Wrestling for the wins

Both boys and girls wrestling learn from the ups and downs of their season


A. Martil

The wrestling team reflects on a great season and are looking to improve for next year.

By Taryn Rainey

Most sports are mentally and physically demanding, whether it’s running or weightlifting to gain strength and speed. Wrestling is one of the most demanding sports because of the risks wrestlers have while fighting. 

As both boys and girls wrestling seasons come to an end, players and coaches look forward to the future improvements of the program, as well as look back on past successes and lessons from failure.  

Though cut short, the Huntley boys wrestling team had ups and downs during the season, which brought great wrestlers to better tournaments. In the Fox Valley Conference, they went 7-2 with great meets from the boys. 

This was the first year that they had been defeated, but the team focused on the positives instead of the negatives to develop the program. 

“We wanted to use this year to shape the team a little bit,” head coach Benjamin Bertelsman said. “Because our future classes are bringing in a lot of good kids.”

Towards the end of the season, the team had their best tournament at the Geneseo Invite and a great second day by finishing in fifth place out of 23 teams. The top medalist was senior Adam Pena in third place. 

“[Adam] had a goal to get to state; he was hyper-focused this year,” assistant coach Erik Lachel said.

Pena achieved his goal by placing fourth at sectionals and qualifying for state. He was knocked out of state in his wrestleback match. However, he put in great effort throughout the season to help his team succeed.

“He was always that guy who I knew I could count on,” Lachel said.

The team could definitely count on Pena as he was a regional champion as well.

Junior Marko Mihalopoulos was another exceptional wrestler, as he spent part of the season wrestling with a sprained meniscus. Mihalopoulos was a state qualifier last season but fell short this year at sectionals. 

Mihalopoulos did not use his injury as an excuse and worked harder to regain his strength and compete at the varsity level again. 

“After I won my regional, I felt really good,” Mihalopoulos said. “I only had one match after my knee injury, and I barely lost them at all. I felt like I overcame [my injury].” 

For the girls, injuries harmed them as well, but they persevered through the setbacks and sent three girls to the state level. Freshmen Janiah Slaughter and Aubrie Rohrbacher fought for state titles on Feb. 24 and 25, and junior Taylor Casey went to state again for her second year in a row. 

“You have to pry [them] off the mat sometimes,” Bertelsman said. “Because they just want to learn. They’re so new to it and they are perfectionists, [so] they want to get everything done.”

Rohrbacher and junior Jessica Olson learned the sport this year after growing up playing completely different sports. Rohrbacher grew up playing lacrosse and fought her way to state in a new sport soon after learning it. 

Olson grew up as a synchronized figure skater and was one win short of a state qualification as well. 

“There’s a lot of mental [strength in wrestling] and you have to keep pushing through when your finger’s broken, or your knees [are] aching,” Olson said. “You just have to keep pushing through the whole practice and keep going.”

They continue to push through and eventually help grow the program. In order to pursue more success, the wrestlers have had to spend time going to elite competitions outside of the high school season. 

“You need to have good partners,” Lachel said. “So that’s why I try to push these girls to the right rooms so that they can get the right competition so that they can excel.” 

However, getting to the proper rooms is expensive, so the girls need to continue to dedicate themselves if they truly want to focus on wrestling in college or later on. Girls wrestling is starting to expand, so elite female wrestlers can find scholarships to Division I and Big 10 schools through wrestling. 

However, the boys are also able to improve through these club teams in the off season. There are high school tournaments run outside of the season that are great chances to improve without harming a wrestler’s record as they are not linked with IHSA. 

Coaches are also opening up the chance for wrestlers to learn other forms of wrestling to improve their game. High school wrestling is folkstyle wrestling, yet the wrestlers will need to learn freestyle and greco to expand their skills and excel. 

“We just [need to] reload and the reload is starting,” Lachel said. “And hopefully next year we’ll turn the corner.”