January 12, 2012

LM JuCo Men's Preseason Player of the Year: Thomas Klosowski

Ohio State-Bound Defenseman a Stud for Onondaga

by Justin Feil | LaxMagazine.com

Onondaga coach Chuck Wilbur said Thomas Klosowski always had the athletic ability. "Now he understands slides and team defense concepts," he said. "He's always been a good cover guy. Now he has the ability to play team defense."
© Greg Wall

Thomas Klosowski used to climb through a window to get into the weight room at Gulliver Prep in Florida, but he needed Onondaga Community College for his true window of opportunity.

Despite an All-America finish at Gulliver, the defenseman did not have a college offer, and he had all but given up playing lacrosse at the next level and was ready to stay in the Miami area.

"I was ready to stop playing and coach down here," Klosowski said. "I was going to see if I can help the sport grow."

But acting on a tip from a Gulliver rival, Onondaga head coach Chuck Wilbur contacted Klosowski over the summer about continuing his career at the New York junior college.

"He said, we've won four out of five national championships, and I told him, 'Sign me up,'" Klosowski recalled. "I'll take a chance. I'd never seen the school. I knew they were champions. I wanted to go somewhere where I was going to win."

Recruiters missed Klosowski in part because he missed so much of his junior year with mononucleosis and missed the end of his senior season as well, including the playoffs, due to injury. And he was from Florida, a hotbed for athletes, but not necessarily lacrosse players.

"We had great players, we had a great team, especially my class," Klosowski said. "We relied a lot on our athleticism, not as much of our lacrosse IQ. When things got hectic and things weren't going toward a certain structure, you'd play with instincts.

"In my head, I was the kid from Florida who didn't have experience and didn't have the experience anyone else had on the team," said Klosowski, who will again by the lone Floridian on the Lazers this year. "I just figured I'll try it out and stay if I like it."

It couldn't have worked out better for the both of them. Klosowski came to Onondaga and started as a freshman. In the Lazers' run to their third straight national championship, Klosowski garnered second-team All-America honors and became a sought after defender by Division I schools.

"He's probably the most athletic defenseman we've had," Wilbur said. "He's 6-1, 210, and he runs like a deer. We timed him in the 40 at 4.6. The kid can run, and he is strong. He's a gym rat. He always works out. He's tops on the team in bench press. He's got all the records for bench press.

"He's a kid that works hard. His stick skills stand out. His athletic ability is the stuff every Division I coach is looking for. There's not a lot of flash. He's a position kid that everyone looks for."

Defenders can be overlooked on the high-scoring Onondaga team, but Klosowski made a strong impression as he continued to improve throughout his first year.

"Last year, our biggest competition was in practice," Klosowski said. "As a team we were all there to win and make each other better."

It worked. Klosowski has committed to Ohio State. Two years after no one wanted him, he will join the Buckeyes as a far more polished player.

"The most improved aspect of his game is his lacrosse IQ," said Jim Piggot, the Gulliver head coach. "He called me his first day after tryouts and said, 'I don't know anything about lacrosse.' His ability to put himself in better positioning and make the right decisions more often is the biggest improvement in his game without a doubt."

Klosowski always had the work ethic to be a special player. He stopped at nothing to get better, getting in the gym at all hours, working on his stick skills, running, but he needed more than athleticism. He needed higher-level experience.

"He's always had the ability physically," Wilbur said. "Now he understands slides and team defense concepts. He's always been a good cover guy. Now he has the ability to play team defense. He can take away different things. It's what makes him more of a complete defenseman now."

Said Klosowski: "I showed up on the first day and these kids basically spoke the language. They knew by second nature where to be and what to do. I was used to running around with not a lot of structure. I was a deer in headlights. It was a tremendous learning experience."

He is indebted to Onondaga for his first college opportunity, and Klosowski is eyeing his Division I opportunity in Columbus, Ohio, in the same way he takes on an opposing attacker. Straight on.

"I'm ready for any challenge," he said. "I love the pressure. The more pressure there is, the more I'm ready to go. In that final situation, if it's me or him, I'm going to come out on top."

Nobody who has seen him play or gauged his determination doubts it.

"He's going to be successful wherever he goes and whatever he does," Piggot said. "When he sees he has a weakness, he'll get in and put in the time to do whatever he has to. He wants the spot. He wants to earn it. I have full confidence that he'll do what he needs to get it done and represent Miami lacrosse."

Thomas Klosowski just needed an open window.

LaxMagazine.com JuCo Men's PPOY Fan Vote

Trey Cover, CCBC-Essex

Connor Latimer, Genesee

Thomas Klosowski, Onondaga

Zackary Goldbach, Nassau

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