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District Wrestlers Succeed Through Hard Work and Determination

group of wrestlers

March 14, 2024 Jacob Weiner went into the end of season City League wrestling tournament as an underdog. With a record of 10-17, the West High School senior knew he wasn’t favored to win. However, Weiner defied the odds, and when he came off the mat after his final match, it was as a champion. 

“I’ve wanted to be a city champ since my first year wrestling,” he said. “Everybody that I beat at the tournament had beaten me previously this year. [To win] was surreal.”

Weiner is part of a strong team of wrestlers at West, and the athletes learn more than how to pin an opponent and the difference between a halfcoach cheering on wrestler and quarter nelson. Head coach Mark Antonelli said wrestling teaches athletes skills  they can use in all aspects of their lives.

“I think wrestling is a sport where people don’t realize how much confidence it can teach you,” Antonelli said. “[Confidence,] resilience, discipline – all of those things are really important in wrestling.”

Across town, the wrestlers at Marion-Franklin High School know the importance of a strong mentality when stepping onto the mat. Jermiah Jones, a senior at Marion-Franklin, has crafted his wrestling style around strategically analyzing his opponents and thinking through his next move. 

“I’m more of a defensive wrestler. Before I take my move, I try to see what my opponent is going to do,” Jones said. “I let them move first, because my whole goal is to get them down. I work better offensively when I’m on the mat.”

Marion-Franklin came into the City League tournament as the reigning champion team, and they defended the title to become back-to-back champs. Marion-Franklin head coach Floyd Cisco said he’s proud of the work the team has done, but he’s always looking forward to how they can improve in the future. He is excited to recruit new talent for the next season and show students what wrestling can teach them.

“When kids come to high school, they’ve often never wrestled before. We want kids to buy into what they’ve never done,” Cisco said. “When they see the hard work that we do, they realize it’s a lot more intense than any sport they’ve done before.”

It’s that intensity that West senior Hajed Cheurfa enjoys. When he started wrestling, he didn’t have much success. He lost many of his matches, but instead of getting discouraged, he resolved to work harder until he began to win. Hard work is a necessary skill to teach wrestlers, and it’s something that Cheurfa has adopted into his everyday mentality. 

“Wrestling teaches you that hard work equals success,” Cheurfa said. “It shows you discipline and gives you the reward of that discipline. I think that if you do something this difficult and can stay consistent with it, it [becomes] a passion.”

This season was Antonelli’s third year coaching, and he’s seen significant  growth in his upperclassman wrestlers from when they first joined the team. He agrees with Cheurfa that working hard is one of the most important parts of being a wrestler, and he’s proud of the work the student athletes have put in to improve on the mat. 

“When kids start winning, I think they have the realization that it’s the hard work they put in that created that success,” Antonelli said. “Overall, the goal is to compete as hard as you can and have fun doing it.”

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