By Kyle Daubs

Despite being the head coach of Charleston, Mike Stanley speaks effusively of Mattoon’s wrestlers. 

Having coached several MHS wrestlers, he knows their talents – and believes the Green Wave will be a strong contender to win the Apollo Conference team title, which begins today.

The way Stanley sees it, both Mattoon and Mahomet-Seymour are likely going to contend for the top team finish in the Apollo. 

The two teams compete against one another Jan. 25 at Mt. Zion High School.

“I coached many of the Mattoon wrestlers previously, though, as they went through middle school and I feel I have a pretty fair gauge of their overall talent, which is immense,” Stanley said. “Several of their wrestlers are highly ranked in the state right now. I would think Mattoon would be very tough to beat, but considering the conference is decided by a series of duals I will probably depend on whether or not they can fill their entire lineup in those duals.”

Mattoon enters the duals with a strong resume. Mattoon owns wins over state-ranked teams, including Vandalia and Triad. As a team, Mattoon recently finished second at the Mascoutah Holiday Invitational, where 28 teams competed. 

Seniors Brady Foster (113) and Kiefer Duncan (145) are both ranked fourth in the state.  Senior Aidan Spurgeon (195), meanwhile, is ranked 10th.  Logan Blackburn (120), Korbin Bateman (126), Aidan Blackburn (152), and Leo Meyer (220) are listed as honorable mentions by IWCOA.

“Mattoon High School wrestling is looking forward to our Apollo dual meet season,” said Mattoon coach Brett Porter. “Although there is no invite, each team will wrestle against every school in the Apollo.  Mahomet is the returning Apollo team champions, and has a full and strong team again this season.”  

Mahomet-Seymour brings a talented roster of state-ranked wrestlers. Brennan Houser (170) and Mateo Casillas (195) are both currently ranked as the second-best wrestlers in the state of Illinois for their weight classes. Teammate Caden Hatton (106) is ranked fifth overall, Colton Crowley (220) at eighth overall and Braeden Heinold (170) ranked 10th overall. Tallen Pawlak (138) is ranked as an honorable mention. 

Even with the depth on his team, Mahomet coach Rob Ledin likes what Mattoon brings to the meet. 

“Mattoon will once again battle for the Apollo title,” said Ledin. “Both of our teams have outstanding individuals and field a full lineup most of the time. We have had some ups and downs, adversity of illness and injury have plagued most teams this season.  Hopefully, it will be 100 percent for regionals and state series.”

The Apollo Conference features a dual format, where forfeits count the same as pins. If teams have to give up forfeits to a team that isn’t giving up any weight classes, it could be tough to win – even given the fair amount of dominant wrestlers a team like Mattoon has. 

Based on that part of the rules, Stanley says Mattoon is at a disadvantage. 

“If the conference were run as a tournament, I would have to favor Mattoon heavily given what I know of their top wrestlers,” Stanley said, “But as a dual-format, it is hard for me to gauge as I’m not sure how they will match up with Mahomet in regards to filing a complete lineup.” 

Porter says the Green Wave have battled adversity throughout the season. 

“As far as Mattoon, our team has been doing great this season,” said Porter. “Because of numbers, injuries, and other problems within the program, dual meets have been difficult to win. We have strong leadership in the practice room, and the team has an excellent work ethic. Although we take each team in the Apollo seriously, Mattoon has marked the January 25 dual with Mahomet (at Mt. Zion) as key for the Apollo Championship.”

Mount Zion brings three ranked honorable mentions as well in Mason Gray (106), Tanner Garrett Jr. (126), and Remington Hiser (220). With that said, the team features just two seniors on the top performer’s list, cited by coach David Klemm. 

“I believe Mahomet is the frontrunner as a team,” said Klemm. “They have the most depth. Mt. Zion has a very young lineup. 

The youngest team will likely be Charleston, which does not bring a state-ranked wrestler to the duals. Stanley, though, believes the team features several potential state-bound wrestlers. 

Stanley said that both senior Josh Wiley (170) and Alec Seller (170) have been guiding many of the team’s freshmen and sophomores. Freshman Stormy Hughes (285) and sophomore Chet Shrader (152) lead the underclassmen; they both competed at the club level but took a few years off before returning this year. Stanley says freshmen Isaiah Lutrell (106), Ben Coffey (145) and Marcellx Boling (220) are very athletic.

“They all need to gain the mat experience to learn the techniques, pressures, and mat awareness they will need to grow and be successful at a competitive level,” said Stanley. “Given the work ethic and drive that I see from them all, I have full confidence this will happen. As coaches, we need to keep them excited about the sport and give them a workload they can handle and enjoy, but, at the same time, push them to make the gains and improvements necessary to be as successful as they can be. That is our goal with the younger wrestlers right now.”

Stanley is also excited to see what his female wrestlers can do in the coming weeks. Sophomore Mackensie Williams (152) will not wrestle at the conference meet, but she has been improving, Stanley says. Stanley see junior Maddie Bryant as a future contender for a high finish in the female state series. 

“All in all, I am extremely excited with the work our wrestlers are putting in every day to improve themselves, and with the future of the program they are building,” said Stanley. “It makes it pretty easy to get to the room every day.”

Taylorville, Effingham, and Lincoln will also participate in the conference duals.