By Will LeBlond
ITHACA – Winston Wenham’s lacrosse career has had a long and winding road, but the path is now pointing back to home.
The 2012 Ithaca High School graduate is currently getting set to begin his second season playing for the Ithaca College Bombers. He is a reigning United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Honorable Mention All-American selection and Empire 8 All-Conference First Team member at defense, and enters the season as an Inside Lacrosse Third-Team All-American Preseason selection.
His contributions have been plentiful to the Bombers in his one season on the South Hill, but Wenham’s trek from Ithaca High to IC was not a direct one.
After completing his high school career with the Little Red playing for coach Frank Welch – which included a trip to the 2012 state championship game – Wenham opted for a post-graduate year at Northfield Mount Hermon prep school in Gill, Massachusetts.
“It really helped me a lot before going off to college,” said Wenham on his experience at prep school. “It helped me get ready for the schoolwork aspect of college and physically it’s pretty isolated, really in the middle of nowhere, so you really are able to focus on what you have to do.”
After his lone year at Northfield Mount Hermon, Wenham ventured back to the Empire State to join one of the nation’s most prestigious Division I lacrosse programs, Syracuse University. In doing so, he joined his father, Mark, in becoming a member of the Orange. During his playing career, Mark was a national champion for Syracuse.
Wenham’s father has been an integral part of his playing career, and Mark has guided his son through almost all levels thus far.
“He was my first coach, he got me my first stick,” said Wenham. “For a while he coached modified (7th and 8th graders) but then on the weekends, he would come down and coach our youth groups all the way up until I got to the modified level. Then, he actually stayed with me and moved up to JV when I did, and then finally up to the varsity level.”
Through the elder Wenham’s experience and presence in the community, a longstanding relationship was built with Ithaca College head coach Jeff Long, who lives nearby the Wenham family. That connection made a difference when Wenham made the decision to transfer from Syracuse after two and a half years with the Orange.
Looking for a change in schools, while still wanting to play the game he loved, Wenham called up his family friend at Ithaca.
“Having a longstanding relationship with him made it really easy for me to call him up right around the middle of November or December of last year,” said Wenham. “I said ‘Hey, do you have a spot for me on the team for this spring?’ And normally that can be kind of intimidating to call someone so late in the year once they’ve already gone through their fall ball, but it made me feel a little more comfortable in calling him.”
His relationship with Long was just one aspect in Wenham’s comfort level on South Hill – there were other blasts from the past as well. As a member the Bombers, he became one of three former Little Red players on the team, joining Eli Gobrecht and Grant Osadchey. While the latter joined the IHS team as a senior and did not play with Wenham, there was a history of teaming up between Gobrecht and Wenham.
“I came back and we felt like we were on the same page already,” said Wenham, who joined Gobrecht on the defensive unit last year for IC. “There was a game last year where he took the ball, ran down the field and I was right there next to him, then he passed me the ball and I scored and it was like high school all over again.”
This season, however, Gobrecht is gone due to graduation, and Wenham will look to pick up the leadership mantle on defense. One of his seasons at Syracuse was spent as a redshirt, so Wenham is classified as a junior.
He is one of four players mentioned in the All-American conversation in the preseason by Inside Lacrosse magazine and the Bombers were ranked No. 2 in the country by U.S. Lacrosse magazine heading into the season.
Ithaca College gets its season underway on Wednesday, March 1, versus Lycoming, but will have its sights set on May and the postseason looking to bounce back after a quarterfinal exit at the hands of Tufts in last season’s NCAA tournament.