O’Connor Leads Team USA To Dual Win At Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic

By: John Nee '93

St. Rita Head Wrestling Coach Mike Boyd ‘01 and senior four-time Illinois state champion Austin O’Connor traveled to Pennsylvania last weekend to compete for Team USA in the 43rd annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. The main event pitted Team USA versus Team Pennsylvania in a dual meet.


O’Connor, who is ranked sixth nationally at 152 lbs., wrestled in the 145 lb. weight class for the dual and was matched up against the number-one-ranked 145lb wrestler in the nation, Iowa State-signee Jarod Verkleeren of Pennsylvania.          

After giving up an early takedown to Verkleeren, the North Carolina-signee O’Connor rallied with two takedowns of his own to head into the third period with a 5-4 lead. O’Connor chose down to begin the third and quickly escaped to take a 6-4 lead over the nation’s top-ranked 145-pounder. Then, after attempting another shot, O’Connor was able to catch Verkleeren on his back where he was able to pin him and secure the dual for Team USA, who would prevail against Team Pennsylvania 28-20.

For his efforts, O’Connor was awarded the “Turning Point” award for the dual.

St. Rita Wrestling Sends Three to Individual State Championships

By: John Nee '93

Wrestling in arguably one of the toughest individual sectionals in the state, St. Rita Wrestling Coach Mike Boyd '01 knew that it would be tough to get anyone through other than senior Austin O’Connor; but besides O’Connor two other St. Rita grapplers punched their ticket to Champaign by finishing in the top four in their respective weight classes.

Junior Tommy Russell (113 lbs.) notched the upset of the sectional in the semi-finals when he pinned #1 ranked Joey Melendez from Montini. Trailing 11-5 midway through the third and final period, Russell turned the tables on Melendez and pinned him setting off a frenzy throughout the large sectional crowd at Downers Grove South. Russell then lost a hard-fought match to the #3 ranked wrestler in the state at 113 lbs., but his second place finish was good enough for a chance to compete in Champaign this weekend.

Senior Austin O’Connor, the #1-ranked 152 lb. wrestler in the country, pinned his way to his fourth-consecutive individual sectional championship.  By pinning all three of his opponents, O’Connor sent the message again to the entire state that he’s primed to become a four-time individual state champ and ultimately one of the most decorated wrestlers in the history of Illinois state wrestling.

Senior Pat Larkin was the third Mustang to punch his ticket to Champaign at 160 lbs. Larkin finished fourth in the sectional by going (3-2) in the tournament.

The individual state championships will begin in Champaign on Thursday as Tommy Russell (22-8) will battle Reese Durlacher (40-7), a sophomore from Mundelein H.S. Pat Larkin will wrestle Dylan Geick (39-1), a senior from Stevenson. Austin O’Connor will take on Jack Damenti (37-5), a senior from Libertyville.

St. Rita Wrestler Austin O'Connor Now Ranked #1 in the Nation in his Class

St. Rita Senior Austin O'Connor Ranked #1 in the Nation

Four years of hard work and dedication have earned some great results for St. Rita wrestler Austin O'Connor, he's committed to study and wrestle for the University of North Carolina next year, he's going to compete for a possible fourth-straight state championship, and to top it off he is now ranked #1 in the nation in his class--proving that hard work gets positive results and those results translate into high rankings. 

Congratulations Austin!

Photo credit: Scott Allen

O’Connor Continues To Pile Up the Accolades

By: John Nee '93

St. Rita Senior Austin O'Connor

Austin O’Connor came into his senior wrestling season having already etched himself into St. Rita and High School Wrestling lore with three individual state championships under his belt and a fourth well within his reach.  

This season he is vying to become only the second wrestler in St. Rita history and the 15th in Illinois state history to be crowned a four-time individual state champion, joining former Mustang and Oklahoma St. Cowboy Albert White.

During this his senior season, O’Connor has added to his already impressive resume as he became the all-time leader in St. Rita history in pins with his 100th and 101st (passing current head coach Dan Manzella ’03) in December. He became the first wrestler in St. Rita history to be crowned a four-time champion at the prestigious Dvorak National Invite Tournament in Rockford, also winning the Outstanding Wrestler for the second time in his career.

O’Connor is also a three-time CCL Champion having pinned every opponent he’s faced in his first three years. He is a four-time Cheesehead National Invite Champion, and he has accumulated a (165-4) career record including 106 pins.

O’Connor recently committed to The University of North Carolina to wrestle for the Tar Heels, but he has plenty of history yet to make in his final months as a Mustang.

