Wrestling enjoys strong start with a diverse roster

By Alex Burstein, Reporter

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Sometimes sports can leave a lasting impression on someone, or even change a life. Just ask captain Natalie Cortes.

“I mean, honestly, I think wrestling is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Cortes, who is a junior.

The wrestling team is hoping to bring the sport to as many students as possible during this season. With one of their biggest teams in team history, the Lane wrestling team, which is open to any student, is enjoying some early season success.

“We are all a family and we treat everyone equal no matter boy or girl, they them, whatever your pronouns are, whatever they like, it doesn’t really matter,” Josiah Powell, Div. 165, said. “As long as you step on that mat, you just become a part of something bigger.”

Even with a team that has varying ages and experience levels, Lane still has high expectations for this season and seasons to come, and they have plenty of returning talent this season. 

Powell mentioned that he even wrestles at another gym during the season to improve his skills. Lane also has three captains who are clear leaders for this team: Cortes, Div. 150; Marcos Johnson, Div. 159; and Matt Ridley, Div. 265.

The team is coached by Mr. Yan, who enters his third season with the team.

“There’s a lot of just good camaraderie among these guys and girls,” Coach Yan said. “They enjoy being here and competing and going through all of this.”

The team has had a busy past couple of weeks, as they started off conference play and began to wrestle in some tough tournaments throughout the state.

Lane hosted Loyola for a non-conference match and Taft for a conference match last Thursday, December 12 in two matches that served as a great test for the team.

Lane opened the day in strong fashion, defeating Loyola 47-29. Lane was able to win eight of the 14 weight classes to start off the day. All of Lane’s wins against Loyola came by fall, with the exception of the 285 weight class, where Mario Morel, Div. 176, won via forfeit.

After the win over Loyola came the tough conference match against the reigning city champions, Taft. Despite a good effort throughout the evening, Taft would eventually outlast Lane, winning 48-33. Lane was able to win in six of the weight classes, but it was not enough to take down Taft.

The team had no time to slow down, going straight into tournament play over the weekend. The team performed very well on Saturday at the Hoffman Estates Varsity Invitational, placing multiple wrestlers. Then, some of the girls on the team competed in Chicago Hope’s girls’ tournament, where sophomore Ivy Huang and junior Aaliyah Vargas took home first place medals.

According to Johnson, having such a big team is contributing to their early success.

“[Our strength is] definitely our numbers. We have one of the biggest teams in Chicago. I think that’s where we’ll dominate this year. Our underclassmen are really strong,” Johnson said. 

Even with such a strong team, Lane still has lots that they need to improve upon if they want to make a deep postseason run this year, Coach Yan said.

“I’d say we need to work a lot more on bottom, clearing our wrists, getting into a base, and escaping,” Coach Yan said. “On our feet, we look all right. We could be more offensive, hitting more fakes from standing and in the neutral position.”

With this strong start and lots of time left to improve this season, the team has very high hopes for not just this year, but for the next few years.

The team has a really strong junior class, Coach Yan said, which means that they are going to have the next two years to leave a mark with the team.

“I want to go to state again,” said Cortes, a junior. “This year, I want to place and I hopefully want to be a state champion. I would like to go to Fargo again both years.”

Cortes is not the only one with goals like that.  Many wrestlers want to leave their own unique mark on the Lane program.

“I want to make it state both years, just to leave a legacy,” Powell said. “Like, just so people know that aw, snap Josiah Powell was here.”

Lane will continue their season with conference play and tournaments leading up to the most important meets — city championships, which take place on Jan. 18 at Quest MultiSport, and the state series, beginning Feb. 8.

As the team looks for a strong rest of the season, one thing is evident — the team will stay in unity. 

As Johnson said, “[The best part is] the work we put in in this room. We sweat together, we bleed together, and it creates a really cool bond.”