Milwaukee Takes A Division Wheelchair Lacrosse national title
Emotions were high for Milwaukee Eagles wheelchair lacrosse player Michael Zvara, a non-combat U.S. Coast Guard veteran and a 20-year above-the knee-amputee. He was thrilled to be playing in the 2023 Wheelchair Lacrosse (WLUSA) Nationals, and in his second year with this sport, he now has a spectacular memory.
Milwaukee finished the Aug. 25-27 tournament 5-0, defeating the Colorado Mammoth, 6-5, Aug. 27 in the A Division championship game at River Works in Buffalo, N.Y., and dethroning the defending champions.
“I’ve never won a championship before, so this is a big deal,” Zvara says. “They [my teammates] make me more than I am and lift me up; these guys, and these ladies are brave and give me a lot of courage and strength.”
Milwaukee’s top weapon, 26-year-old Mark Krenz, scored the game’s first goal, unassisted, in the first two minutes and then added four assists, including two to teammate Kyle Cornelius, who scored three goals.
Krenz has a form of spina bifida called myelomeningocele and said this tournament was tough. “Games got more intense as the days went on, but we learned to adjust to play one goal, and one defensive stop at a time,” he says.
For retired U.S. Army Sgt., First Class and Milwaukee’s Terrance Greene, the Eagles’ strategy, was simple.
“We lost last year, and we weren’t happy about it,” he says.
Colorado hurt itself with penalties, including two slashing penalties and one late-game crosscheck that sent a player high into the boards.
“We couldn’t stay out of the penalty box, and they capitalized,” Mammoth player and WLUSA Mountain Regional Manager Shawn Maloney says.
Meanwhile, in the B championship game, Kalisle Morales’ three goals helped lift the Houston Apollos to a 4-3 victory over the Indy (Indianapolis) Rip. But it was a newcomer who helped give Houston the win. Tied at 3 after three periods, the Apollos’ Ramiro Urquiza scored the game-winner in the final one. Urquiza had never held a lacrosse stick until six months ago.
“Anyone can play this game, heal from it and love it,” says Houston coach Louis Nicolosi, who also played as an able-bodied player. “Urquiza brought his athleticism and has put in a ton of work at the wall.”
In the two third-place games, Maryland defeated Buffalo, 5-3, in the A Division, while Minnesota knocked off New Hampshire, 4-2, in the B Division.
Buffalo’s Adam Page, who also is a three-time U.S. Paralympic sled hockey gold medalist, still thought the team did OK.
“There were a lot of ups and downs, but we were never out of it,” Page says. “We did what we can control and put all we had out there.”
The national tournament ends this year’s series of three invite competitions, which also included the Big Cheese tournament in Mequon, Wis., in June and the Frenzy Fest in Grand Rapids, Mich., in July.
Rip coach Clint Carter has been a lacrosse official for over 30 years and with Indy for six.
“Wheelchair lacrosse is the most fun I’ve ever had,” he says.
Apollos assistant coach Zack Ryan added it was a blast, too.
“There’s so much more, to progress than making a championship run,” he says. ”It’s watching guys flourish off the field that makes me emotionally invested in this sport.”