Wrestling aims to return to past glory

Oak Park and River Forest High School has many athletics programs with great history; however, almost none of the sports share the same pedigree as the wrestling team. 

Since 2003, the boys’ team has won regionals 14 times, winning nine in a row from the 2011-12 season to the 2019-20 season. The team won sectionals 11 times since 2005 and state four times: in 2008, as well as three years in a row, in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

On Saturday, Feb. 4, the team will host regionals with a chance to get back to their winning ways. “We have an opportunity to win, which is something we have been working on putting ourselves in a position to do,” said Head Wrestling Coach Paul Collins. 

The wrestling team emphasizes legacy. “I’ve been a part of this program since the mid 80s,” said Collins.“My dad taught here and I also went here, and in all that time I don’t remember us ever hosting a regional. I’m excited about hosting that and trying to continue that success.”  

The wrestlers are also excited for this opportunity to win regionals in front of the home crowd. Senior leader Tej Menon said, “I think I can speak for everyone on the team to say we are super excited. It’s the first time we’ve hosted the regional, and we have a good chance at winning it which will move us on to team sectionals.” 

“Wrestling is an interesting sport because it’s a team sport as well as an individual sport, but we have some really strong individuals,” Collins added. Among them is freshman Zev Koransky, who posted a record of 30-7 this season. 

Interestingly, Koransky may be one of the more experienced wrestlers on the team, as he has been wrestling since before high school, compared to some kids who started as freshmen. “Being one of the more experienced guys on the team, I feel like I have some sort of responsibility to be a leader among the team,” said Koranksy.

“Being only a freshman does make being a leader more challenging,” he added.

Menon also commented on the interesting leadership dynamic and how the team uses it to their advantage. “I started wrestling my freshman year, so we have a couple freshmen on the team who have much more experience in the sport than I do,” he said. “Although I might not be able to lead them in the sport itself, I think me and our other seniors have helped lead by example and show them what consistent effort can produce.”

Even with the team being so reliant on younger talent, Collins is still proud of how the team has managed to balance the skill of the underclassmen with the leadership of the seniors and juniors.

Also, OPRF wrestled rival Fenwick for the first time since 2010 this year. “It was nice to get that going again, and obviously it was also nice to win,” Collins said. 

Coach Collins attributed the team’s success to their ability to pick up skills so quickly. “They clearly show a certain level of intelligence. When we’re working through technique and different positions, they’re picking things up right when we learn them so we don’t have to waste time going over things,” said Collins.

With the team finishing the regular season and heading into playoffs, Collins is proud of how the team has bonded and how they will use that for a deep playoff run. “How they’ve been able to develop their relationships with each other over the last 12 months is really encouraging,” said Collins.

“It’s something that we talked about at the end of last season, as well as this summer, fall and into the regular season,” said Collins. “They’ve really bought into that and enjoyed the evolution as a team and as a group of young men who are working towards a specific goal, as well as working towards their own personal goals.”