on the line, which is something I know Kotowski values in his linemen.
PG: He puts an emphasis on that. He says the more you know, the more valuable you are. The more positions you know, the better chance you have to play.
M&G: Who were some of the players who helped you during your first season on varsity?
PG: I gravitated toward [senior linemen] Ryan Hagedorn and Charlie Gross. They both taught me a lot about what to do. [Senior quarterback] Quinn Boyle also was a great leader.
M&G: Even though you will be a junior next year, do you think you will be looked at as a leader, especially on the offensive line?
PG: I believe I can be a leader. I learned a lot from the seniors this past season. I know the playbook well, and I believe I can definitely help others when they have questions.
M&G: You didn’t play a spring sport as a freshman. Will that change this year?
PG: I am going to try out for lacrosse. I’ve played it since sixth grade, and I love it. I didn’t do it last spring because I was focused on gaining weight for football. This also might be the last time I get to play it. I want to play football in college, so I probably will use the springs my junior and senior years to work out.
M&G: What are your interests outside of sports?
PG: I play the saxophone. My parents wanted me to learn an instrument, so I picked it up in sixth grade. I like the doing both the arts and sports. It’s a good balance.