Last Saturday was a good day for the OTHS wrestling program. With eight Panther grapplers making the journey to Normal Community High, the site of the IHSA 3A Sectional Tournament, O’Fallon emerged from the bracket battles with five state qualifying performances.
None of the OTHS sectional qualifiers were able to run through the gauntlet of matches unscathed. However, gutty efforts in five weight divisions netted three third-place finishes and two fourths, giving the Panthers an impressive complement of wrestlers who will be representing O’Fallon this coming weekend in Champaign at the State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Since the arrival of Coach Glenn Exton, now well over 10 years ago, the O’Fallon wrestling program has produced consistently top-notch competitors. Saturday’s tournament was no exception, with O’Fallon grapplers charging through preliminary round action to challenge for supremacy in five separate weight divisions. The five state qualifiers gave OTHS bragging rights among Southwestern Conference schools as they out-performed rival and regional tourney champion Edwardsville, which advanced four wrestlers to state.
O’Fallon’s top three individual efforts came in the 120-, 160-, and 195-pound weight classes. At 120 pounds, Alek Ziegler charged into the semi-finals before absorbing a loss. The OTHS grappler took the defeat in stride with a strong effort in the third-place match, defeating Joliet West’s Austin Poch 10-4 to punch his ticket to state. Ziegler’s win over Poch improved the O’Fallon senior’s mark to 35-4.
A semi-final loss didn’t deter the Panthers’ 160-pounder, Jack Bond, either. Bond stepped onto the mat against Dan Majewski of Oswego and proceeded to dismantle him, winning a convincing 10-3 decision to join Ziegler on the bus to the U of I. Bond’s third-place finish boosts his overall record to a team best 37-2.
Senior Kobey Bosworth collected O’Fallon’s third third-place medal. The O’Fallon 195-pound wrestler locked horns with Matt Hennessey from Plainfield North and was able to rally to claim a 6-5 decision. The hard-fought victory gives Bosworth a 31-6 record as he enters state competition.
According to IHSA state series qualification rules, the top four finishers in sectional tournament competition qualify for state berths. O’Fallon’s Mason Hewitt (182 pounds) and Brian Ahle (220 pounds) made the grade in their respective weight classes. Hewitt lost a narrow 4-3 decision to Lockport’s Payton Fernandes in his final match, while Ahle dropped a 3-0 decision to Quincy’s Tyree Williams. Hewitt will take a 35-5 record into preliminary round action in Champaign, and Ahle will step onto the mat in round one with a 33-5 mark.
Bracketing for the first round of the state tourney was announced late last weekend:
▪ Ziegler will face off against Chicago Marist’s Jacob Dado (37-12).
▪ Bond is matched against Oak Park-River Forest 160-pounder Brian Holloway (28-8).
▪ Hewitt battles Mount Prospect’s Alex Koczwara (34-4).
▪ At 195 pounds, Kobey Bosworth faces Jake Lowell (17-4) from Winnetka New Trier, and Ahle meets Mount Prospect’s Matt Wroblewski (31-0).
“Overall, our wrestlers represented OTHS very well,” said Exton. “Securing five state tournament slots put us one wrestler better than regional champion Edwardsville, which was quite an accomplishment. I know our kids are excited to make the trip to state. They are well aware that there are no easy matches, but we will bring a lot of experience and determination onto the mat and see what happens.”