Connor O’Neil’s seventh seed at 160 pounds in the prestigious Powerade Wrestling Tournament was far from a deterrent. If anything, O’Neil welcomed the challenge, and the DePaul Catholic junior went on to win his weight class, including victories over the top two seeds, on Dec. 28 and 29, in Canonsburg, Pa.
O’Neil was one of three DePaul wrestlers to medal at the tourney. Defending state champion Ricky Cabanillas finished seventh at 145 pounds while Nicky Cabanillas was sixth at 126 pounds. It was the first time in DePaul history that three Spartans earned medals at the Powerade.
O’Neil is the second from DePaul to win gold at the tournament. Brandon Kui won it in his junior year, en route to a state title.
Connor O’Neil stands atop the podium as the gold-medal winner at 160 pounds at the Powerade Wrestling Tournament. (Click on photo for larger image)
“It was a good performance,” said DePaul head coach Keith Karsen. “Connor did a tremendous job. As a junior, this is a big year for him, and he’s really stepped into the role. He was a finalist at the Beast of the East, and was also a finalist at Fargo and the sophomore nationals last year.”
O’Neil won his first two bouts, by fall and decision, before defeating Seth Holderbaum of Chestnut Ridge in the round of 16, by fall, in 2:27. He then upset second seeded Ty McGeary of West Allegheny, 5-3, to advance to the semifinals, where he won a 9-5 bout over Jack Blumer. In the title bout, O’Neil won a 6-4 decision over the top-seed, Tyler Stoltzfus of St. Joe’s Academy.
Connor O’Neil (center) is flanked by Ricky Cabanillas (left) and Nicky Cabanillas. All three earned medals, marking the first time DePaul had three medalists at Powerade. (Click on photo for larger image)
Ricky Cabanillas earned the top seed at 145 pounds and won his first three bouts to advance to the quarterfinals. After losing a 10-8 decision to Cameron Robinson, Cabanills came back to win his final bout to finish seventh.
“I thought Ricky wrestled well,” said Karsen. “You need these kind of high-quality matches to test you. There are some tremendous wrestlers in this tournament, which is why we like to come here. We’ll only get better, as a team and individually, by wrestling kids like the ones Ricky saw at the Powerade.”
Nicky Cabanillas, the sixth seed, made to the semifinals at 126 pounds, including a 5-3 win over third seeded Josh Ogunsanya in the quarters. After losing a 4-0 bout in the semifinals, Nicky came back to finish sixth.
“Again, an excellent job against some quality opponents,” said Karsen. “This was the first time we had three kids medal at Powerade. I couldn’t be happier with those performances, as well as our other guys who wrestled there.”
Nick Bottazzi won a bout at 113 pounds, Derek Russell wrestled at 120 pounds, Michael Esposito captured a match at 132, Luke McFadden won twice at 152 pounds and made it to the round of 16 and Stephen Barone also competed at 170, for DePaul.
The Spartans had a relatively quiet month of December, albeit with huge matches at the Beast of the East and Powerade. But now that January is here, the schedule really ramps up.
“In a way, the timing was good,” said Karsen. “We had some kids banged up and they got a chance to get healthy heading into January. We’ll be pretty busy now.”
DePaul was slated to face Delbarton, Don Bosco and St. Joseph, in various matches last week. On Jan. 17, the team visits Monroe Woodbury, starting at 7 p.m. and on Jan. 18, there’s a big bout, at home, against Bergen Catholic, starting at 7 p.m. On Jan. 23, DePaul hosts Paramus Catholic, also at 7.