OHIO CITY, Oh - The Wildcat Lacrosse program continues to send student-athletes to the next level as midfielder Rocco Periandri has committed to Wingate University. The senior will take his talents to North Carolina to continue his academic and lacrosse career at the Division II level for the Bulldogs.
"My priority was to choose a college with great academics and I want to do something in the medical field," explains Periandri. "The fact I can continue to play lacrosse is amazing, I made two official visits, went to prospect day and they offered me."
Periandri began to see time at the varsity level in his junior year in 2022. He saw more and more time, but unfortunately, his season was cut short due to lingering injuries. Despite missing a good chunk of the season, Periandri took the opportunity to improve his game knowledge.
"Being on the team my junior year was a great experience," Periandri says. "Despite dealing with injuries, I got to see some minutes. But traveling with the team and being able to experience that elite level of lacrosse. When we went to New York, that was an out-of-this-world experience and showed that we can compete at that high level."
Head Lacrosse Coach Kyle Bernlohr recognized Rocco's toughness on the lacrosse field right away when arriving at Saint Ignatius High School in the off-season. "Rocco is a tough athlete that can play on both sides of the field. He's gritty, not afraid of contact, and willing to put his head down and get to work," Bernlohr says. "Toughness is always going to be a huge pillar of Saint Ignatius Lacrosse and Rocco brings that every time he steps on a field and certainly something that he can rely on as a strength of his game as he goes on to play at the next level at Wingate."
Periandri is a dual-sport athlete; for the first time in his high school career, he is a wrestling team member. In just his first season with the program, Periandri currently has seven match wins, including a big win against St. Edward in December. "This year, it was all about cardio, my strength has always been there, but I have lacked on the cardio end," explains Periandri. "I decided to join the wrestling team this year to help me improve with that aspect."
This winter, Periandri is using his experiences from the wrestling program to help when it comes to lacrosse in the spring. "The team aspect has gotten me in the mindset of being a leader. I was named captain of the wrestling team, which is new to me," Periandri says. "I feel wrestling prepares me for the leadership needed with lacrosse in the spring. This is helping me become more prepared and building my confidence as a leader."
The leadership of the senior class is always essential and coach Bernlohr knows that the team will go as far as its senior class. "Senior leadership is paramount to our success. I always remind the boys, "this isn't my team. This is yours. I will give you direction, but it will always be up to you guys to steer the boat". The best teams are the ones where the leaders of the pack make the engine run rather than the coaching staff," explains Bernlohr. "Having seniors, such as Rocco, look to do the right thing over and over again, which builds a level of respect and creates a culture that you want to be a part of and that starts to create the standard of Saint Ignatius Lacrosse.
Lacrosse season will begin in March and Periandri is excited for one more run with the Wildcats. "My favorite part of the lacrosse team is not just the sport but being around the guys," says Periandri. "I love the team dinners and meeting new families. We build team chemistry off the field and become better men."
Coach Bernlohr is excited to gain the senior when wrestling season ends. "I liked what I saw from Rocco early on in the fall during our small group training," Bernlohr says. "He goes hard in every drill and when he's out there, you just get the sense he cares and is hungry to get better. I'm excited to put all the pieces together with him come springtime."
Periandri will join a consistent lacrosse powerhouse in Division II at Wingate University in the fall and has made the NCAA tournament for the last three seasons. But before joining the Bulldogs, Periandri hopes to bring Saint Ignatius Lacrosse its first State Championship in 2023.