Talk about an encore. The Oak Park and River Forest High School wrestling team repeated as Class 3A state champion by cruising past Sandburg 39-16 in Saturday’s final of the IHSA Dual Team Tournament at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. The Huskies dominated the Eagles, claiming 10 wins in 14 matches to cap off another memorable title run.
“I’m very happy, proud, and quite honestly, relieved we won the state championship,” OPRF head coach Paul Collins said. “We came into this season as the top-ranked team in the state and ranked No. 1 or 2 in the country in every poll. Obviously, that’s in the back of guys’ minds, but we just focused on working hard and getting better each day.
“We have a blueprint for success. If the kids follow it, we get where we need to be. No season is ever perfect but when it was crunch time our guys came together. There’s a reason why we call ourselves a family. The wrestlers and coaches did a phenomenal job.”
Last season, the Huskies edged Marist 31-22 to claim the 3A dual-team tourney title and also produced four individual state champions in Davonte Mahomes (wrestling at Michigan), Isaiah White, Larry Early and Kamal Bey and 10 All-State wrestlers overall. OPRF has won three state championships over the last seven years, including two undefeated teams (28-0 this season; 24-0 in 2009). Last season, OPRF went 29-1 in dual matches en route to a state championship. The Huskies also own a 42 dual-match winning streak.
Nationally, OPRF finished as the top-ranked team in the country per several high school wrestling websites, such as InterMat, Flo Wrestling and Open Mat.
“We don’t wrestle for ourselves, we wrestle for each other,” OPRF junior Jason Renteria said. “Our team is so close. A lot of us wrestled together when we were younger and we do a lot of things together like team dinners. We dominated at state and I can’t wait to come back [next season] and try to make more history.”
During Saturday’s 3A final, Bey pinned Jerry Hokkanen 23 seconds into the opening match to give OPRF a 6-0 lead. Max Metzgar (182), Allen Stallings (220) and Adam Lemke-Bell (285) all won by decision to build the OPRF advantage to 15-3. OPRF senior Ben Bergen dropped an 8-3 decision to Patrick Brucki at 195 pounds which put the Eagles on the board.
Sandburg’s Louie Hayes defeated the Huskies’ Peter Ogunsanya by a 9-1 major decision at 106 pounds. In the 113-pound bout, Renteria shut out Robbie Precin 3-0. Old Dominion-bound Alex Madrigal (120) closed out his stellar career at OPRF by earning a 12-3 major decision against Kevin Stearns. Sandburg’s Rudy Yates (44-0) edged Gabe Townsell 5-2 at 126 pounds. The Huskies’ Jaime Hernandez notched 20-9 major decision victory over Tyler Foley in the 132-pound match. OPRF senior SaVonne Bennette (138) held off Christian Robertson 4-3.
In the middle weights, OPRF predictably dominated with Early (145) notching a 23-9 major decision over Ben Schneider, and White (152) winning by fall at :31 against John Prieto, extending the Huskies’ lead to 39-10. In the last match, OPRF’s Jack Newman lost by fall (1:40) to Tom Slattery in the 160-pound bout.
Early and White closed the season at 30-2 and 42-0, respectively.
White produced an undefeated season as the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds, highlighted by his title in mid-December at the prestigious Walsh Ironman tournament hosted by Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He became the first OPRF wrestler to win a title at the Walsh Ironman.
“There’s no doubt in my mind Isaiah is the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the state,” Collins said. “He had a phenomenal season and he’s one of the most prolific wrestlers in the history of our program.”
OPRF topped Lockport 51-21 in the semifinals and Marmion 46-18 in the quarterfinals of the dual team tourney. The Huskies opened the dual-team state series with a 57-13 win over Evanston at the Niles West Sectional on Feb. 24. The Huskies’ depth was on full display against the Wildkits with Bobby Campos (113), Kevin Davis (132), Bryce Scott (145), Ben Avis (160) and Kendale McCoy (220) posting wins along with victories from a handful of regular starters.
The team title comes a week after the Huskies made their mark at the individual state tournament (Feb. 19-21). White and Matt Rundell each won an individual state championship. White 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 North Carolina-bound Rundell edged Libertyville’s Joey Gunther 3-2 in a taut 160-pound weight class final.
Other state placers for OPRF included Renteria, Madrigal and Early who finished second in their respective weight classes. Townsell took third at 126 and Hernandez fourth at 132.
“We had so many guys with different backgrounds and stories on the team,” Bergen said, “but we accomplished amazing things together. Even with some of the injuries and adversity we faced this season, there was never a sense of panic — just confidence.”
Although the Huskies graduate 13 wrestlers, including Early, Madrigal, Rundell and Lemke-Bell, Collins and his staff will welcome back a plethora of talented grapplers. White will vie for his third straight individual state title next season (a feat never accomplished by a OPRF wrestler). Bey, Stallings, Townsell, Hernandez, Renteria and several other promising wrestlers also return next season, as the Huskies will be pegged yet again as the favorite to win Class 3A.
After their triumphant return from Bloomington, the Huskies held a late-night team party at FatDuck in Forest Park with their coaches, parents and friends.
“It was great to come back home and celebrate with everybody who supported us,” Early said. “We’re thankful to the whole community for the support.”
OPRF 39, Sandburg 16 Class 3A finals (Saturday, Feb. 28)
170 – Kamal Bey (OPRF) d. Jerry Hokkanen, fall 0:23
182 – Max Metzgar (OPRF) d. Brian Krasowski, decision 3-2
195 – Patrick Brucki d. Benjamin Bergen (OPRF), decision 8-3
220 – Allen Stallings, OPRF d. Cole Bateman, decision 4-3
285 – Adam Lemke-Bell (OPRF) d. Matt Frostman, decision 6-3
106 – Louie Hayes d. Peter Ogunsanya (OPRF), major decision 9-1
113 – Jason Renteria (OPRF) d. Robbie Precin, decision 3-0
120 – Alex Madrigal (OPRF) d. Kevin Stearns, major decision 12-3
126 – Rudy Yates d. Gabe Townsell (OPRF) decision 5-2
132 – Jaime Hernandez (OPRF) d. Tyler Foley, major decision 20-9
138 – Savonne Bennette (OPRF) d. Christian Robertson, decision 4-3
145 – Larry Early d. Ben Schneider, major decision 23-9
152 – Walter White (OPRF) d. John Prieto, fall 0:31
160 – Tom Slattery d. Jack Newman (OPRF), fall 1:40