By JARED BELL
Brian Glynn laughed at the irony.
After years of Lincoln-Way West being a Class 2A state powerhouse, bumping up to 3A this season has actually improved the Warriors’ state-tournament aspirations.
“In my mind, without a doubt, we’ve always been a second- to fourth-place state team,” the eighth-year LWW coach said. “We probably should’ve had four or five 2A team trophies by now, but we’ve always had bad sectional draws.
“However, now that we’re up to 3A, we probably have a better opportunity to get a trophy than we did in 2A.”
Turns out, size does matter for LWW.
“We always had bad draws,” 182-pound senior Trevor Schmidt said. “It’d be us against Washington in the sectional as the No. 1 vs. No. 3 or something like that. It’s frustrating to watch teams who we beat in the regular season make it to state and earn trophies. We know that we should have had some trophies by now, but it’s just the luck of the draw and how things unfolded.”
This year, however, LWW is aiming to change its luck.
After Lincoln-Way North closed and forced a redrawing of the Lincoln-Way school district, the Warriors gained nearly 700 students to push LWW to 3A, where the draw this season is much more favorable than it’s been in years past in 2A.
“The opportunity for us is there to get to dual team state this year,” Glynn said. “We don’t have to wrestle a Washington or Montini. All the pieces are in place and it’s on us for sure. We can’t blame the IHSA this year. We don’t have any excuses.”
In their first season in Class 3A, the Warriors are ranked No. 7 in the current Illinois Matmen GO EARN IT Wrestling Apparel Rankings.
LWW has wrestled nine teams currently in the 3A rankings and has gone 6-3 with all the losses coming to teams ranked ahead of it, including to No. 2 Oak Park-River Forest, the three-time 3A defending state champion that only beat LWW 31-28.
“We didn’t know exactly where we’d be in the 3A rankings, but we knew that we could compete with these teams,” 160-pound senior Josh Bohne said. “We’re ready to compete with the best teams like Oak Park-River Forest and Lockport.”
Rumors had been circulating for years that one of the Lincoln-Way schools would close and, on Aug. 13, 2015, the cash-strapped district voted to close Lincoln-Way North to save money and reduce its deficit.
It caused redistricting that sent students to new schools and also added new wrestlers to the LWW program.
“After it was announced that North was closing, I started looking around to see which kids we were getting,” Glynn said. “Once I found out who we would be getting, I knew this could be a pretty special year for us.”
So far it has been as the Wildcats’ lineup has been solid from top to bottom.
“The good thing about us is that we have a good wrestler at just about every weight, so we’re not going to give up bonus points,” Bohne said. “Some teams have some studs, but the rest of the lineup isn’t very good. We’re strong all around and that makes us such a great dual team.”
In the postseason, the squad will compete in the Lincoln-Way East Regional and, if it can win, will head to central Illinois for a dual team sectional in which they should be the second-highest ranked team.
“There have been a couple of times where we thought coach Glynn should’ve gotten his first team trophy, so if we could do it for him it would be great,” Bohne said.
“Coach has told us that we have a fair draw, but we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We’re going to have to face good teams every step of the way. We’re looking forward to it and it should be exciting.”
While LWW still thinks about being 2A from time to time – it would be No. 2 in 2A and a strong candidate for No. 1 according to Illinois Matmen ranking guru Rob Sherrill – the Warriors have accepted the challenge of being 3A.
“Obviously, I liked 2A because I felt that we had a better chance to win a state title,” Schmidt said, “but coach Glynn made it known going into the season that he believed in all of us and that we’d have a good chance in 3A.”
Sometimes this season, however, that’s required a little bit of a reminder.
“One day in practice when some kids were fooling around, our 132-pounder Gehrig Simon went off on us,” Bohne said. “He told us, ‘Guys, we’re not in 2A anymore. This isn’t going to be an easy ride. Everyone is going to have to battle, even at regionals.’ That was kind of an eye-opener and helped us realize that we’re really going to have to work to get to state.”
Jared Bell can be reached at (815) 220-6938. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.