Four Huskies grapple way to State

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By BRAD SPENCER

It's in their head coach's raspy voice how hard the Oak Park and River Forest wrestling team battled against some of the state's top wrestling programs at the Leyden Individual Wrestling Sectional on Saturday. Four Huskies advanced Downstate, and when it was all said and done first-year head coach Mike Powell could barely croak out a word.

"My voice has been gone for about a month, but I'll sleep when the season's over," said the former OPRF wrestler turned coach.

Ben Johnson, Jamar Johnson, Blake Dressel and freshman Lillashawn Coleman advanced to the State Finals this weekend. Senior Ben Johnson (23-3) took first place in the 130-pound weight class by defeating Mike Webb of Proviso East by a 5-2 decision. Fellow senior Jamar Johnson (29-5) won the heavyweight division by forcing a fall on New Trier's Jon Plichta at 4:23. Dressel (35-3), the first three-time State qualifier at OPRF since Alan Cartwright, finished second in the 215-pound weight class. The senior had been plagued by the flu and weighed in at only 206, nine pounds below his usual 215. He lost the final 6-2 to New Trier's Matt Fait.

"Blake gave it all he had," said Powell. "He's a real tough kid."

Coleman (34-14) finished second in the 103-pound weight class. He lost in the final to Ryan Nallen of Notre Dame by fall at 3:00.

Powell said he was impressed with the wrestling by his freshman star.

"Lillashawn gets better every week," he said. "He soaks up the knowledge. The kid has a bright future."

The State Individual Wrestling championship begins Friday at Assembly Hall in Champaign.

Friars send six

Adding to the success Fenwick team had winning the Oak Park Regional, the Friars also advanced six wrestlers to this weekend's State Individual Wrestling championship.

Nick Bertucci (39-5) won the 135-pound weight class with a 4-0 shutout of Niles West's Marty Gould. Other State qualifiers from Fenwick included Eric Dardanes (189, 27-9), Zach Stafford (112, 21-20), Nick Marino (140, 30-14), Matt Harmon (160 35-9), and Billy Barnhisal (171 33-13).

The Friars will also compete in the State Dual Team Finals on Feb. 26 at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb.

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