Over break, the team practiced hard to prepare for the increased level of competition they will face in January and February.
“We’ve worked day in and day out with the coaches, who have made sure to work us hard,” said senior captain John Murphy. “I worked hard to capitalize on the free time I was given (over break) … I wanted to surpass kids who had beaten me earlier in the season.”
Last Thursday, the team headed northwest to battle both MICDS and Ritenour at Ritenour in a tri-meet. Despite a lack of early wins against an impressive MICDS squad, the wrestlers were able to redeem themselves and pull through with a win due to several pins, defeating MICDS 49-22. Next, SLUH faced Ritenour and earned a blowout victory over the small team. Highlighted by wins from Bobby Conroy, Kevin Flack, Will Coovert, and Leo Wagner, the SLUH team earned enough points to emerge victorious at the tri meet, outscoring Ritenour 46-11.
The next day, the SLUH JV team travelled to Vianney to participate in their annual wrestling tournament. Although the tournament has a reputation of bringing in tough competition from reputable wrestling programs, the Jr. Bills held their own, with two JV wrestlers placing Friday night. Sophomore Logan Neumann continued his undefeated season, taking first place and winning his final match with an impressive pin. Freshman Jack Onder won an exhausting match that went deep into the third period and ended when Onder had completed a tech fall, which occurs when a wrestler outscores his opponent by 15 points.
“For Onder, the key has been hard work in the practice room and experience. He has grown with each of his matches and continues to do so. As his conditioning and attention to detail improve, he will become an even better wrestler. Logan pushed himself to get better in the top position and rely more on skill than strength. The results showed that work. Now, he just needs to learn that there is no smiling on the medal stand,” said freshman coach Sean O’Brien.
The next day, the varsity wrestlers arrived at Vianney for the varsity tournament with an appetite for high place finishes. Senior captain Jake Pineda took first for the third time in his SLUH career at the tournament, winning 9-0 through major decision against some possible opponents later in the year at districts.
“I was excited to face district opponents at Vianney,” said senior captain Jake Pineda. “So any district opponent I face, I place special importance on winning because it will affect my seeding in the district tournament.”
Murphy was also able to take first place through major decision. Sophomore Bobby Conroy, who won the tournament for his second time, displayed his impressive skill set as he successfully took down his opponent, taking the match through all three periods, winning 15-3.
Junior wrestler Kevin Flack also had an exceptional day as he earned a second place finish. Senior Zack Bievenue was also able to grab an impressive second place finish, losing only his final match to one of the top wrestlers in SLUH’s district. The Bills ended the tournament with an impressive third-place finish.
“I’m very pleased with our team finish,” said Pineda. “This is my fourth time wrestling this tournament and it’s one of the only times we have ever scored high in the Vianney tournament. So yeah, I’m really pleased with how we placed and how strong we’re pushing through January.”
On Tuesday night, SLUH hosted both St. Mary’s and DuBourg in a tri-meet. Wanting to win on their own campus and impress the home crowd, SLUH put forth a strong effort against St. Mary’s first and DuBourg second. With a blowout 41-24 win and several pins against DuBourg, highlighted by Murphy’s 2-0 finish, the SLUH wrestlers confidently faced St. Mary’s. Despite a strong start from the Jr. Bills, St. Mary’s caught up to SLUH’s early lead and topped them, winning by a mere three points—27-24.
“I think we did extremely well overall,” said Murphy. “The number one thing we’ve been working on and need to continue to work on is wrestling our match. We got in too many ties, and as a team that’s not our strong suit. We have to focus on getting out of those ties, getting angles and taking quality shots.”
Despite a loss to St. Mary’s, the team found hope in sophomore Cam Perry’s persistence against his opponents.
“One guy who stood out was Cam,” said Murphy. “He lost his match against St. Mary’s, but he was a major inspiration for the team. The guy was a lot better than him, but no matter what happened, Cam kept fighting as hard as he could, and it takes a lot of courage to do that.”
JV will head to Fox High School to participate in their annual wrestling tournament on Saturday, while the varsity team will wrestle in the 141 Rumble Tournament at Rockwood Summit High School, also on Saturday. The team is looking forward to tough competition, as the tournament will be featuring four top ranked teams and over thirty five ranked wrestlers.
“The team has been drilling fundamentals and working on conditioning. We needed to revisit our single leg attacks and develop better finishes so I hope that work is apparent at these tournaments. It’s always dangerous to look too far ahead, so the MCC tournament will be our focus next week. Right now, we are getting ready for a tough, but fun weekend of wrestling,” said O’Brien.