Through the first month of its 2016-17 campaign, the O’Fallon wrestling squad adopted the credo: “Just win, baby.”
After a perfect start to their conference season and initial super duals test, Coach Glenn Exton’s charges won their third consecutive Chatham-Glenwood Invitational crown and rallying to defeat the Collinsville Kahoks in their most recent Southwestern Conference action.
During the 14-team Chatham tournament, the Panthers scored 214 team points to easily out-distance their closest competitor — host Chatham-Glenwood — by nearly 30 points. O’Fallon wrestlers won six of the 11 weight classifications, drawing accolades from Coach Exton.
“Our wrestlers came prepared to defend their title and came through like champions,” Exton said. “Our veterans led the way with outstanding individual efforts. Actually, we were very solid up and down our line-up. It was a great team win and kept our undefeated record intact.”
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For the first time this season, the Panthers put a wrestler on the mat in the 106-pound weight class — Austin Kostadt, who contributed one win to the team total. Alek Ziegler won his third straight Glenwood championship at 120 pounds, setting an OTHS record for the most individual titles at the Chatham tourney. Alex Fulton followed Ziegler in the 126-pound weight division and duplicated Ziegler’s effort. Fulton faced off against a wrestler from Peoria Notre Dame in the title bout and gutted out a 1-0 victory to capture the title.
The back-to-back wins in the light-middleweight classes set the stage for an O’Fallon run that secured the championship. Jack Bond (160), Kobey Bosworth (195) and Brian Ahle (220) extended O’Fallon’s mat domination, each winning individual titles.
Bond started the second run of OTHS victories after Michael Faulkner placed fifth at 145 pounds and Caleb Carriel picked up a third place medal at 152 pounds. Bond’s victory was his second straight Glenwood crown. After a sluggish start in the title match against Champaign Central, he bounced back in the closing minutes to secure an 8-4 decision.
“Jack (Bond) has a rugged approach every match,” Exton said. “But now his technical skills are getting better and better. His biggest asset is that he is fiercely competitive.”
Mason Hewitt captured his first Glenwood championship after missing last year’s tournament with a concussion. This year, Hewitt defeated his Grayslake opponent 9-1 in the finals to improve his seasonal record to a perfect 10-0.
Kobey Bosworth and Brian Ahle also won their first Glenwood titles. Bosworth cruised through matches to claim the 195-pound title. He scored a major 12-0 decision over his opponent from Peoria High School in the finale. Ahle also breezed through the preliminary rounds before facing a Chatham-Glenwood opponent whom he had narrowly defeated by a single point last year. This time around, the OTHS grappler left nothing to chance, scoring early in the match and extending his advantage to win 5-2.
“Kobey (Bosworth) had a strong opponent in the finals, but the Peoria wrestler did not have the technique to match him,” said Exton. “Brian (Ahle) has really benefited from wrestling Bosworth and Hewitt in the practice room. Plus, he is much stronger than he was a year ago. I think he is going to have an outstanding year.”
The Panthers returned to SWC action Dec. 8 and defeated the Collinsville Kahoks 43-27. The win improves O’Fallon’s league mark to 2-0 and overall dual match record to 8-0.
Newcomer Nasim Chelbi kick-started the OTHS team, winning his first ever varsity match 13-10 over Collinsville’s Garrett Lee.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Exton. “Nasim has only been wrestling for a month. He is going to be a good one.”
Alek Ziegler followed Chelbi’s win with an 8-0 technical fall over Drew Evans. Alex Fulton ran into a bit more difficulty against the Kahok’s top wrestler, Jevon Pargo, losing an 8-4 decision.
“This was the feature match of the evening,” Exton said. “Both Pargo and Ziegler are state ranked. Alek did a good job against, arguably, their best wrestler. This is the kind of match that Alek needs in order to get better. He will come back stronger from this one.”
After a pair of Collinsville wins at 132 and 138, Michael Faulkner scored a key win by injury default over Kahok Sam Blaha.
“Blaha went down with a shoulder injury midway in the first period and couldn’t continue in the second. Michael was winning at the time that Blaha defaulted, but we didn’t expect to get six points from this bout,” Exton said.
The Panthers nailed down the victory with a series of dominating performances starting with Jack Bond’s pin over Nathan Crane at 1:57 in the 160-pound contest. Hewitt and Bosworth followed with successive pins, and Brian Ahle, using a variety of techniques, mauled Antavian Quilling 15-0. OTHS freshman Mason Baker closed out the Panthers’ victory parade with a pinning combination a 1:38.
“This was the fourth straight year that we have defeated Collinsville,” said Exton. “Our team is currently ranked 23rd in the state — a testament to our kids’ hard work.”
The Panther matmen were scheduled for a triangular meet Dec. 13 with Highland and Civic Memorial in preparation for the Dec. 16-17 annual Mascoutah Invitational.