Christmas came early for Coach Glenn Exton and the OTHS wrestling team. Gearing up for this past weekend’s 27-team Mascoutah Invitational, the Panther grapplers ran roughshod over their mat adversaries, winning five consecutive dual meet matches to improve their regular season record to an eye-popping 13-0 prior to their holiday hiatus.
In dominating fashion, the Panthers barreled their way to victories over Highland and Civic Memorial on Dec.13 and traveled to Belleville East two days later to wallop the Lancers, Carbondale and Waterloo.
Facing young squads from Highland and Civic Memorial, the O’Fallon matmen dominated the action to win by lop-sided margins. The Panthers lost only one bout the entire night.
“We just had too much experience,” said OTHS coach Glenn Exton. “We will be in a similar situation next year after graduating seven seniors from this year’s starting line-up, but tonight our kids dominated. Kobey Bosworth took our only loss but that was to Highland’s Brandon Carpenter, who was 2A state-qualifier last year. He (Bosworth) wrestled well enough to win the match, losing a very close 7-5 decision.”
For most of the night, however, it was a “pin fest” for the Panthers. Alek Ziegler (126 pounds), Jack Bond (160 pounds) and Mason Hewitt (182 pounds) spearheaded the OTHS attack, all winning by pin and preserving their undefeated dual meet records. The trio atop the O’Fallon leader board improved their individual 2016-17 marks to 13-0. Bond’s victory over Highland’s Brandon Wills was one of the showcase matches. Entering the match, Wills was ranked 12th in the state in Class 2A.
The wins just kept coming on Thursday, Dec. 15 when Exton’s crew rolled to a triple dual victory to extend their winning streak to 13 dual matches and improve to 3-0 in conference action. The Panthers were unstoppable, trouncing host Belleville East 59-17, blasting Waterloo 59-12, and surviving a stiffer challenge by the Carbondale Terriers to notch a 45-22 victory.
A win at 120 pounds and an early forfeit gave Carbondale an early lead. The Terriers went up 15-13 when O’Fallon’s Jalen Jones was pinned by Will Meador, but O’Fallon regained the lead for good on a 4-2, overtime decision by Mike Faulkner at 145 pounds. After the Faulkner victory, the Panther matmen nailed down the team victory with wins by Jack Bond, Kobey Bosworth and Brian Ahle.
“Carbondale has a few really tough kids,” Exton said. “They have been a tough match for us the past three years. Mason Hewitt took his first loss of the season to their 182-pounder, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 2A. We got a little bit of revenge for that loss when Alek Ziegler defeated Zach Willard, the No. 5 wrestler in the state at 126 pounds.”
The Panthers were on cruise control after disposing of the Terriers. Against triangular host Belleville East, O’Fallon dominated the heavier weight classes, winning every match from 160 through the 285-pound match. The winning effort was repeated against Waterloo. Alek Ziegler and Alex Fulton began the OTHS romp with back-to-back pins over their Bulldog opponents. Caleb Carriel, Jake DeLange, Kobey Bosworth, Brian Ahle and Mason Baker repeated the efforts of their lightweight teammates, winning their respective matches by pin.
Completing the triple dual sweep at Belleville East improves the Panthers’ dual meet record to an eye-popping 38 victories in their last 39 duals. Their last loss was last January against Edwardsville — the next scheduled dual this year.
“We went into last year’s match against Edwardsville thinking we had a shot at them, but they handled us pretty easily,” Exton said. “We’ve been on a great run since then and are looking forward to the challenge on Jan. 4.”
The O’Fallon wrestlers’ week ended with the biggest prize, the Panthers’ second consecutive Mascoutah Invitational title. The OTHS squad has placed in the top five in the showcase event in each of the past five years with a championship trophies garnered in 2012 and 2015. Alton won the title in 2013 and 2014, but this time the Panthers wrested control of the top spot by out-pointing the Redbirds by twenty, 224 to 204.
Team depth was the major ingredient in the Panthers capturing titles in ’12 and ’15, but this time around the O’Fallon squad soared to the top of the heap with quality rather than quantity, advancing seven wrestlers into the championship round and emerging with four tournament champions.
O’Fallon’s weight class champions were Alek Ziegler (120), Michael Faulkner (145), Jack Bond (160) and Kobey Bosworth (195). The local grapplers also collecting second-place medals were Alex Fulton, Mason Hewitt and Brian Ahle.
Alek Ziegler began O’Fallon’s march to the title with victories by pin over his first-round and semi-final opponents, sandwiching a 15-0 technical fall win over Tony Fernandes of Belleville East. In the weight division finale, Ziegler shut down Carbondale’s Zach Willard 8-0.
Junior Jack Bond continued his super season by manhandling the competition at 160 pounds. Bond pinned East St. Louis’ Damien Ross to start his road to the title. A 15-0 technical fall over Devin Wills of Highland and a pin of Kyzick Bell of Jerseyville propelled the talented Panther grappler in to the finals against Dylan Sibenberg of Waterloo. Bond was in control from the outset, whipping the Waterloo wrestler 17-2.
Kobey Bosworth served notice early in his weight division that he was going for the gold, pinning Nathaniel Miller of Mascoutah in just 18 seconds. Bosworth followed his opening-round victory with another pin over Levi Parkevich of Jacksonville at the 2:49 mark of the first period. The semi-final and final matches tested the OTHS grappler’s resolve, but he rallied to defeat Brandon Carpenter 9-3 in the semis and rallied to claim the tournament title with a 9-4 decision over Alton’s Keyondrick Russell.