Sometime today, Thursday, February 20, OFallon High wrestling coach Glenn Exton will begin packing his suitcase for a trek that he has been taking for the past 35 years a trip to the IHSA state wrestling tournament.
In most of those thirty-five years, Exton has taken several of his wrestlers to the states showcase.
This year is no exception as OTHS senior Jon Villagran will be accompanying his coach to compete at the state finals.
This particular year will have added significance for the Panther coach, however, as he will take his place among the all-time best. During last weeks sectional tournament, Exton received word that he had been selected to the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame.
His first official recognition will come this Friday when he will be recognized during the IHSA state tournament in Champaign. A more formal induction ceremony will take place on April 12 in Chicago.
"Actually, when they first told me, I was a little surprised," Exton said. "I knew that my career stats as a coach were comparable to some other inductees, but usually this type of honor is given after a coach retires.
I am not ready for that yet, so getting the word sort of set me back a bit." Exton has always been a wrestling fanatic.
A two-time state qualifier with a career record of 80-30 as a high school grappler at Roxana High School, he attended Southern Illinois Edwardsville.
As a 19 year old he started the Roxana Park District kids wrestling program and watched the program thrive for eight years before moving on to coach wrestling at Edwardsville Junior High School.
During his time at Edwardsville his teams compiled a 43-7 dual meet record and he coached more than 80 state qualifiers and 15 place winners.
After his stint at Edwardsville, Exton took the head coaching job at Vandalia where his coaching career really took off. In 14 years at Vandalia, his teams captured a state championship, a third place finish and four fourth place trophies.
In 2006, Exton moved to OTHS, taking over for Bill Matzker.
Since that time, the Hall of Fame coach has elevated the Panther program by entering his squad in many of the top tournaments in the state.
According to Exton, the journey has been a rewarding one.
"I first got on a wrestling mat as a sixth grader and was hooked," Exton said.