ROCHELLE — “Iron sharpens iron” was the theme head coach Alphonso Vruno highlighted as the Rochelle Hub varsity wrestling team held its first practice of the 2022-23 season on Monday.
Rochelle will return several varsity starters from last season, when the Hubs finished with a 19-7 overall record and a 6-1 dual-meet record in the Interstate 8 Conference. With over 50 student-athletes on the roster this season, Rochelle will look to blend its returning athletes with a large group of newcomers as the Hubs gear up for their season opener on Tuesday. Nov. 22. Rochelle will host a nonconference triangular meet against Dixon and Burlington Central.
“Seeing our numbers right now is really exciting as a head coach,” Vruno said. “The biggest challenge over the last few years has been getting kids into the room and getting them excited about the sport. I think we’re going to have a lot of competition for varsity weight classes and we’re going to have kids competing against each other every day. I think that will help our kids stay focused and get better. I think we’re capable of bringing home a state trophy this season.”
Among Rochelle’s returning varsity wrestlers this winter are sophomore and IHSA state runner-up Xavier Villalobos as well as sophomore and state qualifier Grant Gensler. IHSA sectional qualifiers including juniors Tommy Tourdot and Brock Metzger as well as sophomores Kaiden Morris and Joseph Nadig are also returning to the varsity program this season. Notable newcomers include freshmen and IKWF state medalists Roman Villalobos and Brenden Voight.
“I think Tommy’s going to have a breakout season,” Vruno said. “He put in a lot of work during the spring freestyle and greco-roman wrestling season. Xavier’s a state finalist and we’re excited to see how he grows into his weight class and Joseph worked really hard during the spring season as well. Grant, Brock and Kaiden are going to take steps to reach that next level.”
Sophomores Weylin Nay and Erich Metzger are two more wrestlers who could earn varsity roles this season. Rochelle will begin its conference slate with a home match against Kaneland on Thursday, Dec. 1 before traveling for the Rockford East Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 3.
“We talked to our kids about being the best version of themselves when the regional tournament comes around in February,” Vruno said. “Our best chance to make a postseason run is to win the regional and then wrestle well at the team sectional meet. A state trophy is our goal.”