Rochelle lightweight Ivan Pineda faced many challenges early in his wrestling career with the Hubs. The 106-pounder immediately became a varsity starter as a first-year competitor, and without a consistent wrestling partner in the mat room, experience was tough to gain.
Those obstacles didn’t hold Pineda back from pushing as hard as he could, however, and his contributions resulted not only in an IHSA 2A Individual Sectional qualification, but a trip to the IHSA 2A State Dual Championships, where the Hubs brought home a fourth-place trophy. Pineda has stuck with the wrestling program, and as the rising senior returns for his fourth varsity season, Pineda said he’s gained significant confidence in his abilities.
“I’d like to make it to sectionals and possibly further,” Pineda said. “It will take a lot of hard work from the day we start practice and I’ll need to give 110 percent effort… I love how wrestling is a team sport, but once I step on the mat, it’s all on me. Our wrestling team isn’t like any other team. We’re basically a band of brothers and it’s an amazing feeling.”
A former RTHS Fresh-Soph Most Dedicated Award winner, Pineda set a new season-best in victories this past year, finishing with 17 wins at the 106-pound weight class. Pineda frequently wrestled against 113-pounder Weldon Nay during practice, and Pineda said that having a consistent practice partner for the first time in his career helped him see more improvements.
“I felt that I did pretty well last season,” Pineda said. “It was the best season I’ve had so far and I think having a consistent partner in Weldon really helped me. I hope we can continue to practice together next season. I felt that I was much stronger in the neutral position and I was more aggressive on offense. I’d like to continue getting better from the bottom position.”
Both Pineda and Nay are among several returning wrestlers from a varsity team that went 18-4 in dual matches and finished third in both the Interstate 8 Conference Championships and the IHSA 2A Sycamore Regional. With Pineda, Nay and incoming freshman Tommy Tourdot primed to anchor Rochelle’s lighter weight classes, expectations will be high this coming winter.
“We set a goal to have a positive record before this past season and we did really well on that front,” Pineda said. “I think we can make it to the dual team sectional and possible the state meet next season. As a team, I thought our offense was solid and nobody was really scared to take shots. I think we can get better off the bottom and score more escapes.”