Coming into his sophomore wrestling season at La Salle-Peru, Connor Lorden was confident he’d roll through most of his opponents.
Perhaps too confident.
Alleman senior Jack Patting, who went on to win a Class 1A state title, defeated Lorden in the season opener.
“I’m glad I lost my first match,” Lorden said. “It put me in my place for the rest of the year. I thought I was going to walk over a lot of people, but that first guy [Patting] really showed me that’s not the case.”
Not only did Lorden adjust his mentality after the loss, but he made some adjustments on the mat as well.
“When I wrestled him, he really shut down my whole offense by putting in hooks and stuff,” Lorden said. “After that match, I really worked on my hooks and getting out of them and shots out of there.”
Lorden took the lessons to heart and did not lose again in the regular season. He won 31 consecutive matches before losing in the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Class 2A Geneseo Sectional 195-pound title match.
Lorden finished 35-4 with 31 wins via pinfall, won the Rock Island Regional title, placed second at the sectional and claimed a fifth-place medal at the IWCOA State Tournament.
For all he accomplished this season, Lorden is the NewsTribune 2021 Wrestler of the Year.
“For a sophomore, Connor had an outstanding season,” first-year L-P coach Matt Rebholz said. “His years of experience, natural athletic ability and hard work, all those pieces together, are why he’s had so much success.
“He’s not afraid to work in the room when we ask him to. He’s not afraid to lift in the offseason. He does the due diligence that it takes.”
Lorden’s willingness to put in the work stems from his love of the sport, which started when he was 6, along with his brother at the urging of his father, Mark, who wrestled in high school and wanted his sons to try it.
“We went out, and I fell in love with it,” Lorden said. “I think it’s the whole one on one thing. It’s a team sport, but when you go out there, it’s just you and the other guy on the mat. I really like that about it.
“I don’t have to rely on anybody else out there. It’s me and what I have to do. If I make a mistake, it’s me who made the mistake, and I can work on those type of things.”
Lorden had plenty of success in youth wrestling, claiming two state medals before winning a state championship in eighth grade.
In middle school, with no suitable practice partners on the youth team, Lorden came to the high school wrestling room to get some work.
Lorden continued his success in high school as he won a IHSA Class 2A regional title as a freshman before winning a state medal this season.
“He’s solid on his feet, he’s good on the mat and he’s strong,” Rebholz said. “He’s a pinner. He catches guys. He’s balanced. He has good hips.
“He does have areas to improve. He’ll get better on his feet and more active on his feet.”
In order to improve, Lorden said he plans to spend more time working on wrestling this offseason.
“I wish I spent more time in the offseason,” Lorden said. “That’s what I’m trying to do this year. I’ve been lifting and running a lot. I really want to get bigger and stronger. I feel like that’s my biggest downfall, along with my cardio.”
Lorden hopes additional works leads to moving up the podium in his final two seasons.
“In my next two years, I’m hoping to get the state title,” Lorden said. “It would mean everything to me. There’s only been one at L-P. It’s a big goal – to make history.”