Considering their status as one of the premier programs in the country, the Oak Park and River Forest High School wrestling team's undefeated start this season should hardly come as a surprise.
OPRF (9-0, 2-0 WSC Silver Division) defeated Marist, Granite City and Carmel, Ind. in a three-round competition over the weekend at the Washington (Ill.) Quad. The Huskies' 43-23 win over highly regarded Marist was particularly noteworthy, as the Redhawks are a definite team title contender in the IHSA state series later this season.
OPRF also cruised past visiting Proviso West 58-9 last Thursday (Dec. 5), giving the Huskies their second straight West Suburban Conference Silver Division victory. The Huskies opened the season with a 45-18 decision at Downers Grove North for their other league win.
Against Proviso West, freshman Rollian Sturkey earned a decision at 152 pounds to claim his first varsity victory.
"It feels really good," Sturkey said. "I was just focusing on my takedowns and getting in a good position to win."
In other weight classes, Robert Campos (113 pounds/forfeit), Alex Madrigal (120/pin), Jamie Hernandez (132/pin), Andrew Borgdorff (145/forfeit), Jack Newman (160/major decision), Max Metzgar (170/decision), Andre Lee (195/pin), and Emonte Logan (220/pin) all won for the Huskies, who claimed 11 of 13 matches overall against the Panthers.
Anchors at the back end of the lineup, Lee and Logan also starred along the defensive line for the OPRF football team in the fall.
Sophomore Clayton Bertolletti and junior Adam Lemke-Bell won via forfeit, at 126 and 285, respectively. Like Sturkey, Bertolletti's victory was also his first on the varsity level.
Currently ranked No. 2 in the country, the Huskies have several challenges ahead in the coming weeks. OPRF will wrestle this weekend at the Ironman Invitational hosted by Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The prestigious tourney features top wrestlers from around the country. The Huskies also kick off 2014 in style, traveling to Rochester, Minn. (Jan. 3-4) to mix it up against more of the nation's best grapplers at the Clash dual meet tournament.
"If we can win the Ironman and the Clash, we definitely have a great chance of being No. 1 in the country," senior star Davonte Mahomes said. "Those tournaments are some of our biggest obstacles for the year."
Mahomes, who has committed to wrestle at the University of Michigan next year didn't compete in the Huskies' win over the Proviso West so he could rest for the aforementioned Washington, Ill. event. For now, the future Wolverine is focused on setting a good example for his teammates as one of the Huskies' unquestioned senior leaders.
"I just try to show the guys the right way to do things," Mahomes said. "Not necessarily in a forceful way, but leading by example. I want to show them how things have been done [at OPRF], and how we need to continue doing things the right way."
Prior to their trip over the weekend, the Huskies also visited Washington a few weeks ago to help with clean up efforts after the town was devastated by tornadoes. The team took about a hundred people to Washington, including the wrestlers, coaching staff, and their families. They even helped clear an entire house in just an hour's time.
"When you see it on TV, it's definitely not the same as seeing it first hand," Sturkey said. "I was really glad to be able to go down there and do whatever I could to help."
Added OPRF head coach Mike Powell: "It was unlike anything we've ever seen. But the people of Washington are so strong; the only tears we saw from them were tears of gratitude."
As for the remainder of the Huskies' expectation-filled season, Mahomes aims to go undefeated personally, while also leading the Huskies to their first state championship since 2009.
"By the end of this season, our goal is to have our team be number one in the country," he said. "We want to win state as a team and do it the right way."
Currently, the Huskies are the No. 1 team in the Illinois Matmen Class 3A team rankings. Sophomore Isaiah White (138), junior Larry Early (145) and Mahomes (170) are also No.1 in their respective individual class rankings. For more information about the Huskies, visit www.oprfwrestling.com.