Wrestling program takes off at H-F

  H-F junior Elyja Parker, left, battles in a bout.
  (Provided photos)
 
To find the future of Homewood-Flossmoor High School athletics, look to the wrestling mat.
 
With two new coaches and an army of young athletes, the Vikings suddenly created one of the state’s up-and-coming wrestling programs. That was the goal of H-F Athletic Director Dan Vosnos.
 
 “It’s about a culture change within the wrestling program and the athletic department,” Vosnos said. “We hope to join Lockport and Sandburg as perennial state powers in our conference.” 
 
Leading the transformation is H-F head coach Shannyn Gillespie, a 20-year coach with an international reputation. An IHSA state champion while at Evanston Township High School, the new Vikings coach went on to become an NCAA Division I All-American.  Since college, he coached wrestlers to national championships, world championships and medals at the Pan-American Games and the Olympics.
 
Gillespie already is a member of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Hall of Fame.
 
“We’re trying to show the parents and the community what we can do to put these young men and women in a position to succeed,” Gillespie said. “It takes a lot of time and I’m willing to do it.”
 
Gillespie said Vikings wrestlers are responding, to make the program overhaul a success.
 
“The student-athletes have done what they need to do, in terms of buying into the system. They have to believe in themselves, fortify that and put it to work on the mat,” Gillespie said.
 
Vosnos praised the new head coach as a motivator who teaches self-discipline, accountability and a strong work ethic. That includes academic success and building character, he said.
 
“Coach Shannyn works with every athlete we have to be a champion on and off the mat,” Vosnos said.
 
For an assistant, Vosnos hired T.C. Dantzler, a Thornwood graduate and most recently a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic training facility in Colorado. Dantzler twice won bronze medals in the Pan American Games and represented the United States in the 2008 Olympics.
 
“We’re getting great support from the school.  Everyone here wants the wrestling program to succeed,” Dantzler said.          
 
The new energy is showing immediate results. H-F’s freshman team, the biggest in the program, piled up impressive wins all season, including the team championship in the Argo freshman tournament. Nearly all of the freshmen are wrestling for the first time this year, often going against graduates of youth wrestling programs. 
 
“Our freshmen think they can beat anybody,” Dantzler said. “We beat Mt. Carmel’s freshman team. Any time you beat Mt. Carmel, in almost anything, that’s a big deal.” 
 
The H-F freshmen dominated at Argo. They placed wrestlers in the finals of nine weight classes and 12 Vikings finished in the top three. Gold medals went to freshmen Zamyr McGee (106 pounds), Jordan Pippion (138), Stacey Terry (152), Curtis Walker (160), Jayden Johnson (182) and Zach Agosto (195).  Silver medalists were Octavius Bellamy (126), Jayden Cox (132) and Matthew Wilson (145). 
 
The future is now for a group of H-F wrestlers. Senior heavyweight Jeff Griffin has been a team leader, taking gold medals in tournaments at Wheaton-Warrenville, Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South and winning consistently in dual meets.
 
Tommy Danztler, another senior and T.C. Danztler’s son, excels in the 170-pound and 182-pound classes.  He claimed a gold medal at Wheaton-Warrenville and the silver at Hinsdale Central.
 
Standouts in the H-F senior class also include 170-pounder Tyson Pitts, who took a bronze medal at Hinsdale South and placed fifth at Hinsdale Central. Vikings senior Justin Crosby won a third-place medal at Hinsdale South.
 
“We have a couple a stud wrestlers who are going to have some success in the post-season this year,” Vosnos said.
 
Juniors also are making an impact for H-F on the mats.  Briscoe Watson took home the 113-pound silver medal at Wheaton-Warrenville. In the 138-pound class, Taylin Oliver was the silver medalist at Hinsdale South. Vikings junior DeWayne Levy placed third at Hinsdale South and sixth at Wheaton-Warrenville at 120 pounds. Caleb Snoddy, a junior wrestling at 145 pounds, won a sixth-place award at Wheaton-Warrenville.  
 
Vikings sophomore Xavier McKinney is making some noise on the varsity, reaching the finals at 138 pounds at Hinsdale South. He helped the Vikings to their best team finish in a tournament this season, when H-F placed third at Hinsdale South with seven medalists.
 
“We want to create an environment where every student-athlete has what it takes to succeed. We’re moving toward that goal of maximizing their potential,” Gillespie said. “You need that carrot of motivation. When someone looks at me and sees what I have done, they can go out and have that same success.”
  The Homewood-Flossmoor High School
  2017-18 varsity wrestling team, managers
  and coaches.

 

 

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