OPRF senior wrestler Sammy Brooks will grapple at 182 pounds this season.Photos by J. GEIL/Photo Editor

OPRF head wrestling coach Mike Powell has always preached toughness and resiliency. So it was no surprise to Powell when some of his freshmen called him to ask how they could improve.

“That is the mentality I expect from all my wrestlers this season,” he said. “When freshmen are willing to ask me what they can do to improve I am always impressed.”

Although OPRF capped off last season by sending five wrestlers to the Class 3A State Finals, the team did not end up placing at state.

“It was disappointing not to win state for Sammy [Brooks], but I am confident in Sammy’s senior season we can win state. I expect to send at least 14 wrestlers to the state finals and a number of them to win,” said Powell.

The Huskies begin the 2011 season ranked sixth in Illinois, according to the Chicago Tribune, and 32nd in the nation.

Powell expects big things from Brooks, who will grapple in the 182-pound weight class. The senior, who recently signed a letter of intent to wrestle at the University of Iowa, is the Huskies’ top wrestler. He enters the season hoping to win his second state championship, after falling short in last season’s state final to St. Rita’s Jahwon Akui. Brooks also competed at the FILA Cadet World Championships in Hungary this past summer where he finished as a bronze medalist.

“I expect a great finish to Sammy’s high school wrestling career this year,” said Powell. “I truly know he has great things yet to accomplish.”

The other top returning OPRF wrestlers include Darius Henry (113-pound weight class), team captain Cameron Harris (126), Ty Fleming (126), Donald Hicks (132), Colin Rogers (138), Michael Woulfe (160), Joey Ariola (170) and Jamall Bovell (195). Henry won his bout in sectionals as a sophomore last season and is expected to emerge as a force in the Huskies’ line-up. Powell is also hoping for strong performances from his three senior heavyweights in Marq Brumant, Jacob Friesen, and Dominique Peel.

Powell said he’s excited about his underclassmen and their ability to contribute to the team’s overall success. “These underclassmen are some of the most talented young men I have coached. I expect them to bring huge contributions for us in our goal to win state,” he proclaimed.

The top sophomores he hopes will step up this season are Joe Robles (106), Johnny Gahagan (120), Zach Brinner (126), Devonte Mahomes (145), Andre Lee (195), and Emonte Logan (220). Many of the sophomores will be expected to back-up their junior and senior counterparts, and develop throughout the season.

Powell coached the OPRF wrestlers to the state title in the 2008-2009 season, and he sees many parallels between that team and his current squad.

“I’m confident that if the guys display toughness and are willing to work every day in practice, we can achieve great things,” he said.

The Huskies begin their 2011 campaign Wednesday, Nov. 23, against St. Patrick.

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