The Conti choir
Senior Chris Conti seeks music career after wrestling
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 22:12
Chris Conti, a senior environmental studies major, is getting used to his job as student-assistant coach of the wrestling team.
His current job has him lending emotional support to members of the team. Whether it’s freshman homesickness or personal issues, the wrestlers can go to Chris if they need to talk. The senior takes pride in giving his peers motivation.
This position is a bittersweet one, though. While Chris enjoys helping his teammates, there’s a place he loves to be even more – in the wrestling ring. Last semester, he was planning on spending his senior year trying to end his wrestling career on a high note. Those dreams vanished when the doctors advised him not to wrestle because of his chronic neck injury.
He still sighs as he talks about the disappointment.
And, yet, he still finds reason to sing. His Jason Mraz and Rascal Flatts vocal covers don’t sound like the voice of a man who’s weighed down by misfortune or the tenuous amount of dedication wrestling requires. His voice is clean, crisp and almost angelic.
These are performances powered solely by his family and faith.
Chris has made a name for himself in the UB wrestling program with his commitment and technical prowess on the mat. At the same time, he’s known as an undoubtedly talented singer. The former wrestler has performed the national anthem for numerous UB sporting events since his freshman year and had the chance to sing at the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships in front of 20,000 in attendance.
The neck injury didn’t only end his wrestling career; it steered him further into his dream of becoming a contemporary Christian artist. While Conti knows about the hardships that path may entail, he feels confident with his faith and family by his side.
There are a lot of adjectives friends and family have used to describe Conti: laidback, hardworking, disciplined. Chris isn’t the only one in the Conti family to be associated with these traits.
The Contis are a well-respected family within the Fredonia, N.Y. community. It’s a community Alex Conti, Chris’ father, grew up in. Alex recalled he and his family grew up in a farm house until he was about 5, when a few of them moved to another house down the street. The Contis still populate that same road and now, 24 of Chris’ cousins live there.
The road had a family that was filled with a diverse range of musical and athletic talents – from soccer to wrestling and from singing to instrumentals. It was also known for its closeness.
“I probably never met a group of people who can multitask more than Coach Conti [he was assistant coach of the women’s 2012 Olympic national wrestling team and national junior team], Chris Conti and his family,” said head coach Jim Beichner, Alex’s lifelong friend. “This is the family that does a lot. There’s coaches, there’s teachers, there’s musicians, there’s singers … It’s a compliment to them they could manage so well and be so tight together as a family through all of it.”
There is a Conti legacy at Fredonia High School. Alex is a physical education teacher, and his wife Stacy teaches there as well.
Also, Alex said 19 of Chris’ 24 cousins went to the small school. Todd Crandall, principal of Fredonia High School, said the family carried itself respectfully as Fredonia High representatives. Chris upheld his reputation and made a huge impression on the school.
High school life
During his time in high school, Chris was a three-time Section VI champion, a three-time place finisher in the New York State Championships. He won the state championship once and earned the prestigious Illio DiPaolo Scholarship Award in 2008 – which is awarded to those who excel in academics and athletics.
But just a few years back, he was too small to even make weight. He couldn’t wrestle competitively in junior high because of his size and still struggled to make weight going into his freshman year of high school.
While Chris said he has been singing for as long as he can remember, wrestling is something he had to work on. He lacked power, but he later learned to make up for it with his technical skill. It’s a skill he inherited from his father, who was an established wrestler and Chris’ coach throughout high school.
“I didn’t ever think he was ever going to be a wrestler,” Alex said. “He had his mom’s disposition: a very kind-hearted child. He had a demeanor which was probably better suited for golf, which is why I say whatever he accomplished, he accomplished through extremely good discipline and simple hard work. He did above and beyond whatever I asked and whatever I expected.”
Chris started racking in the achievements during his sophomore year. That year, he won the state championship over Kyle Dake in the 96-pound weight class. Dake went on to become the first wrestler ever to win three NCAA championships in three different weight classes.
When he wasn’t wrestling, he was lettering in golf, tennis and track and field. Other times, he was singing. Chris took part in numerous high school musicals, ranging from Brigadoon to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also was part of the Fredonia High School voluntary chorus, The Magicals, and sang in nursing homes and went caroling during the holiday season.