Boys’ wrestling seniors aim to finish strong

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Boys’ wrestling seniors aim to finish strong

Senior Daemyen Middlebrooks placed sixth in state last season

Senior Daemyen Middlebrooks placed sixth in state last season

Photo courtesy of Jamil X Shhmart

Senior Daemyen Middlebrooks placed sixth in state last season

Photo courtesy of Jamil X Shhmart

Photo courtesy of Jamil X Shhmart

Senior Daemyen Middlebrooks placed sixth in state last season

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The beginning of the boys’ wrestling season on Nov. 11 marks, for this year’s seniors, a chance to end a successful career on a note to be proud of.

The team, coached by special education teacher Paul Collins, has competed downstate for the past two years. In the first of those two, senior Jake Rundell (a sophomore at the time) took home a state championship. Falling ill the subsequent year, he was unable to compete, but will return as a senior.

“I expect we’ll be in the state finals again this year, and I just really hope we come together as a team,” says Rundell. “I think we have really strong leadership.”

Senior Daemyen Middlebrooks says the team hopes to place “as high as we can possibly rank in the nation… We’re very well respected, (our opponents) know we’re a good team; they know not to take us lightly. I know last year we started off ranked 47th in the nation, and then we ended up ranked 14th, so I feel like that shows a lot about us and our character as a team.”

“We have a great group of seniors this year, and we expect them to lead with their best efforts. With four returning all-state athletes and another state qualifier, we have an opportunity for some great individual success,” says Collins, now in his fifteenth year of coaching. “Jake Rundell, Nico Bolivar, Josuha Ogunsanya, Joe Chapman, Danny Lingen, and Daemyen Middlebrooks: these seniors will lead the way. We also have Fabian Gonzalez and Malakye Rodriguez, who will be looked to as senior leaders.”

At last year’s state finals, the team ranked second overall. Ogunsanya placed fourth, Bolivar fifth, and Middlebrooks sixth. Chapman made all-state, and Lingen was a state qualifier.

Nationally, Rundell also placed third, while Middlebrooks placed sixth again. OPRF as a whole ranked 14th.

Photo courtesy of Jake Rundell
Senior Jake Rundell looks to finish first in state for the second time

“All of these wrestlers have committed to setting their own legacy within the OPRF Wrestling history,” Collins says. “With year-round training, weightlifting, and national competitions, they are primed for a big year.”

A number of seniors will pursue post-secondary wrestling careers. Rundell will attend Purdue University to study civil engineering, Ogunsanya will attend Columbia University in New York, Bolivar will attend Indiana University, Lingen will attend the University of Chicago, Chapman will attend the Coast Guard academy, and Gonzalez will attend Butler University.

The team also welcomes some promising young members.

“We have some young guys we expect to make the next step and put themselves in a position to achieve their individual goals,” says Collins.

Notable rising wrestlers include freshman Cooper Lacey, junior Zavien Stewart, sophomore Jalen Dunson, junior Connor Nagela, junior Stephon Carr, and junior Malcolm Gray. Stewart, Nagela, and Carr will enter their second season on varsity. Lacey, Dunson, and Gray will make their varsity debuts.

“These young men assure our program will also be thriving in years to come,” Collins says.

Until then, this year’s seniors expect to make the most of their last season.

“(Most of us have) all known each other since about fifth grade from wrestling,” reminisces Middlebrooks. “This is our final year, so we pretty much just want to go out with a bang.”

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people, and I think we’re going to do big things,” says Rundell.