Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Wrestling team continues success

Harvard Hornet coaches Tim Haak, left, and Dave Abel watch one of their wrestlers at the IHSA Class A state tournament.

The Harvard High School wrestling team wrapped up another successful season winning the Big Northern Conference championship and 26th consecutive Class A regional championship. The team sent five wrestlers to the IHSA Class A state championship Feb. 14 and 16 – seniors Chance Shelton (132-pound weight class), Irvin Pena (122) and Travis Heck (152-alternate) and juniors Anthony Luis (106) and Adam Freimund (285). Luis was the only wrestler to place, winning the championship.

Head coach Tim Haak said he was pleased with how the team improved all year given the level of inexperience.

“They competed well all year,” Haak said. “When you graduate 10 seniors, you have a lot of inexperience coming in. Three of our four losses came at the beginning of the year. … It was another very enjoyable year. We had great kids to work with and that’s what makes coaching at Harvard enjoyable.”

One of the keys to the year was the leadership of the seniors according to Haak, and he praised each of them as a group and individually.

“Those three seniors were our leaders,” Haak said. “We had an extremely inexperienced team, and we ended up 24-4 and really the credit goes to those three seniors that really guided them.”

“Chance had a tremendous career,” Haak said and noted Shelton was a four- time all-Big Northern Conference, four- time regional champion and a three-time state qualifier. “As good a wrestler he was for us, he’s been that much better a person.”

“Irvin struggled his freshman year and kept persevering through his sophomore year,” Haak said. “Just the strides he made from his junior to senior year were impressive. We’re extremely happy for what he accomplished.”

“One thing I always said about Travis, he will never shortchange you,” Haak said. “He’s going to give you 100 percent from the opening whistle. Travis can be happy that he got the most out of his ability. He came one match from qualifying for state.”

Haak also praised the development of Freimund who finished the year 42-7 and was one of the team’s co-captains and junior Matt Wheeler who won 31 matches in his first year on varsity.

The Hornets lost to Aledo (Mercer County) 34-22 Feb. 19 in the Oregon Class A sectional. Harvard wrestlers previously had lost all five matches to Aledo wrestlers in the sectional tournament, four by fall.

“We have unselfish wrestlers,” Haak said. “We knew we were going to have to [move some wrestlers up weight classes] to get the best matchups. We didn’t have one weight class where we didn’t wrestle well.”

Haak noted that Heck and Wheeler both moved up a weight class, and all three 106-pound wrestlers on the roster wrestled in the meet, with Luis wrestling at 120 pounds.

“They are just a very unselfish group,” he said. “They know they wrestled well and that’s the important thing.”

In the end, Haak said the most import thing was seeing his wrestlers develop as athletes and individuals.

“It’s not only gratifying to see athletes accomplish the goals they set out, but it also is gratifying to see how they developed as an athlete and a person,” he said. “So much of it is developing as people. That’s what makes it gratifying and important, knowing you had a small part in that.”