Morton Wrestling Preseason

Devin Rogers, Reporter

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The Morton wrestling team is currently preparing for this upcoming winter season by dedicating tons of time practicing their skills and getting in shape physically. Wrestlers are working on their sport in many different ways, the most common of which being camps/practices that were offered by the Head Coach Barry Castrogiovanni. He offered a “summer league” of live matches, taking a busload of kids to various schools around the area. This way, the wrestlers could work with new people and learn new techniques. Castrogiovanni also provided transportation to a commuter camp at Elmhurst College and a three day overnight camp at the University of Iowa,  who is famous for pumping out top tier wrestlers throughout history.

Cole Guerrero’21 was one of many wrestlers to attend the Elmhurst camp. According to Guerrero,  they did different games to warm up, mainly based around handball. After having a little fun, the wrestlers would get straight into drilling takedowns, repeatedly doing moves to build muscle memory. The wrestlers would end the practices with live matches in order to practice what they learned in a real situation with a real opponent. Since the Elmhurst College Camp was a commuter camp, Castrogiovanni would provide transportation for the team each day.
The University of Iowa three day overnight camp was the wrestling team’s biggest summer event. Castrogiovanni took about 20 wrestlers to the University of Iowa to learn from famous wrestlers and coaches such as Tom Brands and Spencer Lee. Tom Brands is an Olympic gold medalist wrestler in 1996 and is now the Head Coach of the University of Iowa. Spencer Lee is currently in his junior year of college and has won the NCAA wrestling championship in 2018 and 2019 in the 125 pound weight class. The Morton Wrestling team spent three days learning and training under these extremely skilled wrestlers. For the last practice, Spencer Lee personally taught his famous “arm bar series” move which he uses in his college matches. The camp was a special experience, the wrestlers not only improved their skills with wrestling, but the team bonded as well.

In addition to participating in the camps with the team, some wrestlers took it upon themselves to find more ways to improve, including attending other camps and extra practices at nearby schools. Collin Ruiz ’20, a student at Morton East and varsity starter, says, “I spent a total of 23 days in out of state wrestling camps, with a total of 13 days of wrestling in Iowa and ten days in Wisconsin.” The dedication is shown in the amount of time Ruiz spent out of state training, but when you consider these camps include 6-8 hours of practice a day, those camps are grueling to take part in.

2018-2019 Varsity Team winning the Glenbard West King of the Hill dual tournament. Pictured from left to right: Cesar Solis, Erin Jones, Giovanni Garcia, Robert Ochoa, Devin Rogers, Collin Ruiz, and Oliver Arias.

Another dedicated senior from Morton East, Oliver Arias ’20 took a similar path. Arias is currently practicing during open wrestling practice at Oak Park-River Forest High School with several area wrestlers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. According to InterMatWrestle.com,  the Oak Park-River Forest High School Wrestling Team is currently ranked 2nd in State and 14th in the nation for wrestling. Arias said, “I haven’t missed a practice so far, and I hope my hard work pays off.” Arias also sharpened his skills over the summer, taking every opportunity offered by Morton, but also going to camps to enhance his skills. Arias invested a lot of time and money to train with nationally ranked wrestlers from around the country.

Coach Castrogiovanni reflected on this upcoming season, “In my 33 years coaching, I have never had a team with so many wrestlers that put in so much time in the off-season. I think this should be a record-breaking team. They deserve it! The coaching staff and myself are extremely excited. The wrestlers are very hungry to win as a team and individuals.” Three years ago, the Varsity team made history by breaking the school record for the most wins in a single season. To break the record again so soon would show a substantial improvement in the Morton Wrestling program as a whole.

When it comes to goals for this upcoming season, these wrestlers have a full plate. Colin Ruiz ’20 touched on this by saying, “Earn an individual and team All-Conference. Qualify and win a State Championship with a record of over 30 wins.” Straight to the point, Ruiz’s goals are clear, he’s focused on them, and he’s on the right track. Oliver Arias ’20 talked about his upcoming season goals, saying, “This year, I want to take it one step further and make it downstate and win a medal down there… I had a hard conference, so I wasn’t able to become All-Conference, but next season, no one is taking that from me.”

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