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Former LW Central wrestler named head coach at Lemont

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Former LW Central wrestler named head coach at Lemont

Former Lincoln-Way Central wrestling star and New Lenox native Erik Murry was in the right place at the right time.

Murry was a four-year varsity wrestler at Central who qualified for two state championships while racking up multiple other accolades along the way, before going on to wrestle at Eastern Illinois University.

But being a part of Lemont High School’s wrestling program’s rise to success — including a state title last year — almost did not include Murry. 

Murry spent the last 10 years as an assistant coach under John St. Clair, who retired. Murry is a special education teacher at Lemont and in 2010 went to St. Clair about an opportunity to be an assistant, but hiring another coach was already in the works. 

But the paperwork did not go through for the original coach and that is when St. Clair came knocking. Fast forward 10 years and now Murry is the next head coach of Lemont wrestling. 

With the upcoming season still up in the air, though a spring start date is what is being targeted, Murry has been keeping his team’s spirits up.

“Even getting the job had a delay because of COVID-19,” Murry said. “But it has all been a positive experience and I just keep telling the kids that this too shall pass. I’m just trying to keep them positive and have them look forward to the season.”

Lemont won the 2019-2020 state championship, edging Washington, which won the previous four titles. 

“St. Clair had mentioned spending more time with his family and pulled the old John Elway and walked out on top,” Murry said with a laugh. “It was pretty cool to beat a defending state champ like Washington. It was a full team effort that we were able to get that win for Lemont.” 

Murry also attributes the success he has had to his former coaches as a wrestler and St. Clair, too. 

“The coaches we grew up with are in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I have had a lot of mentoring”

And heading into his first year as a head coach, spending the last 10 as an assistant, the relationships Murry has built over the years and the talent the team returns, has him confident that he has a team that can compete for another title this year. 

Murry’s brother, Rich, and dad, Al, both said one of the traits that has made Erik a successful coach is his ability to relate to the wrestlers.

“He’s been a part of this for the last 10 years,” Rich said. “He’s humble about it, but it takes work to get to where you’re at and build that trust.”

And that is something that rubbed off on Erik from St. Clair. 

“He’s always been about the team and the coaches,” Erik said. “It was never just about him. It was always about the team, the parents and the kids, and that helped them stick with the program.

“We’re from the same mold of what we want to get accomplished.”

Another trait that both Rich and Al said helps make Erik the coach he is is his ability to personalize his coaching to each of the wrestlers. 

Erik said that comes from his background working in special education. He also looks back on one of the greatest coaches he ever had, Al Logsdon, his cross country coach, for it as well. 

Erik joined cross country at Central primarily for conditioning. But that was until Logsdon told him that he was going to be helping the team, Erik said. 

“The communication was always important for us growing up,” Erik said. “Logsdon knew how to get the best out of every athlete on the team. He personalized everything. Now, I try to talk to the kids every time they get off the mat as tough as that can be sometimes. You have to modify your coaching to every kid.”

Erik also said that there is no better feeling than helping wrestlers out of their valleys, helping wrestlers reach their peak, and seeing those athletes off to college. 

And it all comes back to being able to relate to the athletes. 

“I tell them to have that hunger to win, but don’t think too much,” he said. “Slow down, take a step back and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The mental aspect of wrestling is just as important as the physical.”

Erik has seen the program grow as an assistant and inherits a state championship caliber team with many returning wrestlers, and tells them one thing.

“Prepare to defend, ready to repeat.”