In a tune-up for this weekend’s IHSA regional at Granite City, the OTHS wrestling squad turned in a strong showing Saturday, Feb. 4 in the Francis Howell Invitational, relying on team depth and one individual championship to collect a third-place trophy. The Panthers finished with 167 points, 7.5 points behind champion Whitfield and 6.5 points less than second place Francis Howell.
Senior Brian Ahle took honors as O’Fallon’s top individual wrestler, strong-arming his way to the tourney championship in the 220-pound weight division. The Panther grappler started his tourney run with a bang, nailing Holt High School’s Jake Mcgough to the mat just 45 seconds into round one. Ahle followed with consecutive decisions over Malik Clayborn (3-1) and Brandon Baccus (6-2), setting up a championship tilt with Drake Ortiz. After the two combatants tested each other’s strengths in the first two periods, Ahle forced the issue at the start of the final period and gained the victory with a pin 45 seconds into the final round.
Although Ahle was certainly the catalyst for the Panthers effort against the 37-team field, the OTHS crew needed a lot of additional help to challenge for the tourney title, and they got it with solid performances in most weight divisions.
Jack Bond, Mason Hewitt and Kobey Bosworth added valuable points to the OTHS total with 2-1 tournament efforts. Bond, wrestling at 160 pounds, scored consecutive wins over Jalen Gayfield of Marquette (pin at 1:37) and Jacob Malvin of Lafayette by major decision, 19-7, before falling to Tyler Purler of Howell South 3-2. Hewitt scored two straight wins by pin before a close loss to the 182-pounder from Lindbergh. Bosworth also exited the tournament winners’ bracket after consecutive wins by decision.
Alek Ziegler and Alex Fulton went deep into the wrestle-back bracket of the tournament. Ziegler finished the day with a 2-2 mark, while Fulton pinned three of his opponents en route to a 3-2 overall mark on the day.
The Panthers warmed up for their final regular season tournament at Francis Howell with a pair of dual meet victories last week. The OTHS matmen roared to victory Tuesday, Jan. 25 to take a lop-sided 42-15 win over small school power Vandalia. O’Fallon garnered seven victories in the match with a balanced attack that included pins by Ahle and Bosworth. Bond scored a 20-4 major decision along with 138-pounder Jalen Jones (13-2). Other OTHS victors included Nasim Chelbi, Ziegler, Michael Faulkner and Jake DeLange.
O’Fallon wrapped the regular season schedule Jan. 26 with an impressive 54-21 rout of Belleville West. Chelbi set the tone for the Panthers by mauling his Maroon opponent in the 118-pound weight class. Chelbi scored three takedowns in the first period and cruised to a 27-10 win. Ziegler followed Chelbi to the mat and after a tough struggle through the first two periods, pinned West’s Tyreace Wilbourn. The Maroons countered the scoring in the lightweight divisions with a pair of victories, but O’Fallon’s Caleb Carriel changed the momentum with a 9-4 decision over his 152-pound adversary. It took only 1:41 for Bond to dispose of Stefan Caswell at 160 pounds DeLange, Hewitt and Ahle followed with pinning combinations against their respective opponents to end the Panthers conference schedule on a high note.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, the OTHS squad will begin post-season wrestling action when they travel to Granite City for the IHSA regional tournament.