With a packed schedule, a trip to Florida, and a nationally ranked wrestler, Knox’s wrestling team is gearing up for what should be an eventful season.
Senior Edel Vaca was ranked 15th in the nation at 133 lbs. by d3wrestle.com in their preseason poll. Last season, Vaca was ranked as high as 10th. But while Vaca is the clear standout for Coach Tony Islas’ team, other players are praising the team’s unity.
“We have a culturally diverse team,” said junior Francisco Munoz, who competes at 125 lbs. “We have a great bunch of kids from different backgrounds and different places in the country.”
And team unity will be an important factor for a team that will compete in places as far away as Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Crawfordsville, Ind. It will also be key in promoting a competitive environment over the course of a long season.
“Being [supportive] really boosts our confidence,” said sophomore Kin Von, who wrestles at 149 lbs. “And it really pushes us to compete against one another.”
Since the Midwest Conference does not have wrestling, the Prairie Fire compete in the Northern Wrestling Association with four other schools: Lakeland College, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Maranatha Baptist College and Concordia University of Wisconsin.
Last season, the Prairie Fire finished fourth in the conference, but Knox will return six wrestlers who placed third or fourth at last year’s conference – a group that does not include Vaca, who did not compete at conference, instead saving his energy for a run at nationals.
Adding to the six aforementioned returning talents will be six freshmen. Four are from Illinois, one is from Missouri and one is from Idaho. Five different weight classes are represented with the new class.
The Prairie Fire wrestling team will begin its season this Saturday at home at the Knox Invitational. Competition will begin at 9 a.m. and will continue all day, and it will take place in T. Fleming Fieldhouse.