Wrestling: Underclassmen shine as Hubs build for future

Rochelle records third straight double-digit winning season

Russell Hodges
Posted 2/23/22

The Rochelle Hub varsity wrestling team leaned on several freshmen and sophomores to step up and perform beyond their years this season. Not only did the underclassmen deliver immediate results, but with the help of some senior leadership, Rochelle secured its third straight double-digit winning season.

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Wrestling: Underclassmen shine as Hubs build for future

Rochelle records third straight double-digit winning season

Posted

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity wrestling team leaned on several freshmen and sophomores to step up and perform beyond their years this season. Not only did the underclassmen deliver immediate results, but with the help of some senior leadership, Rochelle secured its third straight double-digit winning season.

The Hubs finished 19-7 overall and 6-1 in the Interstate 8 Conference this season, Rochelle’s fourth under head coach Alphonso Vruno. After totaling 18-4 and 21-8 records over the previous two seasons, Rochelle continued to wrestle at a high level this winter despite starting only one senior in the varsity lineup. The Hubs took second in the Interstate 8 tournament and fourth in the IHSA 2A East Moline Regional.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of mentors at RTHS and what I learned was the kids take on the energy of the coaches,” Vruno said. “I wanted to coach how I wrestled when I first started out, but when I relaxed and realized that wrestling may not be every kid’s first sport, we started having a lot of fun. We started working harder and we’ve been able to teach the kids a lot of cool things about the sport. I feel like I’ve been able to show my love for the sport over the last few years and that’s when the results started to come through.”

Rochelle will lose two seniors from the wrestling program this season including IWCOA state medalist and IHSA state medalist Caleb Nadig (36-6). The Hubs sent seven athletes to the IHSA Sectional Series and three athletes to the IHSA State Championship meet including two freshmen Xavier Villalobos (45-6) and Grant Gensler (33-20). Villalobos and Gensler are the first freshmen in RTHS history to qualify for state.

“It’s really encouraging that all of our young wrestlers had success this season,” assistant coach Nelson Baker said. “Not many people see what happens behind the scenes, but we focus a lot on bringing the whole team together and the young wrestlers are really coachable. They’ve really bought in to doing what’s best for the team and not necessarily what’s best for the individual. When we asked our kids to bump up a weight class, they were excited about the challenge and that speaks to how they’ve put the team first.”

Six of the seven wrestlers who represented Rochelle at the sectional meet are underclassmen who’re eligible to return for at least two more seasons. Those wrestlers include sophomores Tommy Tourdot (26-14) and Brock Metzger (27-18) as well as freshmen Joseph Nadig (34-15) and Kaiden Morris (40-8). The Hubs will also have multiple juniors with varsity experience eligible to return for one more season including Jaden Cook (17-9), Jorge Driggs (11-17), Weldon Nay (13-19) and Wesley Brown (11-25).

“Our coaching staff has been phenomenal with our kids and we owe a lot of credit to the Rochelle wrestling community for how we’ve been able to build our program,” Vruno said. “A lot of our kids have been practicing techniques that we’ve been showing since they were in grade school. They understand what we’re working on and they understand the fundamentals. I thought Caleb [Nadig] took a lot of the younger kids under his wing and he showed them what it means to be a true varsity wrestler at Rochelle.”