Wrestling opens with loss to Windsor, Owens leads rebound in Westminster Tournament

SLUH wrestling is finally back on the mats this season as they prepare to overcome the odds stacked against them. After losing a talented senior class last year, including state-contenders Bobby Conroy and Logan Neumann, the team now features a smaller but dedicated group of upperclassmen and a growing number of new wrestlers.

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“This is definitely a rebuilding year for us, but it’s been great to see how our team has grown after we lost a lot of seniors last year,” said senior Alex Nance. “We’re having to teach a lot of new people.”

So far, the season’s start has been shaky. The team’s first meet against Windsor and Oakville on Dec. 2 had some disappointing losses. Against Windsor, the team failed to get a pin in any of their 4 varsity matches. Competing at the team’s highest weight class (182) was junior Pau Thang. Thang, in only his second match for SLUH, struggled to take any shots against his Windsor opponent. After surviving the first round with good sprawls, he was thrown to the ground midway through the second, with a move that SLUH has come to expect from Windsor. 

Further down the classes, the results were similar. Senior and Captain, Jack Onder, came out with significant intensity in the first round, but also fell victim to a classic Windsor throw. Onder escaped the near pin, but was forced to stay on the ground for most of his match. Onder avoided a pin for the entire 6 minutes, but did not score enough points to win the match.

Nance and junior Conor Whalen, the final two varsity wrestlers were also dealt strong throws that forced them to the ground and ultimately ended the match. That one move, which the team had overlooked, ended up being their downfall against Windsor. 

The team rebounded slightly against Oakville on the same night, as Whalen earned a tough win due to scoring more points and Thang was able to pin his opponent, establishing his first win on the varsity team. Overall, though, the team did not see much success in their opening meet. 

That momentum shifted two days later, though, when the Jr. Bills took to Westminster to compete in their first tournament of the year. In a busy sea of 16 other teams, they faced significant opposition. In each 16-man weighted bracket, the top three wrestlers earned medals. That was the goal for SLUH going in.

“We obviously wanted to place. We really wanted to get back in the swing of things and rebound from our rusty match against Windsor as well. It was a great experience for everyone,” Nance said.

Senior and Captain, Cayden Owens, who wrestled in the 220 weight class, was the day’s standout star. Owens qualified for state last year and was able to continue his success by taking first place in his group. To get there, Owens won against 5 other competitors. To make it more impressive, Owens weighed in at 195 lbs before the match, so the fact that he won against opponents some 30 lbs heavier than him is significant. 

Thang (182 lbs.) and Onder (152 lbs.) also saw success in that tournament. Both wrestlers made it to the semifinals before ending their runs in hard fought matches. 

“I was able to focus a lot more and work on my takedowns… It felt good to get those wins, while my coaches and team were cheering on the sidelines,” said Pau. “Supporting my teammates is the best as I always learn from the outcome, win or lose.”

The ups and downs of the first few events for the Jr. Bills is something they hope to iron out by midseason. The highs, though, do show a lot of promise for the team this year, which features several members with the skill to make it to state. 

“We’re really excited this year because with this amount of people, things are really looking up for our program and we are happy that we can even compete in this pandemic,” Nance said. “Things should be promising for us.” 

After a long break, the team’s next meet will be against Lindbergh and Fox on January 4. Both teams feature strong competition. The Fox match should be especially notable for the team, as both groups work together often in off season practices. 

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