Marian Central’s Dylan Connell accomplished something no other area wrestler ever had by winning four state titles.
Connell may not receive recognition on the IHSA’s website in the elite group of four-time champions because the COVID-19 pandemic forced an adjustment to the 2020-21 schedule, and there was no postseason series for wrestling and numerous other sports.
Nonetheless, Connell went on to win the Class 2A 182-pound division at the Illinois Wresting Coaches and Officials Association Boys Open State Championships, which was his fourth state championship, beating Bethalto Civic Memorial’s Colton Carlisle, 9-1.
The Hurricanes also won the team state title with 178 points, 31 1/2 ahead of Civic Memorial.
Connell’s final victory (with the IWCOA postseason) left him 167-5 for his career and made him the choice as Northwest Herald Wrestler of the Year for a third time. The honor is voted on by the sports staff, with input from area coaches.
Connell, who will wrestle at Illinois, did not lose a match his final two years of high school. He won Class 2A state titles at 152 pounds (freshman), 160 (sophomore) and 170 (junior) in the IHSA State Tournament, then won at 182 this summer. Connell was 70-0 over his last two seasons.
The champ answered a few questions about his standout season and career with sports writer Joe Stevenson.
What will you remember most about this season?
Connell: This season was definitely the most memorable season, not because of the accomplishments we received as a team, but the struggle throughout the pandemic. Even though we were given so little and not a normal season, we stuck with it and ended with three individual state championships and a team state championship. This year was also memorable because it was my last year to spend time with my team and being with coach David Silva.
Which of your state titles was the toughest to win?
Connell: My toughest state title was my freshman year. Competing against the older kids was definitely a challenge. The strength and maturity level was a lot higher and was a great experience.
Who had the biggest effect on your wrestling career?
Connell: Coach David (Silva) had one of the biggest impacts on my career. He pushed me in and out of the wrestling room. He is almost like a family figure to me, and we have created a great relationship.
What is your walk-out song?
Connell: My walk-out songs this year for Marian were “All of the Lights” by Kanye West and “Ghetto Symphony” by A$AP Rocky.
Which of your teammates really inspired you?
Connell: I wasn’t just inspired by a single teammate but the whole team. Seeing my team go in and work out very hard each and every day pushed me to be who I am today. I could never have accomplished what I have without my team.
What is something most people don’t know about wrestling?
Connell: Wrestling is not just a sport that uses skill like most sports. Speed and strength will not get you very far, unlike most sports. Wrestling needs discipline and the mental challenge. These two things is what many people struggle with in the sport and can’t maintain.
What routines do you follow to maintain your weight, and how difficult is that to do?
Connell: I never really had much of a problem with my weight throughout high school because I never cut large amounts of weight. Once I got down to weight in the beginning of each year, I would typically walk around a few pounds over or under the whole year, so it was no big challenge.
What are your favorite TV shows?
Connell: One of my favorite shows today is “Outer Banks.” This is a newer show, and I’m pretty excited for Season 2, which will be out soon.
What sport other than wrestling would you be good at?
Connell: During middle school and younger, I used to play football. I was always pretty fast and big for my [age] during this time and excelled well on the field. I played many positions such as running back, linebacker, D-end, and kick return.
What would be your dream job?
Connell: It would be something along the lines of owning a business within the sports industry. Having a product that could help fellow athletes would be a huge accomplishment and dream of mine.
What’s the longest you have ever held a plank?
Connell: This is definitely not one of my strongest activities but probably around two minutes or a little more.
What is your soap opera name (your middle name and street you live on)?
Connell: Patrick Pringle. Kind of an odd name, but definitely character worthy.
What was your favorite class in high school?
Connell: My favorite class in high school was my engineering class. It was very challenging, but also one of the most fun classes I have been in. I enjoy building and solving problems such as the ones I experienced in the class.
After a big tournament, what’s your go-to pig-out food?
Connell: I love to get Chipotle. I could eat Chipotle almost every day, and somehow it never gets old to me.
What wrestlers did you emulate when you were younger?
Connell: Some of the wrestlers I always loved watching was Bryce Meredith (three-time All-American at Wyoming) and Zahid Valencia (two-time NCAA champion at Arizona State). These two always put on a show when they competed and did very well throughout their years in college wrestling.