No one said that it was going to be easy.
OFallon Highs lone state wrestling qualifier, senior Jon Villagran, discovered quickly that there were no easy routes to placing in the IHSA state finals last weekend on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Villagran had qualified for the trip to Champaign with a third place finish in the rugged Normal West sectional.
Asked about the Panther seniors chances of surviving preliminary round action, OTHS coach Glenn Exton, who was honored over the weekend for his selection into the Illinois wrestling coaches Hall of Fame, was blunt in his assessment.
"Jon certainly didnt get any breaks when the brackets were announced," Exton said. "Because of his third place finish, he was matched against the No. 2 wrestler in the 120 lb. weight division right out of the gate. Because of an upset in another sectional, his potential wrestle-back opponent was actually a No. 1 sectional seed, he was sort of behind the eight ball from the start."
Extons evaluation of his athletes situation proved right on the mark. After a first round loss, the OTHS senior faced Richard Townsell of Oak Park-River Forest. Although the
Panther grappler battled successfully for all three periods against his No. 1 seeded opponent, Villagran eventually lost a close 7-4 decision and was eliminated.
"Johns motor never stops running," Exton said. "He has endless energy and is very quick. Nobody works harder in our practice room. Utilizing that work ethic along with the experience gained over his first two years of varsity wrestling has made Jon a very formidable opponent at the 120 lb. weight class."
"I started and stayed with wrestling because of the support of my first coach," said the Panther grappler, the son of Nephtali and Mirla Villagran. "Practicing really hard all of the time has also contributed to the success I have had. Being the youngest boy in the family puts a lot of pressure on me, but luckily I get a lot of support from my brothers. I owe them a lot for what they have done for me as far as wrestling is concerned. I also would like to thank all of the coaches I have had."