Saturday, Feb. 8, marked a day of great success for the the Oswego Panther Varsity Wrestling team. The team competed in the 3A IHSA Regionals, at Plainfield North High School. Heading into Saturday, the Panthers had an overall record of 16 wins and 11 losses.
Eight wrestlers made a name for themselves, competing in their weight range. Those athletes were: Junior Luke Barron (132lbs), Sophomore Logan Guerrero (120 lbs), Sophomore AJ Johnson (152lbs), Junior Cole Pradel (170lbs), Senior Aidan Griffin (195lbs), Junior Zach Sato (138 lbs), Sophomore Michael Sturm (285lbs), and Senior Derek Torza (145 lbs).
The road to a first place finish was not easy, as it stemmed from many tough practices. The team was built under its leadership from coaches, including Mr. Andrew Mundsinger, a well-known presence at Oswego High School.
“We were all operating at a high-level, and ready to go,” Mundsinger said. “We knew going into sectionals that it was going to be a battle, but I think that once we started to get some momentum, everyone stepped up.”
One of the key contributors to the regional victory was junior Cole Pradel. After the competition, Pradel was asked about what was going through his mind throughout the tournament.
“The extra preparation of scouting my potential opponents helped me realize what I had to do win each match and advance in the regional,” Pradel said.
Pradel has been a very successful wrestler since joining the team his freshman year, and has consistently dominated his weight class since. Wrestling has been a very valuable sport to Pradel, aside from football.
“Every one of my brothers wrestled, as well as my dad, so it was kind of a family tradition,” Pradel said. “I started to love it, and I was pretty good, so I stuck with it.”
Pradel ended up finishing first in his weight class at Regionals and won Kendall County Male Athlete of the Week.
Another wrestler that made an impact on Saturday was junior Zach Sato. For Sato, it was about overcoming adversity, as he had torn his meniscus which delayed the breakout year he expected. This only motivated him more, coming out as a ranked wrestler in the state as a junior. Missing practice four times the week prior to regionals hurt his preparation, but his strong mental state and physical ability led him to perform well at the tournament.
“The toughest part was fully getting cleared, as I was out of practice Tuesday to late-Thursday,” Sato said. “Adjusting back into practice at such a big time was difficult and the nerves were there, but I am glad things worked out the way that they did.”
Sato first defeated a high-ranked opponent, then proceded to finish second in his weight class.
“All of us have the goal of state in mind, and as we are getting closer we can pretty much taste it, metaphorically,” Sato said.
The team held its heads high as they proceeded into IHSA Sectionals, which was on Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15, at Quincy High School. After the first day, Sato, Griffin, and Pradel each advanced to the semifinals, which was the following day. Then, Guerrero, Barron, Sturm, and Torza were involved in the wrestlebacks. The next day, Pradel was victorious in the 170 pound class, winning the Sectional Championship.
Each competitor was completely motivated, gave it their all, and had one goal in mind: State.
For Pradel, that dream became a reality, receiving the “State Qualifier” title to his belt. Pradel will look to conclude his junior year with a high rank in Champaign, Illinois.
Oswego Wrestling can look ahead to a bright future, with 12 of its 14 current varsity roster spots returning next season.