MAPLE PARK – Kaneland freshman 126-pound wrestler Matthew Redman took little time to answer questions about his strong debut season to date.
Unlike some underclassmen, brevity was not the issue. Confidence wasn’t, either.
“I’ve wrestled a lot, so it’s not really a big transition,” Redman said. “The only difference is everybody’s a lot stronger now.”
Redman and classmate Riley Vanik (145) already have assured themselves of spots on the famed “20-win wall” in the Knights’ mat room. Their development alongside a few fellow freshmen bodes well as Kaneland approaches Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A Belvidere Regional.
“We’re all wrestling well,” coach Monty Jahns said, “and this is the time of the season where you need to do that.”
On Friday, 132-pounder Hayden Patterson sounded the latest warning bell on behalf of Knights’ ninth-graders, winning, 11-2, in the final bout of the night to key a 37-32 victory at Batavia.
The week before, Redman (fourth) and Vanik (sixth) placed at the Northern Illinois Big 12 meet at Sterling, where freshmen Jacob Shearer (120) and Luke Eggenberger (132) also were starters.
Sophomore Austin Parks, a 24-match winner at 160, likes what he sees out of the group, especially after going through the same growing pains himself last season.
“It helps alot knowing that it’s not just one young guy,” Parks said. “Everyone is working well together, moving up with everyone.”
Many Kaneland wrestlers get their start at the Knights Wrestling Club at any early age. After that, some, like Redman, augment that training with offseason work with regional clubs such as Naperville-based Overtime or Izzy Style in Schaumburg.
Mental training comes independently, and often gets sharper with age.
For instance, here’s Redman on his approach: “You’ve just got to go out there thinking that you’ve got to wrestle and no matter who shows up, it’s another day and you’ve got to get through it.”
And now Parks: “Last year, it’s just, ‘You know what, just try and get through it.’ This year, I want to be the best, so I’m trying to improve every match.”
While he’s also eager to chart the Knights’ growth as an Indiana State football recruit, senior 285-pounder Justin Diddell also hopes a few freshmen can advance with him to next week’s sectional. And, ideally, beyond.
Diddell hasn’t been shy about trumpeting the importance of strength training throughout the season. The Knights work out before two practices each week, then head to the mat room. Diddell is pushing teammates to install more early-morning workouts into their regimen, even if it’s just a few minutes.
“Starting younger and letting them get these varsity looks, it’s going to carry them to their senior year,” Diddell said. “Their senior year is going to be really, really amazing.”
Jahns, who plans to retire at season’s end, recently classified the Knights as a better dual team than tournament team.
If all goes according to plan, his replacement will oversee a group that’s successful on both fronts, and not afraid to talk about it.