The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

Wrestling sets sights on sectionals

The wrestling teams at Oak Park and River Forest High School are counting their successes this season as both the boy’s and girls’ teams head into sectionals on Feb. 9 and 10.

The girls’ team has benefited from the leadership of seniors Sarah Epshtein and Trinity White, who were both All-State last year. Coach Patrick Woulfe and teammates agree that they have been instrumental in how well their team has done

Junior Astrid Barajas said, “They’re the two most reliable and strongest wrestlers we have, pulling through every tournament and meet we’re at.” The team’s regular season record was 4-8, according to Woulfe.

Although White and Epshtein will be graduating this year, the future is looking bright for the Huskies. Woulfe said that there are “a bunch of younger girls that are learning a ton and have been killing it.”

Barajas added, “We’ve gotten a lot of new girls, so the wrestling team will have a better and stronger foundation in the future.” The roster this year consists of 16 girls with a tight bond and strong work ethic.

Practice takes place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in either the Developmental Room, where newer wrestlers go and learn the basics, or the Varsity Room, where the more experienced players go and harness their skills for development. This time provides an opportunity for the wrestlers to hone new techniques to prepare for their matches.

Their success in practice paid off in their recent conference meet. The Huskies’ record was 4-2, with losses to Glenbard West and Lyons Township, and wins over Proviso West, Hinsdale Central, York and Downers Grove North, according to Woulfe.

“Our conference meet was amazing,” said Barajas. “It was at Addison Trail and so many people placed and received medals. It was such a perfect meet to get ready for regionals.”

At the regional competition on Jan. 26 and 27, White came in fifth, Epshtein came in first, and sophomore Caliyah Campbell came in third. All three are headed to sectionals on Feb. 9 and 10, with junior Pearl Lacey as an alternate after her 7th place finish, according to Woulfe.

OPRF wrestling against competition at WSC conference

The boys have been pushing through their season relentlessly as well. Joe Knackstedt, a junior on varsity, said, “We’ve been putting in a lot of effort throughout the whole season and have been going at it nonstop.” At press time, the boy’s team record was 14-2.

They ruled the West Suburban Conference Silver Division in December, becoming the 2024 Conference Champions, eliminating six other teams.

“We had a lot of placers,” said David Ogunsanya, a sophomore on the team, noting that he and Knackstedt took second in their classes, and sophomore Zev Koransky, with a personal record of 33-5, placed first. Ogunsanya now has a record of 27-6 and Knackstedt with 30-7.

Ogunsanya added, “One of the most significant things is that we’re All-Conference, so we’re undefeated, 6-0, and that was a huge achievement for us, especially because last year we were 1-5. We haven’t won conference since 2019, so this is pretty good for us.”

Tristan Kidd, a junior on varsity, echoed this notion of what it has taken for the team to get where they are now. The standout quality of the team is “persistence,” he said. “We will take a loss…wrestle again, and do a lot better.”

Ogunsanya added, “Overall, I think we’re doing a lot better than last year because there’s a lot more sense of a team.”

The team’s senior captains this year are Ruben Acevedo, Isaac Davies and Emmet Baker. In the years since 2019, the Huskies have been rebuilding their foundation in the program and this year, the team has really come together.

Regionals took place on Feb. 3, and sectionals will be on Feb. 9 and 10 at James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. The state tournament will be held at the University of Illinois Feb. 14 to 16.

“We have a solid team up and down the lineup and some very good individuals looking to compete for All-State honors there,” reported Coach Paul Collins.

As a team, sectionals will be on Feb. 19 at Addison Trail, followed by state on Feb. 23 and 24 at Bloomington, Illinois.

All season long, these wrestlers have wrestled for each other, sharing the collective responsibility and striving for something bigger than themselves. “Overall, we have done well this season,” Collins said. “We set a high standard for effort in the room and competition, and the wrestlers have met/exceeded everything we’ve thrown at them.”

OPRF wrestler Hugh Vanek dominating competitor
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