Any pressure Oak Park and River Forest senior Jason Renteria feels during this wrestling season has little to do with defending his Class 3A individual state title at 132 pounds.
"Coming into senior year I was a little nervous, knowing I was going to be one of the captains," Renteria said. "We've got a lot of good seniors on the team but also a lot of younger kids. We show them how hard we work and that kind of develops into how hard they work."
Even with several big names graduated, the Huskies should contend for a fourth straight team state championship. They are 15-3 and No. 2 in the 3A Jan. 3 rankings by IllinoisMatmen.com behind Lockport (20-0), which the Huskies beat 49-20 in last year's state semifinals.
OPRF finished 3-3 against nationally-ranked out-of-state competition in their annual trip to The Clash XV Dec. 30-31 in Rochester, Minn. The Huskies, ranked No. 34 nationally Jan. 4 by IntermatWrestle.com, lost to teams then ranked among the top 50.
"That's part of the reason we schedule that. We want to make sure the guys are having good competition throughout the year so they're ready when February and the postseason comes around," OPRF coach Paul Collins said.
"None of the guys on our team is undefeated. We preach to them that the wins and losses aren't the most important part. It's whether they're continuing to improve and that they learn from their mistakes."
Renteria (23-2 at 132) and junior Tony Madrigal (24-2 at 126) are ranked No. 1 by Illinois Matmen at their weights. Senior P.J. Ogunsanya (21-5 at 113) is No. 3, senior Christopher Middlebrooks (220) is No. 4 and seniors Brian Holloway (160) and Drew Matticks (170), sophomore Eddie Bolivar (120) and freshman Josh Ogunsanya (106), P.J.'s brother, are No. 8, 9 or 10. Senior Tariq Thurman, a transfer from Proviso West, is honorable mention at 182.
The Huskies return four of 11 individual state qualifiers from 2016 – three of them top-six all-staters.
Madrigal and senior Jaime Hernandez were second at 2016 individual state at 126 and 138, respectively, and P.J. Ogunsanya was 2-2 at 106.
Renteria will wrestle collegiately at Nebraska. Hernandez, who will wrestle at North Carolina, is expected to rejoin the lineup this week.
Matticks was a 2016 sectional qualifier at 152, one victory from state.
"My goal actually is to place at state," Matticks said. "The biggest part of our program is the hard work that goes into it, Every year the seniors kind of step up and lead. That's a big part of our program."
On Friday, the Huskies play host to No. 18 Lyons Township, the other top-25 ranked West Suburban Silver team. OPRF (4-0 in Silver) beat defending Silver champion Glenbard West 54-10 Dec. 15.
The Sandburg Super Duals is Saturday with OPRF probably facing the No. 9 Eagles and ranked competition to be announced from Illinois and other states.
"I think that (our continued success) is a testament to the strong leadership we do have with our seniors," Collins said. "We've really been looking forward to these guys being leaders and seeing how they'll leave their legacy in their final year. So far they've done a pretty good job of pushing themselves and bringing the younger guys along."