OHIO CITY, Oh - A leader in the Wildcat Navy will continue his academic and rowing career at the University of Washington next year. Senior coxswain Chas Knittel is heading to Seattle, where he will compete for a National rowing powerhouse in Washington. Knittel is a four-year member of the Saint Ignatius Rowing program and will be essential to the Wildcat National Championship aspirations.
“I liked Washington because they have a strong team with strong academics. They have a winning tradition and compete in the college rowing championships yearly,” says Knittel. “When I visited last March, I enjoyed the campus and team and felt it was a good fit for me.”
Knittel raced under former Head Rowing Coach Connor Walters ’09 for the previous three seasons. Despite coach Walters moving on to Syracuse University over the summer, he is thrilled that one of his former student-athletes will continue his rowing career in college.
"Chas is a guy who knows how to seize and create opportunities for himself. He worked diligently to develop as a coxswain during the pandemic when opportunities were limited. He took responsibility for the crews he led last spring, including our Junior 8+ that finished seventh in the country,” explains Walters. “He was on his A-game communicating with college coaches and stopping by my office to ask for advice. His offer from Washington results from a ton of work he did mostly by himself."
Knittel’s dedication to the Wildcat Navy has gone a long way. During his junior year, Knittel was a member of the 2022 Midwest and National Championship Junior 8+ boat. “The experience was great to experience Midwest and Nationals. We had the opportunity to race against some of the best teams in the country,” Knittel says. “With the senior leadership from last season, it was a good experience for me to be a part of that and now, being a senior, I can carry on that leadership.”
In that 2022 season, Knittel and company won the Midwest Championship in the Junior 8+ and was a member of the team that placed seventh in the SRAA National Championship. As a coxswain, Knittel is the boat's leader, responsible for steering the boat and coordinating the right rhythm of the rowers. He has grown exponentially since his freshman year in that position.
“As a coxswain, it’s a job that requires a ton of confidence. When I came in as a freshman, I was pretty shy,” explains Knittel. “Over the years, I grew by putting in work physically, but most importantly, mentally. I trusted the process of communicating with my teammates and coaches, which helped me gain confidence over time.”
Although the Crew season begins in the spring, the Saint Ignatius Rowing program is hard at work during the fall competition season. After claiming a Midwest Championship and competing at Nationals, the Wildcat Navy is hungry for a return.
“We have had a strong fall season; we all felt the loss of the graduation class of 2022. They were great leaders. But we stepped up becoming the next leaders, we have had strong results in our first two fall regattas,” Knittel says. “The leadership of our class has been great and I think the freshmen are feeling at home.”
Nearing the end of the fall season, Knittel and the Wildcat Navy will compete at the Head Of The Charles Regatta in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Those races will take place the weekend of October 21. For the Wildcats, this will be an excellent opportunity to build into the winter.
“I am looking forward to the chance of competing for a National Championship. Our Varsity 8+ got a fourth-place finish last year, which was the best in program history,” Knittel says. “We have a shot to place a lot better this year and our goal is to continue to build; we won’t settle for anything less but a National Championship.”
Although Knittel is finished with the recruitment process, he knows the job is not finished and is excited to be a key leader for the Wildcat Navy and his former coach knows that he will continue to be a team-first member.
"I'm excited to see where Chas's coxing career takes him. He's humble, hard-working, and sets high expectations for himself and his crew. I enjoyed coaching him because of his hunger for ways to improve and acceptance of feedback, explains Walters. “He will rep Saint Ignatius very well in the top echelon of collegiate rowing."
Congratulations to Knittel as he will become a Huskie next year at the University of Washington, a program that consistently competes in the IRA National Championships.