Isaiah White and Matt Rundell became the latest members of the Oak Park and River Forest High School wrestling team’s rapidly expanding list of individual state champions. Last year, the Huskies produced a school-record four state champs at the individual state tourney.
Ranked No. 1 in the state in their respective weight classes by Illinoismatmen.com, White and Rundell each won a state championship at Saturday’s Class 3A IHSA Individual State Tournament at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
White (36-0) defeated Willowbrook’s Matt Rowland 9-3 in the 152-pound title bout to become just the fourth OPRF wrestler in program history to win consecutive state championships. In the semifinals, White cruised past Trevell Timmons of Lockport by a 19-7 major decision.
The previous three OPRF back-to-back state champions are Terry Isaacson (1959-60), Tim Obrochta (1983-84) and Nick Dardanes (2009-10). White, the consensus No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country at 152 pounds, will try to become the first OPRF wrestler to win three straight state titles next season.
Rundell was elated to win his first individual state crown over the weekend. After finishing third in the state at 152 pounds last year and earning state runner-up at 106 pounds as a freshman, Rundell finally took the final step on Saturday. The North Carolina-bound Rundell (34-3) edged Libertyville’s Joey Gunther 3-2 in a taut 160-pound weight class final.
“It feels great to win a state title. It’s an epic conclusion to my individual high school career,” Rundell said. “I thought I wrestled really well for the majority of the tournament. I wrestled very conservatively against Gunther. I didn’t score as many points as I would have liked, but I wrestled smart and got the win.”
In addition to its pair of state champs, the Huskies produced five other state placers, including runner-ups Larry Early, Jason Renteria and Alex Madrigal.
Early was upset 3-2 by Crystal Lake South senior Eric Barone in the 145-pound championship match.
“I felt like I wrestled great at state other than the match with Barone,” Early said. “He scored because I did something dumb and he capitalized on it. I made a mistake and it cost me. It was a tough match.”
Early defeated Barone in their previous two meetings. Early (25-1), who defeated Fernie Silva of Rockton Hononegah 7-3 to win the 145-pound state title last season, will wrestle at the University of Minnesota next year.
While the loss to Barone was disappointing, Early will leave the OPRF program as the only wrestler to medal all four years. He also dealt with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, causing him to sit out a substantial portion of the season.
At 113 pounds, Renteria lost 4-3 to Glenbard North’s Austin Gomez in the state final, while Madrigal also lost a close title bout at 120 pounds when Mike Cullen of Cary-Grove won via a takedown 25 seconds into overtime.
Gabe Townsell (36-7) finished third at 126 pounds by defeating Brother Rice’s Julian Blanco 5-2 in the third-place match. Jamie Hernandez rounded out the Huskies’ top finishers with a fourth-place result in the 132-pound class. After winning three of four matches, Hernandez lost to A.J. Jaffe of Marmion 4-2 in the third-place match. In the semifinals, Hernandez fell to highly-regarded St. Rita sophomore Austin O’Connor (46-1), who went on to win his second straight state title.
Although they didn’t place over the weekend, SaVonne Bennette (138), Max Metzgar (170), Rolliann Sturkey (182), Ben Bergen (195) and Allen Stallings (220) also represented OPRF well as state qualifiers.
Considering OPRF wrestled without heavyweight standout Adam Lemke-Bell, defending state champion Kamal Bey and superb freshman Anthony Madrigal during the individual state series for assorted reasons, the Huskies’ remarkable depth served the team well.
OPRF, the Class 3A defending state champions in the IHSA Dual Team Tournament, faces Evanston in the team sectionals on Feb. 24. With an expected victory, the Huskies advance to the state quarterfinals where they will face the winner of Lyons Township/Marmion Academy on Saturday at 11 a.m. The state semifinals are also Saturday at 2 p.m., with the state final and third-place matches closing out the day with a 6 p.m. start time.
“Whatever happened at individual state is behind us now,” Rundell said. “We’re refocused and want to win another team state title.”
OPRF has won two dual team state tournament titles (2009, 2014) under coach Mike Powell. The Huskies are heavily favored to win a third state title this weekend under new head coach Paul Collins. Powell, who stepped down as the head coach after last season’s historic run, remains with the team as a valued assistant. Collins, previously a longtime assistant coach within the program, took over the head coaching responsibilities, this season. The Huskies haven’t skipped a beat this season as one of the premier teams in the country.