In sports, athletes tend to form a special bond with their fellow teammates. When it comes to wrestling, usually it’s a brotherhood that develops among the grapplers. For two OPRF wrestlers, that bond is already present.
Brothers Ellis and Lillishawn Coleman return this season to help lead the Huskies to another successful campaign. Lillishawn, now a senior and the elder of the Colemans, returns to the mat after wrestling to a stellar record of 37-5 last season. The defending state finalist will wrestle at 119 and 130. Last season, Lillishawn lost to Grant’s Lee Munster in the Class AA State championship bout of the 119-pound weight division.
Lillishawn’s younger brother, Ellis, a junior, only lost two matches during the regular season last year, and over the summer was a national champion in Greco-Roman style wrestling. Ellis (23-2 last season) is expected to wrestle at 125 and 135 pounds this season.
“Those two guys are our big guns, but we also have a tremendously talented and experienced group coming back,” said OPRF head coach Mike Powell.
Two 2006 state qualifiers in Dan Martin and Colin Weir (160-171 pounds) return to the lineup. Martin, expected to wrestle at 152 and 160 pounds, won over 30 matches last season.
The Huskies have sectional qualifiers Ethan Moes and Benny Brooks returning. According to Powell, Moes (112-119 pounds) is the “hardest working wrestler” he’s ever coached.
“If I had his toughness mentally and physically when I was younger, I would have done a lot better as a wrestler,” said Powell. “Moes is a special kid.”
Powell added that Brooks possesses the same qualities as older brother Max, a former wrestler and football player at OPRF. Brooks (189-215) was a sectional qualifier as a freshman last season.
The Huskies are also solid with 25-match winner Jack Dengel at 145 pounds, Chris Hampton (119-130), Connor Sharpe (145-152) and Nick Zager (171), who is returning from debilitating injuries last season. After having ACL surgery last year, Zager tore his meniscus in the same knee and missed the remainder of the season.
Newcomers to varsity this season expected to make a significant impact include Aaron Minnis (135), Jake Venereble (135), Kendal Hutchinson (103), Gary Milton (189-215) and Crys Watkins (heavyweight), who Powell described as a “throw-back tough guy.”
“Crys would rather chew on your arm than make friends with you,” said Powell of last season’s junior varsity champ.
The Huskies are likely to vie with York, Downers Grove North and Lyons Township for the top spot in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, while two highly competitive out-of-state matches-along with the Conant Invitational-prep them for the state tournament.
Powell said he was excited about the new season especially after what he deemed was, “the best first week of practice in the history of the program,” and the fact that three former Division I wrestlers joined his coaching staff this year.
“I’m lucky to have Sean Lovelace, Octavius Bellamy, Gary Parcaik on board this season,” said Powell of his new coaches. “They help bolster this program’s strength.”
The Huskies take to the mats at home today (Wednesday) against St. Patrick for the season opener (6:45 p.m.). They’ll travel to Conant on Friday and Saturday where one of the Colemans will likely lock horns with defending state champ Tony Ramos of Glenbard North.