Roch Cholowsky was ready to finally be the guy on the gridiron for Hamilton’s varsity football team.
He waited patiently his first three years of high school, learning behind the likes of Nick Arvay and Nicco Marchiol at the quarterback position. He was poised as a senior to replicate the same success he had on the baseball field for the Huskies, where he started first base as a freshman before now becoming the star shortstop.
He started off 3-1 as the starter for Hamilton on the football field, the lone loss to national power Bishop Gorman. He was starting to come into his own at the position. But then, he felt a pop.
“It was a freak accident. One of the linebackers came up and put his hands on me,” Cholowsky said. “It was tall grass and my ankle got caught and it led to my knee leaning the wrong way.
“I wouldn’t change anything even with the injury. Those first four games were the most fun I’ve had playing any organized sports in a long time.”
Cholowsky didn’t fear the worst had happened with his knee. He felt it was still relatively stable. The last thing he thought about was the baseball season and how it may be impacted.
He said his parents, however, were slightly concerned.
Cholowsky was told by many to consider walking away from football for his senior year because of what the future holds for him in baseball. He’s been committed to UCLA since his sophomore year and signed with the Bruins in November. He’s quickly become an intriguing prospect for this summer’s MLB Draft. Yet, he couldn’t walk away from football.
Cholowsky was diagnosed with a torn meniscus that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. He felt if he had gotten the surgery to clean out his knee earlier, he would have been able to return.
He did a “test run” of sorts with the knee ahead of the Open Division quarterfinal against Saguaro, as he dressed out and warmed up with his receivers. Many believed he was officially back. But when Hamilton emerged again from the locker room, he was back in street clothes. The Huskies went on to fall to Saguaro, ending their season.
“If we would’ve won that first playoff game I would’ve been back,” Cholowsky said. “It was just bad timing. I wish we would’ve gone in a little earlier. We just kinda thought I had twisted something and that it would get better, but it never did.
“But I rehabbed great, went to a great place and they took care of me.”
Cholowsky was fully healthy soon after. He no longer wears a brace and is back to his old self — a lengthy shortstop with some of the best defensive mechanics in this year’s draft that also has power at the plate.
That’s what makes him a potential first-round draft pick this June. It’s a dream of his to make it to the big leagues and the chance to do it so soon would make it that much better.
But he remains focused for now on Hamilton.
“There’s nothing more fun than showing up every day and hanging out with the guys I’ve grown up with and love so much,” Cholowsky said. “Having that team last year and winning that state championship was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in sports. Getting to work with them every day is something I cherish.”
Hamilton coach Mike Woods knew Cholowsky would be special the moment he saw him as a freshman. Even then he composed himself in a way most freshmen weren’t capable of.
He was mature for his age both mentally and physically. He had many of the same tangibles he does now, albeit as a senior they’re at a much higher level. It was an easy decision for Woods to toss Cholowsky into the fire as a starter on one of the best programs in the history of Arizona high school baseball.
He proved early on there was no moment too big for him.
“He was skilled, a very skilled player,” Woods said. “You could tell he was very confident. That’s how he’s been able to handle all the hype this year. He’s been handling it very well.”
Woods was all for Cholowsky playing football as a senior. He knew how much it meant to him.
When he injured his knee, Woods wasn’t thinking about the potential impact on his lineup in spring. He was concerned first and foremost and said he felt bad for Cholowsky. He knew how much being the starting quarterback meant to him.
Woods was pleased to learn the injury was relatively minor. He knew Cholowsky would be back to himself when it mattered. That means having his leadership presence in the clubhouse, a quality he’s had for years but is not relied on even more along with other key seniors Josh Tiedemann, Cooper Brass, Logan Krei and others.
“Football has helped make him who he is today. He’s a little tougher-nosed kids than some of the other baseball star kids,” Woods said. “I think he recognizes what he does and says has a big impact. He’s been great. He’s been a good role model.”
Hamilton is 13-3 through its first 16 games. That includes games against national opponents at the Boras Classic. The Huskies recently moved into the No. 1 spot in the 6A rankings, overtaking Mountain Ridge.
As the defending champs, the Huskies know they constantly play with a target on their backs. They know they’ll get the best from everyone.
That motivates players like Cholowsky, who is taking in every pitch, every hit and every practice with his team before the season and his high school career comes to an end in just over a month.
There are times where he believes he took his high school career for granted. He didn’t expect it to fly by as fast as it did. So, he’s going to cherish it and do whatever he can to go out a two-time state champion.
“It’s going to be up here in about 50-something days. I’ll be walking in a cap and gown hopefully with another ring,” Cholowsky said. “Those four years went by so fast. I can’t imagine what’s coming next.”
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