OSWEGO — Derek Kohut has grown up in Oswego with the Lakers’ athletic programs and Lake Ontario a large part of the city.
Kohut, a standout for the Oswego varsity boys lacrosse team the past few years, will soon be taking his talents to the Lakers — but not the Lakers the Port City is used to.
The Oswego High School senior recently committed to play men’s lacrosse for Mercyhurst University Lakers, an NCAA Division II program based in Erie, Pennsylvania, that competes in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
Much like Oswego, the “Lakers” name is prominent in the city of Erie, with Lake Erie having a big effect on the general area.
“It definitely does feel like a piece of home,” Kohut said. “On top of that where Mercyhurst is, it’s very similar to Oswego. It’s another on the lake up north, and lots of snow.”
Kohut added, “Erie is a little bit bigger than Oswego, but I can’t wait to get out there and start my next journey.”
Similarities between Erie and Oswego made the college decision much easier for Kohut.
“When I went out (to Mercyhurst) for the first time, it kind of clicked that it felt like home,” he said.
Before putting his stamp of approval on Mercyhurst, Kohut considered Division I programs Canisius College and University of Richmond, Limestone College of Division II, and Division III’s Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Cortland.
Despite visiting the slew of colleges on his radar, Kohut was already dead set on Mercyhurst.
“Every college I went to and looked at, everything kind of just came back to Mercyhurst,” he said. “I was comparing Mercyhurst to other schools and the other schools didn’t have most of what Mercyhurst had.”
Kohut was sold on the atmosphere Coach Chris Ryan and his staff, along with the Lakers’ roster, brought to the table for the program.
“Coach Ryan is a really nice guy and his coaching staff is awesome,” he said. “The guys on the team are really nice too. The atmosphere was incredible and it became clear I wanted to be here.”
Ryan expects Kohut to play on defense a majority of the time with the Lakers, but also to play sometimes at long-stick midfield. As for Kohut’s impact on the team, it remains to be seen.
“(Coach) wasn’t sure what my role on the team would be right away, but he thinks it could be a pretty big role once I get out there (for my first season),” he said. “I’m hoping to be in a spot where I can not just better myself, but help the team as well.”
Kohut intends on being in the gym a frequent amount of time leading up to his first season with the Lakers.
“I want to hit the ladder and jump rope, and get some faster feet,” he said. “The goal is to hit the treadmill and weights as well. The coach is going to send out a workout plan soon so I’ll be getting on that right away.”
Mercyhurst wrapped up its 2019 campaign earlier this month. The team tallied a 13-4 overall record, captured its first GMAC title in program history, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
The transition from high school to college lacrosse might seem tough for new recruits when the program is in line for success, but Kohut has prepared himself for the challenge.
“I think it’ll go smooth because in high school I was in a lot of situations athletically and academically to prep myself for the college level,” he said.
On the academic side, Kohut plans to study sports medicine at Mercyhurst. His goals are to attend Mercyhurst for four years, graduate, and then attend the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Kohut wanted to get his name out there ahead of the game, especially since sports medicine is well known and prestigious in Erie.
“I went for an interview (at Mercyhurst) to gain early acceptance, and it worked out,” he said.
As for his time with OHS lacrosse, Kohut said it was bittersweet to end. Not only will he miss wearing Buccaneer blue, he’ll miss playing lacrosse with his good friends like Huck Fitzgerald and Dan Doviak.
“I’ll miss playing for my fellow teammates,” Kohut said. “I’ve been playing with them for as long as I can remember. It’s going to be pretty hard not being able to play with them anymore.”
Kohut now has his sights set on the Lakers.
“I’m ready to get to work out there,” he said.