Harper’s athletic programs have produced multiple National Championships in several different sports over the past 50 years. The Football team won multiple bowls games and national championships before the program was discontinued. The Track and Field teams have won both men’s and women’s national tournaments. Volleyball won last year’s national tournament and just finished their season as runner-up, and the men’s cross country team just recently defend their 2016 National championship and took home the 2017 National title.
One of the most successful programs has been the Harper College Wrestling team. Coach Dan Loprieno can recount the many accomplishments of the team since its first year in
1967-68. The wrestling team has produced 4 national championships in 1995, 2001, 2006, and again in 2010. The Wrestling team has won over 20 regional championships and sends several wrestlers to the national tournament every year. In its honorable history the wrestling team at Harper has produced over 60 All- Americans and has had 7 individual National Champions!
The goal for most Harper athletes is to continue onto the next stage of athletics and academics. They want to complete at the highest level in their individual sports. A Harper education will open many doors and being a Harper athlete helps to open those doors. When Athletes transfer from Harper, the four year university knows these students are ready to tackle the next level of academics and goal completion. Harper regularly send several athletes on to bigger schools; many individuals have gone on to graduate from four year schools, coach at other schools, and to become very successful in all their future endeavors.
Every year, several Harper student athletes go on to continue their sport. Harper alumni are no strangers to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Division 3, Division 2, and Division 1 level of competition. Harper wrestling alumni have wrestled for many schools across the country. Alumni have wrestled for the University of Illinois, Elmhurst College, North Central College and the University of Arizona to name a few. Indiana University’s last All American was Adam Chalfant, a Harper Alumni.
Harper athletes have had such promise in their sports programs that many have been able to play in the professional leagues such as the MLB, NFL and former Harper Assistant coach and student athlete Mike Kelly is currently a member on the United States Olympic grappling team. The Hawks currently have three former Wrestlers competing in the UFC as well. Curtis Blades is currently ranked 8th in the UFC heavy weight class. Clay Guida, who wrestled for the Hawks in the mid 1990’s, is still in the UFC. Mike Rio, a former Hawks national champion, is also fighting in the Octagon. If you were to go to any high school wrestling meet within 50 miles of Harper, you would probably see several former Hawks coaching at the high school level. The head wrestling coaches at Johnsburg High school, Downers Grove South, and Lowell High school in Indiana are all Harper alumni. Countless Harper alumni are serving as assistant coaches across Illinois and northwest Indiana as well.
The Harper Wrestling team has achieved much success in the sport with the national team titles in the earlier years dating back from late 90’s to the earlier 2000’s. Although there have been only 7 individual national champs to Harper’s program, they show much promise in being among the hardest working teams on campus. There have been 7 individual national champs, as recently as Josh Tardy in 2013, Kurtis Blade 2012, PJ Starns in 2011.
Over the rich 50 years of Harper athletics, there have only been three Harper Wrestling coaches. Ron Bessemer started in 1968, then Norm Lovelace continued his legacy from 1977 to 2001, and the current head coach, Dan Loprieno, known for his compassion and charisma, has been the head coach from 2001 to the present day. Coach Loprieno is also a Mathematics professor and a former Harper Hawks student athlete himself. Loprieno hopes to hand off his legacy to another exceptional alumnus someday; until that time comes, he plans to keep coaching-at least until all his hair is eventually gone.