ROCHELLE — Last season was a learning experience for many members of the Rochelle wrestling team including first-year head coach Alphonso Vruno. Armed with more experience this winter, Vruno and the Hubs are planning to field several returning varsity wrestlers as Rochelle gears up for its first campaign as an Interstate 8 Conference competitor.
“I’m really excited for this season,” Vruno said. “We were all over the place last season due to a lot of injuries and other unforeseen issues. But I’m really excited about what we can do if we stay healthy. We have 21 dual matches this season and our goal is to win about 15 of those. I think that’s a realistic goal for us.”
The Hubs open their season with the nonconference triangular meet against Dixon and Burlington Central on Tuesday, Nov. 26. At least four sectional qualifiers will be in the Rochelle lineup including state medalist Ben Harvey, who went 44-5 this past year, as well as seniors Gavin Ansteth, Zeke Horn, Keegan Davis-Carter and Boylan Catholic transfer Caleb Nadig.
“We have a lot of upperclassmen who are going to step up this year,” Vruno said. “Caleb had over 25 wins at Boylan last year… All of these guys who have been with the program since their freshman year are transitioning into leadership roles and I think those guys will have a huge impact on the culture of our team.”
Additional reinforcements who earned varsity experience last season include seniors Bryan Garza and Zack Capes as well as juniors Ivan Pineda, Grant Thompson, Noah Messer and Ethan Albers. The Hubs will look to improve on their 9-19 record from last season as well as their fourth-place finish in the IHSA 2A Regional at Rochelle Township High School.
“I thought the kids did a good job of moving forward last season,” Vruno said. “We had a lot of adversity and it was my first year as a head coach. There were a lot of things that were unusual about last season but I thought the kids kept moving forward and they worked their way through the season. We finished the season with a few good duals and we sent a few wrestlers to the state championships.”