Success continues for Wheeling grad Nowry
When he was a fifth grade student at Field Elementary School in Wheeling, Max Nowry's father signed him up for the Wheeling Park District's floor hockey program.
When the activity failed to produce enough applicants that year, it had to be canceled.
"So then, my day signed me up for wrestling," Max said.
Nowry reacted with joy.
"It was something new and exiting," he said. "There were all these little kids rolling around, getting out a lot of energy."
Nowry's energy for the sport never waned and to this day, it is alive and kicking more than ever.
Nowry was recently named USA Wrestling's Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year for 2019 and is a potential medal candidate in the Olympics next year.
He had the top placement of any U.S. Greco wrestler at his first senior world championships in 2019, placing fifth at 121 pounds. He is the top-ranked U.S. wrestler at that weight.
Nowry is hopeful he can make the Olympic team for the first time.
The 30-year Wheeling High School grad became the first state champion in Wildcats' history by going 43-0 and winning the 2008 IHSA crown at 103 pounds. He set a program record with 156 takedowns for a season.
"When you're at a young age, everyone wants to be the best," Nowry said, thinking back to his junior high (London in Wheeling and Winston Campus in Palatine) and high school days. "You want to make an NFL team or an Olympic team. And to be able to somewhat live out my dream now is constant motivation."
That's why Nowry can't wait for the Olympic trials, which were originally scheduled for this past April but because of the COVID-19 pandemic have been suspended until April of 2021.
"I was close to qualifying for the Olympics (second in the 2012 U.S. team trials) in 2012," said Nowry, a staff sergeant in the Army and member of the Army World Class Athlete Program in which he coaches many of the soldiers at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs.
"Things didn't go too well in 2016. I'm 30 years old now and I feel competing in the United States, it takes a little longer to peak. I think I'm in the right window right now."
He still remembers reaching his teenage years and getting to watch the best of the best.
"The world team championships and Olympic trials were in Indianapolis in 2003 and my dad took my friend and I," Nowry said. "We got to see those guys compete for the top spots. So I knew what my goals were from a young age. To see all the top guys who I loved watching in college competing then at that top level, made me realize that's where I wanted to get to.
"Now that I'm at that level and the age, it makes it all a little more exciting."
Nowry was excited to wrestle from the get-go.
His first club coach was Dave Durlacher, whose brother Lindsey was an All-American before winning a bronze medal at the 2006 World Championships and helping the U.S. win a Greco-Roman wrestling world team title in 2007.
"At the time I was starting, Lindsey was wrestling on the senior level so I kind of knew how far the sport went in terms of the international stage," Nowry said.
At first, Nowry didn't consider how far he could go.
"But when I quit playing football and baseball and started wrestling year-round at a young age, that's when the big dream became a goal and mission of mine," he said.
Lindsey Durlacher was a big inspiration.
"His brother Dave did a really good job of teaching the basics and ran a very good youth program," Nowry said. "Whenever Lindsey had some free time, he'd come into our wrestling room and put us through a workout.
"There'd be times my friend and I were fortunate to have one-on-one sessions with Lindsey. He'd run us through a workout in either my friend's basement or he'd run us out to Northwestern (University, where he was coaching)."
Nowry emphasized the importance of his surroundings.
"From a young age, a lot of things were right there for me -- great coaches and someone like Lindsey just reaching his prime," he said. "He was making the senior world team and winning a bronze medal yet he had time for us. I was interacting with him and by seeing everything happen for him right in front of me, just motivated me and I wanted to have same goals he had."
Nowry was hoping to go after those goals this summer. Obviously that timetable has been altered.
"We've been on hold for more than a month," said Nowry, a five-time member of the Greco-Roman national team, including holding the No. 2 ranking in 2012 and 2018.
At the beginning of March, Nowry competed in the Pan-American championships in Ottawa, Canada. When he got back to the U.S., things kind of starting slowing down."
"We've started doing a lot of cleaning in the wrestling room and had to limit how many people we had in there," Nowry said. "Shortly after that, the room was shut down and then the Olympic training center down the street closed down."
So now, Nowry said he and the athletes he coaches are working out on their own and giving their bodies a little break."
And before long, Nowry is hoping to be giving another crack at some Olympic history.