Can anybody beat the Oak Park and River Forest High School wrestling team? At 24-0, thoughts of a perfect season have morphed from preseason speculation to regular season probability.

Granted, a road dual match remains against Lyons Township, along with their regular season finale, the Huskie Invitational (Jan. 24). Then the fun really begins as the state playoffs follow with OPRF vying for its second straight Class 3A dual team meet state championship. A few weeks before the team competition, defending state champs Isaiah White, Larry Early and Kamal Bey (plus several other state contenders) could provide a steady stream of Huskies at the winner’s podium of the individual state meet.

Over the past two seasons, only one team has gotten the better of the Huskies. Apple Valley, Minn., defeated OPRF at the Clash tournament last season. This year, the Huskies returned the favor by taking down the Eagles 43-26 en route to their first-ever Clash National Wrestling Duals championship.

The remainder of the Huskies’ resume is simply flawless. Highlights include a 53-0 overall record, including 37 straight dual meet victories, the aforementioned 2014 dual team state championship, along with titles this season at the Clash VIII, Whitlach Invitational, Washington quad and New Trier quad. OPRF also garnered a third-place showing among 85 teams at the Walsh Ironman tournament in Ohio (highlighted by White’s title at 152 pounds).

Over the weekend, OPRF cruised past Crystal Lake Central, Rockton Hononegah and nationally-ranked Clovis (Calif.) to win the Sandburg Super Duals.

So the question remains, will OPRF lose this season? Here are some typical culprits of a champion’s demise.

Coaching change? Since longtime OPRF assistant Paul Collins took over the head coaching responsibilities from Mike Powell this season, the Huskies haven’t skipped a beat. By the way, Powell (who stepped down for personal reasons) and an excellent coaching staff remain on board with Collins.

How about injuries? Not really. OPRF endured its share of banged up grapplers earlier this season but nothing catastrophic. The team should enter the postseason fit, fierce and focused. Besides, the Huskies’ depth is remarkable. OPRF employs a Hawaiian style of wrestling; they come at you in waves.

Perhaps the Huskies could become a victim of their own success? Coach Collins can address that concern.

“Our focus is to improve individually and as a team every single day whether it’s in practice or a match,” Collins said earlier this season. “Obviously, our goal is to be the best and win a state title. You go up and down our lineup and there are no weak spots. What’s most important, however, is that we come together as a team.”

OK, so complacency is a non-issue. Has jealously infiltrated the star-studded lineup?

“We all buy into being a family,” White said. “Our team is a family, and it’s easy to wrestle with somebody you love. Our only goal is to win state and be on top of that podium.”

So there you have it, all the boxes have been checked in terms of potential roadblocks to perfection.

Nothing appears in the way of the orange and blue wrecking crew.

OPRF 35, Clovis (Calif.) 18 (marquee match at Sandburg Super Duals, Jan. 17)

120: Alex Madrigal, OPRF d. Tristan Gilliland, tech fall, 15-0

126: Gabe Townsell, OPRF d. DeDylan Martinez, OT decision, 8-6

132: Jaime Hernandez, OPRF d. Brandon Martino, decision, 5-3

138: Khristian Olivas d. Savonne Bennette, OPRF, decision, 5-2

145: Larry Early, OPRF d. Isaiah Hokit, decision, 11-4

152: Isaiah White, OPRF d. Lane Barnes, tech fall, 23-8

160: Matt Rundell, OPRF d. Dominic Kincaid, decision, 9-6

170: Kamal Bey, OPRF d. Josh Hokit, fall

182: AJ Nevills d. Max Metzgar, OPRF, decision, 10-6

195: Adam Prentice d. Ben Bergen, OPRF, decision, 7-1

220: Seth Nevills (Clovis) wins by forfeit

285: Adam Lemke-Bell (OPRF) d. Hexton Coronado, decision, 7-2

106: Anthony Madrigal (OPRF) d. Wyatt Cornelison (Clovis), major decision, 9-1

113: Justin Mejia d. Jason Renteria, OPRF, decision, 4-2

 

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...