Disabato: St. Rita Wrestling's Community Cleanup Does a Heart, and Team, Good

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Mt. Greenwood Park

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Mt. Greenwood Park

St. Rita wrestling coach Mike Boyd '01 is a firm believer in giving back to the community.

Oftentimes, the pace of the high school sports season doesn't give teams the chance to do community service. The wrestling season, which runs from November to March, is as hectic as any.

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Rainey Park in Scottsdale

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Rainey Park in Scottsdale

Boyd, however, recently carved out six hours for his wrestlers to participate in a community cleanup.

And with the holiday season fast approaching, there's no better time to gain a better understanding of a life value such as giving back.

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Munroe Park in Beverly

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Munroe Park in Beverly

Boyd selected five parks near the St. Rita campus for sprucing up: Beverly Park, Rainey Park, Munroe Park, Evergreen Park and Mount Greenwood Park. He designated five groups of wrestlers — 56 in all — to pick up all the garbage at each park.

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering in Evergreen Park

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering in Evergreen Park

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Beverly Park

St. Rita Wrestlers Volunteering at Beverly Park

Senior Austin O'Connor Beats #2 Nationally-Ranked Wrestler

By: John Nee '93

The St. Rita Wrestling season is underway with the Mustangs enjoying success after starting their season at home with a meet vs. Leo on Monday, Nov. 21.

St. Rita Wrestling Coach and Faculty Member Mike Boyd '01

This is an exciting year for St. Rita Wrestling as three-time defending Illinois state wrestling champion Austin O'Connor starts his senior year and new coach Mike Boyd '01 joins coach Dan Manzella '03 in leading the Wrestling Mustangs in preparation for competition on the mat. 

Recently, O’Connor took his show on the road as he traveled to Ames, Iowa, home of The Iowa State Cyclones, to wrestle in the Agony in Ames Showcase on October 29. The showcase attracts the best high school wrestlers from around the country to compete for national bragging rights.

St. Rita Wrestler Austin O'Connor

O’Connor, a University of North Carolina commit, battled Iowa St. commit and #2 nationally ranked Jarod Verkleeren from Pennsylvania in the 145 lbs. class.

The match was tight throughout, with Verkleeren holding a slim 2-1 lead as the third period began to wind down. O’Connor then scored a takedown with 30 seconds left in the match and held off the Iowa St. commit on his future home mat 3-2.

St. Rita's Austin O'Connor battles #2 nationally ranked Jarod Verkleeren

This season O’Connor will look to become only the 2nd wrestler in St. Rita history to win four individual state titles, joining former Mustang and Iowa St. standout Albert White.

The next home wrestling meet at St. Rita is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. vs. Mt. Carmel and Marion Catholic.

Silzer and O'Connor Continue to Excel for St. Rita Wrestling as They Compete in IHSA Tourney

University of Illinois-bound Senior Jake Silzer and Junior Austin O'Connor are competing in the IHSA State Wresting Tournament in Champaign. You can now catch the action on the NFHS Network

Austin O'Connor and Coach Dan Manzella - Photo Credit: Scott Allen

Jake Silzer and Coach Manzella - Photo Credit: Scott Allen

St. Rita Defeats Br. Rice 42-27 IN CCL Wrestling Action

Two-time state champion Austin O’Connor and two-time state placer Jake Silzer provide the St. Rita wrestling lineup with plenty of star power.

O’Connor and Silzer showcased their skill sets against Br. Rice, scoring 12 points with a pair of pins, but they had plenty of help from the rest of the lineup.

St. Rita Freshman Darius Allen with a Br. Rice opponent.

St. Rita Freshman Darius Allen with a Br. Rice opponent.

Junior Mike Scully (145), sophomore Patrick Larkin (160), sophomore Adam McCarthy (113) and freshman Sean Raddatz (126) all recorded pins to help St. Rita top the Crusaders 42-27 in a competitive Catholic League battle on January 2.

St. Rita Wrestlers Austin O'Connor and Jake Silzer Are Sizzling!

Austin O'Connor and Jake Silzer continue to be one of the best 1-2 punches in the state at St. Rita, But on the mat, they're more yin and yang than carbon copies.

"We're completely different," said Silzer, an Illinois recruit seeking his third Class 3A state medal. "I'm the wrestler that always has close matches — that's my style — and he's the one that breaks things open and wins big."

Silzer (left) competes in a tournament at University of Illinois last February (Photo:  Mike Mantucca / Daily Southtown)

Silzer (left) competes in a tournament at University of Illinois last February (Photo: Mike Mantucca / Daily Southtown)

Consistently winning is a shared similarity. The duo combined to go 88-6 for the Mustangs last season. O'Connor grabbed his second state title as a 132-pound sophomore, while Silzer finished third at 120.