Team chemistry key in wrestling’s fight against adversity

Brady Blais and Charlie Mihelic

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South’s wrestling team established itself as a family through last year’s successful season and, according to Head Coach Pat Castillo, this year looks to be no different. Castillo said the players on the boys’ wrestling team have created a true brotherhood through seeing their hard work pay off.

One of the hardest parts about playing a sport is staying friends with the same people that you are competing with each day in practice, according to sophomore Will Collins, a sectional qualifier in last year’s season. Yet, he feels as if that is not a problem with their team.

“It’s a battle every single day at practice but we are still best friends outside the wrestling room,” Collins said.

Following an 18-8 season last year that tied with the school record for the most dual meet wins, Castillo and his team of five returning all-conference players and two returning sectional qualifiers are looking to try to beat that record. However, Castillo said the most important element within the team is their chemistry on and off the mats.

“This is a good group, they have all been around on the same team for three or four years,” Castilllo said. “They bond really well with each other and even hang outside of wrestling.”

The team’s connection largely comes from their summer camp and preseason training where the team spends many hard hours together, senior Norbert Crecan said.

“Preseason and offseason training includes a lot of weightlifting in order to maintain strength while also leaning out [or reducing fat],” Crecan said. “The most important part of the process in wrestling is learning new techniques.”

In the offseason, the team set a goal to improve and work towards winning a state title. Castillo pushed the boys the entire time and the players felt his effect during practices and training. The players noted that they are more confident under an experienced head coach, and they also credit him for much of the team’s success, Collins and Crecan agreed.

“He is the most dedicated man I have ever met,” Crecan said. “He just cares for all the athletes and wants us all to improve as much as we possibly can.”

But Castillo could not take all the credit for his experience in this sport. He attributes much of his coaching methods and strategies to the ones he had learned from his own father, Mike, who coaches the freshman boys’ wrestling team and assists his son in coaching the varsity team.

“He taught me how to deal with problems and setbacks in wrestling and how to move forward,” Pat said. “Even though I’m the head coach, I still go to him for advice. I wouldn’t have asked him to coach alongside me if I didn’t think he would help me out and have a positive impact with the wrestling program.”

Pat expects excellence from his team and pushes each player individually to perform at their best but uses lessons learned from his father to be an example for his players to look up to. In his ninth year with the wrestling team and his fourth year as the head coach, the team has never looked more promising, according to Collins.

“A lot of our players from last year are returning this year,” Collins said. “And we also had a great offseason and a great summer so I believe that we can beat the dual meet wins record this year.”

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Titans won the Vernon Hills Dual Tournament after beating teams such as Loyola and Maine East. The wins in this tournament have created an undefeated 17-0 record to start the season. The core group of five seniors are hoping that their four years of hard work pay off through one more record-breaking season.

“They have been working hard ever since their freshman year and it’s truly amazing to see how much they’ve improved and grown,” Pat said.