Finishing in first place at a tournament stocked with tough teams is great but not exceptional for OPRF first-year head coach Mike Powell.
“We could have done better,” said Powell after three grapplers at the OPRF Invitational won title bouts to lead the Huskies to a first-place finish with 232.5 points, ahead of one of Wisconsin’s top wrestling programs, Arrowhead (216.5), as well as West Suburban (Silver) foe Lyons Township (213), and a 20-1 Argo team (192.5). “I think we could have scored another 40 points.”
Powell’s high expectations shows he believes in his team, which last week won its first West Suburban (Silver) Conference title since 1988 with a 44-15 wallop of Hinsdale Central. The Huskies (18-1) are soon to close out one of their best regular seasons in years, and possibly one of their most memorable postseasons.
“Finishing first in this tournament was indicative of how good this team is,” said Powell. “We have above-average wrestlers in every weight, and when we don’t give out even our best performance we’re good.”
Brad Bolen, Jonah Galaz, and Blake Dressel stole the show on Saturday. Bolen, a sophomore who celebrated a birthday on Saturday, took first place with a 3-1 decision over a Notre Dame opponent in the 119-pound weight class. Bolin, also a Judo National champ, is having a great season.
“Brad is wrestling better than he ever has,” said Powell. “He moved from a lightweight last year and he’s getting the job done.”
Galaz (140-pound weight class), defeated an Arrowhead opponent 9-3, while Dressel shutout his opponent at heavyweight 8-0.
The Huskies had seven finalists in all, including Chuck Hinriksson, Jamar Johnson, Robert Demaree, and Jason Agrimonti. Hinriksson (145), known as more of a power wrestler, lost a hard-fought 7-4 decision to Arrowhead’s Dave Hoy, who uses flexibility as an advantage. Johnson (heavyweight) was down just 3-2 before giving up a takedown to Nick Ryan, also of Arrowhead.
Steve Battista finished third for the Huskies in the 135-pound weight division.
Powell said his team would have probably upped its first place score significantly had Mike Schmidt (171) been able to wrestle. Schmidt has been nursing a knee injury, but is expected to return to the mat against cross-town rival Fenwick on Friday, a precursor match for the State regional that begins Feb. 5.
“The match against Fenwick on Friday is important for seeding in the regional, but I think the regional is where everyone’s heart and mind will be,” said Powell. “All the coaches have said that whoever wins the regional will go downstate.”
The Huskies have a lot riding, coming off a regional title last year.
“We’re ready, and we’re focused,” said Powell. “I believe we can do it.”
The Huskies are scheduled for some television airtime on Tuesday. The team will be featured on the The Prep Report on Channel 38, CLTV, at 10 p.m.