By Marty Farmer
With four state championships won since 2009 (including three straight, 2014-2016), the resume speaks for itself. And though the Huskies' bid for a four-peat ended with a loss to Montini in the quarterfinals of the IHSA State Dual Meet last spring, disappointment didn't linger at OPRF.
The Huskies have never been known to rest on their laurels. Besides, the difference between winning and losing at the highest level can be subtle.
"I think last year we probably got a little too caught up in reaching our goals," OPRF coach Paul Collins said. "I'm not necessarily talking about winning a fourth straight state title, but I think maybe we didn't focus enough on the process. We want guys embracing daily workouts and giving maximum effort in order to improve."
Bolstered by an influx of talented freshmen and sophomores, there's a fresh, palpable buzz around the program. Numbers are up in terms of wrestlers while expectations remain as high as ever.
"The energy is rejuvenated from our senior captains on down to the freshmen," Collins said. "Of course, guys want their hand raised at the end of a match and we all want to win. However, we're talking with the guys about buying into the process. The focus isn't on wins and losses. It's about being coachable and giving your very best effort not only on the mat but in the classroom.
"We had a phenomenal offseason and we're off to a good start this season."
OPRF (12-1, 3-0 West Suburban Silver) lost its first match against highly-regarded Washington, 37-31, in a quad hosted by the Huskies Saturday.
"We beat DeKalb and Providence and lost to Washington in a tough quad," Collins said. "We were a down a couple of guys, but we are a good enough team that if we wrestled to our ability we could have pulled the victory out. It's really more about facing tough competition at this point in the season."
OPRF is ranked No. 2 in Class 3A state rankings behind Montini in the IllinoisMatmen.com rankings. Sophomore Jake Rundell is No. 1 in the 106-pound class and senior Tony Madrigal No. 2 at 132.
OPRF has the talent and motivation to compete with any team in the state.
Madrigal, a two-time state runner-up, is an elite wrestler in the 132- or 138-pound weight classes. He's committed to wrestle at the University of Oklahoma next year.
"If he wrestles to his ability, we feel like he will win a state championship," Collins said. "He's done a nice job of becoming a team leader and taking guys under his wing and giving back to the program."
In addition to Madrigal, OPRF sophomores Rundell (106-pound class), Josh Ogunsanya (113) and Nico Bolivar (120) have enabled the Huskies to stockpile talent in the lower weight classes.
"We feel really good about our sophomores and freshmen," Collins. "The trio of Jake, Josh and Nico can be special."
Freshmen Connor Nagela (106) and Raymond Hernandez (126) provide more cause for optimism. Junior Eddie Bolivar is a grinder who can wrestle at either 126 or 132.
The middle weights offer a nice balance of wrestlers, including senior Eddie Ordonez and sophomore Joe Chapman (145), senior Jack Fischer (160), junior Jake Cagnina and sophomore Daemyen Middlebrooks (170) and senior David Smith (182).
Junior Torry Early, the younger brother of OPRF alum/state champion Larry Early, is a versatile wrestler who may see action at 138 and 145.
Elijah Osit is wrestling at 195 pounds. Brian Ziech, a junior who transferred this year from Fenwick, could also contribute in this weight class.
Senior Talvin Gibson and junior Ashford Hollis, who both played football in the fall, wrestle at 220 and 285 pounds, respectively.
"Ashford is starting to turn a corner," Collins said. "He went 4-0 with four pins over the weekend which was nice to see. He's kind of like [former OPRF wrestler] Adam Lemke-Bell. They are both big but the nicest guys, which is great. On the wrestling mat though, he needs to be aggressive and intense."
Junior Jaylan Pascasio (220) and senior Max McDermott (285) provide quality depth. Other wrestlers expected to contribute this season inlcude Danny Lingen, Cameron Bates, Ronnie Massari, Kedrick Bryant and Ibrahim Mohktar.
"We feel good about where we are," Collins said about the Huskies' progress. "We had some issues off the mat last year so it's nice to not have those distractions. Instead, we can focus on building our guys up.
"We talk with our wrestlers about enjoying the fight and the grind of the season. By the end of the season, we will have faced a lot of tough competition and we'll be ready for the postseason as individuals and as a team."
Answer Book 2018
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