The Oak Park and River Forest wrestling team is just starting to fire on all cylinders.
The Huskies (14-4 overall), who finished second in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, recently defeated Hinsdale Central 37-16 in a dual meet and took second as host of the Oak Park Invitational. Consequently, the timing of his team has resulted in a very pleased coach Mike Powell.
"We just beat Hinsdale Central and the two highlights, to me, were losses," he said. "We bumped freshman Ellis Coleman (29-1 overall record) who normally wrestles at 103 to 112 and he barely lost to one of the best wrestlers in the state. Then, Pat Woulfe (189) wrestled another state contender and he lost 14-10 in a closely contested match. Those matches were indicative of where we are as a team?#34;I really think we are ready to peak at the right time."
At the Oak Park Invitational, the Huskies finished second to Lyons, but still had several wrestlers claim the top spot on the podium. OPRF also placed all 14 of its wrestlers in the top five. Claiming first for the Huskies was Ellis Coleman at 103, Weldon Rogers (27-6) at 140, Peter Lovaas (24-9) at 125 and Peter Kowalczuk (28-2) at heavyweight.
"Weldon beat a top wrestler from Wisconsin in the finals in a real tight match," Powell said." "I was especially pleased with his performance because this is his first year as a varsity wrestler. Lovaas also was very impressive because he got very sick over winter break, but he told me before the tournament that he wasn't losing anymore. Sure enough, he got his confidence back and I really think he is going to surprise some people in the State tournament."
Claiming second for the Huskies was Ben Johnson (27-4) at 135. Johnson lost to Vince Castillo from Lyons Township, who is one of the best wrestlers in the league, according to Powell. Still, Johnson won sectional last season and is once again the favorite. Taking third for the Huskies was LillaShawn Coleman (24-6) at 112, as did Brad Bolen (5-1) at 125 and Mike Stumbras (7-7) at 152.
"I was proud of Lilla Shawn because after to losing to his guy in the first round he came back to beat him in the consolation," Powell said. "Brad came back this week after being ineligible, so it was great to have him back in the lineup. I think he had a little rust, but already he is beginning to shake it off. Mike also turned in a great performance, seeing that this was his first varsity tournament. He wrestled well and had a great match for his third place match."
Now, the team must set it sights on conference rival Proviso East?#34;twice. First, the Huskies must face the Pirates on Saturday in a dual meet and then turn around and face them again in the regional meet held at Fenwick on Feb. 4.
"It will be a big-time meet," Powell said. "They have a great coach in Bill Cartwright, who is the only guy to win two State championships since 1979. He has a very experienced team and they are incredibly athletic. The dual meet is on the 28th, and then the following Thursday is the seeding meeting for the regional?#34;that is why the meet means so much. We are going to work this week on defending their throws. I think we are one of the best conditioned teams in the league, so our goal is to keep them wrestling for six minutes and go from there."