Photo by Jonna Franz Borgdorff
By JARED BELL
BLOOMINGTON – When the Oak Park-River Forest wrestling team faced Marmion at The Clash in January, 195-pound senior Kendale McCoy felt something was off – even in victory.
“We beat them at The Clash,” McCoy said, “but we didn’t beat them the way we wanted to beat them. There wasn’t as much intensity as there should’ve been. The first day we got back from The Clash, it probably the hardest practice we’ve ever had. We were trying to get that grit back into OPRF.”
At Saturday’s IHSA Class 3A Dual Team State Tournament, OPRF showed what it was missing.
After The Clash helped the Huskies regroup and pick up the intensity, OPRF continued its dominance on Saturday as the Huskies defeated Marmion 33-24 to win their third straight 3A dual team state title.
“Between The Ironman and The Clash (both in January), those are the two tournaments where we always gauge where we are in terms of endurance, toughness and strength,” OPRF coach Paul Collins said. “(After The Clash), we weren’t where we needed to be. We definitely put them through the grinder the next week after that.”
The grinder churned out yet another state title team as OPRF built an early lead in the title dual and never let up as the Huskies claimed the sixth state trophy – and fourth state title – in program history.
“We needed our guys to perform and they performed extremely well,” Collins said.
After OPRF had three individual state champions at last weekend’s IHSA Class 3A Individual State Tournament, the Huskies also left their mark Saturday.
OPRF, which is ranked No. 1 in the GO EARN IT Wrestling Apparel 3A team rankings, topped Hononegah 45-19 in the quarterfinals and Lockport 49-20 in the semifinals to set up the showdown with No. 2 Marmion.
In the finals, the Cadets struck first as they won at 106 pounds, but the Huskies answered in a big way with four straight wins which were part of victories in seven of the final nine contested bouts, which included McCoy’s 5-2 decision at 195.
“Nobody came out here unprepared,” McCoy said. “Everyone came out ready to go.”
While OPRF capture a state title, Lockport beat Providence 42-25 in the 3A third-place match.
For the first time in three-class wrestling, Class 2A has a champion not named Montini.
With the perennial powerhouse bumped up to 3A, a loaded Washington squad capped its ascension to the top Saturday as the Panthers beat Marian Catholic 46-22 to win the 2A state title.
“I think we’ve done the things that we’ve done because we’ve never really set a bar for ourselves,” Washington coach Bryan Medlin said. “Winning a state title was a goal, but now it’s accomplished and we can start looking forward again.”
After the Panthers – who are ranked No. 1 in the GO EARN IT Wrestling Apparel 2A team rankings – bested Cahokia 43-27 in the quarterfinals, they beat No. 2 Mt. Carmel 34-32 in the semifinals to advance to the championship dual against No. 5 Marian Catholic.
In the final, Washington recorded five falls in the 12 contested weights and, following their victory, the Panthers carried Medlin off the mat and to its fans in celebration.
“We just wanted to wrestle our hearts out down here,” Medlin said, “and I feel like our kids did that today.”
In the 2A third-place match, Mt. Carmel beat Crystal Lake Central 40-12.
The Dakota senior class finished 4-for-4 on Saturday.
After winning state titles the past three seasons, the Indians beat Coal City 31-30 to win their fourth straight 1A dual team state title to allow their seniors to complete a perfect run.
“Four in a row,” Dakota coach Peter Alber said. “I can’t believe it.”
It is believed to be the first time a public school has won four straight state titles, according to Alber.
“Sometimes winning (so much) can be bad, so I was a little worried,” Alber admitted. “I was afraid the kids would think it was just going to be handed to them, but they didn’t. I think they noticed when they were wrestling Vandalia that, ‘Hey, this could slip away if we don’t wrestle well.’ I think they rallied really well as a team, went out there and did what had to be done.”
Dakota – which is ranked No. 1 in the GO EARN IT Wrestling Apparel 1A team rankings – beat Olympia 46-21 in the quarterfinals and Vandalia 47-24 to advance to the final against No. 2 Coal City.
In the final, the Coalers wrestled Dakota the closest at state that any team has in the Indians’ four-year run.
Coal City led 12-0 and 18-15 before Dakota’s upper weights took over with four straight wins from 160 to 195 to clinch the win.
Jared Bell can be reached at (815) 220-6938. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.