Bloom Trail Wrestling Legend McFarland Making Huge Impact as Coach at Fenger
Former Bloom Trail wrestling standout Chris McFarland credits his old high school coach, Ron Ray, with setting a foundation for his success on and off the mat.
Growing up in East Chicago Heights, Chris McFarland can relate to many of his student-athletes at Fenger High School.
He’s had an impact on the lives of many as a math teacher and head wrestling coach at the Chicago Public League School the last nine years.
“It’s similar to where I came from, impoverished, low income and at risk,” said McFarland, a 1982 Bloom Trail graduate. “To make a difference and help them with discipline, self-confidence and respect means a lot to me. Of course, winning a few matches is nice, but I’m more concerned about winning in life.”
McFarland helped Bloom Trail win the program’s only state wrestling championship in 1982 when he placed second individually.
He then went on to have success at Eastern Illinois where he won a program-record 23 consecutive matches and was nationally ranked.
“Chris has a unique fire,” said Ron Ray, who coached McFarland in high school. “He has the intangibles to be a great wrestler and great coach. He’s coaching for the right reasons. Fenger has some challenges and a lot of people shy away from challenges, but Chris wants to make a difference in people’s lives, and I admire him for that. He has a passion to give back some of the things he’s learned. I see a lot of my values in Chris.”
When McFarland took over the Fenger program, it was at an all-time low, with the team having just four boys and a girl and finishing 0-8 in duals his first season.
Since then, the program has gone on to become one of the top teams in Chicago and has had success throughout the state. He had his first sectional champion a couple of years ago and now wants to have the program’s first state placer. McFarland has a 127-35 dual-meet record and his team has won six consecutive conference championships with a 30-0 mark. He’s most proud that every member of his wrestling team that has been in the program at least two years has graduated.
“We’re making incremental progress,” said McFarland, who gives a lot of credit to his assistants Maynard Collins and Maurey Garrett. “Everything I do, I try to emulate Ron Ray. He was my mentor. Coach Ray and my parents were my motivating factors to never lose focus.”