Panther Wrestling Pushing Hard (photos)14:03 PM January 04, 2019
As the EP wrestling team swings into the main portion of their season schedule, coach Todd McCullough gave his thoughts on the team’s performance to date including the seventh-place finish at the 55 team Abe's Rumble in Springfield over the holiday break.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the teams finish in Springfield, McCullough said, “It shows how close we are. We were down there with 55 teams and we won our pool and the first two rounds in the championship bracket. In my opinion we should have gotten to the third round (semifinals) and it’s not one kids fault, we had multiple opportunities to score points or not given up as many points." The coach went on to say after the first loss he felt the team had a letdown, which led to their second defeat of the day pushing them into the seventh-place match. “It’s a learning process, trying to get them to understand that you’re going to lose but how are you going to recover. Placing in the top seven is pretty good but it would’ve been nice to be in the top four because actually we would’ve had a chance to see Vandalia which is a team we could see down at team state.”
The team has its sights set on a return to the IHSA team state finals after making the trip last year, losing in the quarterfinal round to Belleville Althoff, who they defeated recently in Springfield.
Talking after the team's dual meet on Wednesday with Newman and Dakota, which is currently ranked third in class 1A behind Lena-Winslow/Stockton, McCullough said LeWin has been the more dominant of the two teams (Dakota) the last two years but feels Dakota is on its way back to the top. “They are physical, if you look at their kids compared to our kids, they are just more mature and were in the process of trying to correct that in the weight room and with our conditioning,” The Indians defeated the Panthers handily on Wednesday night.
As is generally the case at the beginning of the season the team has not yet been at full strength due to injuries and illness, but McCullough says tonight’s match in Kewanee with St. Bede should see the best of the Panthers. There has been a battle at 160 and 170 pounds between Matt Garrison, Tyler Smith and Calvin Naftzger for the top spot, which McCullough says is a good problem to have as they are all outstanding wrestlers and the intra-squad competition makes them better. The team has very good depth at several weights with over 40 athletes on the roster.
The Panthers have wrestled an incredibly tough schedule as they have taken on eight of the top ten teams in the state going 4-4. They are currently undefeated in TRAC competition.