In Relentless Pursuit is a mindset the OPRF wrestling coaches preach to their talented grapplers. That’s exactly the approach the Huskies will need to make a run in the rough-and-tumble West Suburban (Silver) Conference where virtually every team is Top 25 caliber. Of course, OPRF knows a thing or two about winning, claiming a 2009 dual state championship and an excellent 21-3 record last year that ended with a 33-22 quarterfinal loss to eventual state champ Minooka.
The Huskies lost several key wrestlers to graduation, notably uber-talented twins Chris Dardanes (135-pound state champion) and Nick Dardanes (140-pound state champion), but head coach Mike Powell has established a program that reloads annually.
Junior Sam Brooks (38-6 last year), who won the Huskies’ third individual state championship at 160 pounds, returns as the top-ranked wrestler at 170 pounds.
“Sam sets the pace in the room daily,” Powell stated in his weekly newsletter to the media, parents and fans. “We often have to line-up workout partners for him because he wears them out so quickly. Sam was around for our great teams the last two years. He understands the type of work that got those teams to the top of Illinois wrestling.”
Other wrestlers primed to make an impact this season include senior Chirino Watson (135) along with juniors Cameron Harris (119), Colin Rogers (130), and Marq Brumant (285). Returning starters Darius Henry and Nick Kowalczuk also are in the fold. At 160, Sophomore Joe Ariola (5-2 record this season) and freshman 140-pounder Devonte Mahomes (4-1 record this season) are off to fast starts for the Huskies.
Duke Mahomes, Nate Crain, Brian Toledo, Jamall Bovell, Eddie Guen-Murray should all see plenty of time on the mat this season as well.
OPRF (4-1, 1-0 West Suburban Silver) has already earned victories over St. Patrick, 58-8; Downers Grove North, 34-28; Conant, 39-27; and Addison Trail, 48-15. The Huskies’ lone loss, 32-31, came against 11th-ranked Notre Dame at Addison Trail. The Huskies actually won 8 of 13 contested matches, but OPRF gave up four pins and a forfeit paving the way for the Dons’ win. The top-ranked Brooks dominated third-ranked Charlie Doyle by pinning him. In the final bout, Harris needed a tech or better since the Huskies owned the criteria tiebreaker, but he fell just short with a 20-8 win.
“You have to give props to Cameron because he did everything he was asked in that match,” Powell said. “He rode, controlled, turned and took down. Great effort by Cameron, but it just wasn’t in the cards.”
Rogers also wrestled very well at the Addison Trail Quad going a perfect 3-0. He battled back from a 4-0 deficit against Conant’s Mike Sells to win on a takedown in overtime. Against Sean Heneghan (Notre Dame), Rogers scored a last second headlock with back points giving OPRF three team points.
“Colin is a fierce competitor,” Powell said. “When he cleans up his technique, he will be a serious threat to the top guys in the state.”
With a solid win already earned over Downers Grove North, the Huskies are clearly focused on winning a fourth consecutive conference title.