Though a high ranking has long been synonymous with Deerfield High School wrestling, maintaining that tradition looked like it could be a challenge before the season started.
That has not been the case.
Six weeks into the season the 19th ranked Warriors have compiled a 14-2 dual meet record with wins over seventh rated Libertyville and Barrington at No. 20. The two losses were to Cary Grove (18th) and Grant (23rd).
“Part of the reason is the tradition and the other part is hard work,” Coach Marc Pechter said. “They work hard in practice. It’s not just the varsity level. It gets really intense and competitive in this (wrestling) room.”
The winning tradition continues on the strength of some returning varsity wrestlers, junior varsity athletes from last year stepping into varsity roles in a dominant way and undefeated freshman Andrew Mehrholtz (106) at 20-0.
“He’s nothing short of a phenom,” Pechter said. “He has drive, technique and a good attitude. Freshmen often have problems adjusting to high school but he has adjusted very well.
In addition to Mehrholtz, every Warrior starter has a winning record including Jordan Lieberman (17-2 at 113), Brian Spinello (20-3 at 126), Ari Sapinsley (18-3 at 152), Chase Hunusa (16-3 at 182), Jim Kirby (16-3 at 195), J.J. Nawrot (17-4 at Heavyweight), Colton Emmerich (16-4 at 170) and Brian McCann (13-4 at 145).
“They just go about their business and work hard,” Pechter said. “They produce good results.”
Hunusa and Sapinsley are two examples of the work ethic Pechter preaches. A year ago they competed at the junior varsity level doing well while pushing the varsity wrestlers at their weight level to do better. This year, as seniors, it is their turn and they are making the most of it.
Both athletes credit this year’s success to embracing the work ethic Pechter wants to see from the moment the 2011-2012 season ended. “We worked hard in the off season in clubs and getting in shape over the summer,” Hunusa said.
The offseason effort continued to carry the Warriors into the season. Sapinsley credits both with his winning percentage for the year.
“I did a lot of lifting and running to get in shape,” Sapinsley said. “We work with each other on technique and look at film every day. That’s how you correct what you’re doing wrong.”
Though the Warriors have sent a number of individuals to the State Meet over the years, one goal which has eluded them is qualifying for the Illinois High School Association team championship competition.
“It remains one of our goals,” Pechter said. Deerfield has already defeated the squad which stood in their way a year ago, Barrington.
The team had taken the objective on its shoulders as well. “We have a responsibility to each other. We build on each other’s success,” Hunusa said. It can be reality if everyone plays their role. “We have a very good shot at it,” he added.