Daniel Zaas / Lantern photographer
Before his fateful back injury, if you had asked New Jersey native and high school quarterback Will Lauricella where he’d be in two years, he wouldn’t have told you he’d be a javelin thrower on the track and field team at Ohio State.
When faced with a stress fracture in his lower vertebrae, Lauricella made a life-changing decision.
“I decided for my safety not to do football anymore and all my friends were doing track and field so I decided to go out for the team with them,” Lauricella said. “I fell in love with it.”
Lauricella made the choice and hasn’t looked back. The freshman placed first at four consecutive meets before finally meeting his match at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 29.
Lauricella decided to look at the positive side of the losing performance.
“The Drake Relays was the biggest learning experience of my life for my javelin career,” he said. “I learned that, to be successful in the javelin in a college career, you just really have to be consistent and throw your marks.”
Consistency has defined Lauricella’s performance this season. In all five outings, he’s thrown more than 60 meters. Sophomore teammate Aaron Roberts is impressed with what’s he’s seen from Lauricella.
“Obviously, he’s off to a great start to his career,” Roberts said. “He won his first three or four meets and that’s really awesome. … For a freshman to come in and really help us out like that is a huge benefit for our team, and he’s set himself up for a great four years here.”
When Lauricella arrived, there was much discussion that he may be redshirted. However, Lauricella’s throws impressed his coach so much that they decided to start him as a true freshman.
“We were going to redshirt him, but he was looking so good in practice we decided, ‘Let’s just throw him in,'” coach Robert Gary said.
Even Lauricella wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to face top collegiate competition.
“We were talking about redshirting at first,” Lauricella said. “I only have a couple years under my belt of this, but the fact that I have such a good chance to even win Big Tens or score high is just great so far. I never thought I’d be at this point.”
Gary was confident Lauricella was ready to perform.
“We just thought, ‘Let’s not waste it; let’s let him go,'” Gary said.
Going into the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, Lauricella is ranked fourth among Big Ten javelin throwers. But his sights are set on taking first place this weekend.
“I’m hoping for one to three, but I really think if I throw my best and the competition throws the way they’ve been throwing, I should be shooting for one or two,” Lauricella said.
But no matter where he places, Lauricella said he’s happy with his first season at OSU.
“I would say being injury-free and winning my first couple meets in college was the most rewarding part,” he said. “I never would have thought that I could come in and be so successful.”
In his first season, Lauricella planted firm roots within the track and field program. He’s developed a unique bond with his coaches, and Gary likes to give his thrower a hard time.
“I call him ‘Jersey Shore’ guy,” Gary said. “You know, always tan, hair always looks good.”
When Lauricella’s father posted his son’s nickname as “Will the thrill,” Gary had to poke fun.
“Everyone keeps giving me a lot of stuff for this nickname,” Lauricella said. “To be honest, it’s really not my nickname. My dad put it up there and coach Gary found it, and they’ve been calling me it since. … They like to make fun of me for it, but I’m starting to embrace it.”
In his time at OSU, Lauricella’s performance has surprised even himself. Always a hard worker, Lauricella said he knows he has had help along the way.
“I really have to thank my high school coach and the professional help I got during high school also,” he said, “but none of this would have been possible without coach (Kevin) Mannon and everything that he’s taught me since I got to Ohio State.”
Lauricella is still learning, and feels his best is still to come. Although he’s a long way from New Jersey, Lauricella says he feels at home at OSU.
“It’s absolutely a whole different world,” he said. “I’m used to only seeing populated areas. It’s very nice. It’s very laid-back. It’s much more lax. Everyone’s a lot nicer out here … no complaints about it. I’m very happy where I’m at.”