Step Inside the World of Wrestling
Benjamin Mauk O’ Connor reflects on his high school wrestling career
by Georgia Mitrakos
Senior Benjamin Mauk O’Connor, Adv. 307, has been wrestling for four years and has gradually become one of the best wrestlers in the state. Originally wanting to try out for basketball, Mauk O’Connor found his passion for wrestling in his freshman year after noticing how committed everyone on the team was during one of their pre-season practices. Mauk O’Connor tried out for the wrestling team and stuck with it all four years bacuse of the inspiration his Head Coach Antonio Martinez gave him. His freshman year, Mauk O’Connor admits that he was really bad at the sport, winning only seven matches out of 14. However, as he got older and gained more experience, Mauk O’Connor became a state competitor.
To increase his adrenaline and energy before any of his matches, he usually listens to music, or he just stays warm and limber until he gets on the mat. Before matches, Coach Martinez always tells the team that he wants them to perform their best, and Mauk O’Connor feels the same way.
“For me it doesn’t depend on whether I win or lose the match, but rather my performance during the match,” Mauk O’Connor said. A successful match depends on his personal performance and whether he is satisfied with how well he did. He believes that there is a difference between winning but wrestling badly, and losing but performing his best.
Mauk O’Connor has won many awards during his high school wrestling career. He won the Uplift Christmas tournament three years in a row. In his sophomore year he took second at city, placed third his junior year, and was able to win first place in his senior year. He won his regional tournament twice, which qualified him for sectional, and then state. He was also able to qualify for nationals by taking second place in a regional tournament, in which only four or five states are invited. He was shocked that he had made it this far into the season and had won enough tournaments to go to state. When Mauk O’Connor won the city championship his senior year, he was ecstatic because he beat his rival Lavontay Cobb from King College Prep.
Mauk O’Connor has had many great experiences during his high school wrestling career. He finds wrestling to be a great sport because it looks at the efforts of the individual.
“It feels nice because you don’t have to depend on other people and it is up to you to do your best, you have no one else to blame,” Mauk O’Connor explained.
“My coach and teammates looked more excited than me when they started jumping up and down and yelling. The atmosphere was great for me,” Mauk O’Conner said. After the City Championships, Mauk O’Connor was pumped for the State competition. He says that he had the motivation to qualify and the confidence to take on skilled wrestlers, something he was lacking his junior year.
Prior to State, Mauk O’Connor had to undergo rigorous training to prepare for the competition. During his season, he had nine practices a week, including a separate practice for his club team. He practiced every day of the week, and doubled up practice on Monday and Tuesday. Although he had so many practices, they were progressively cut shorter and became lighter as competition time neared.
“It was quite a busy season for me. As state arrived, I actually relaxed a bit more,” he said.
When it came time for state, he wrestled against six opponents. He explains that there were no bad wrestlers at state, only good and even greater wrestlers, so each match was a challenge. In his match against opponent Robert Walker from Peoria High School, Mauk O’Connor pinned him during the second period of the match. Each match consists of three two minute long periods. He admits that he was not wrestling his best, but he was able to end the match early and pin his opponent because Walker made a mistake. After reaching the quarterfinals, he had to wrestle Lavontay Cobb and said that he was nervous to do so.
“He had been pretty much my Bane in wrestling,” said Mauk O’Connor.
Because he had lost to Cobbs in the last two city championships, Cobbs had become a reminder to Mauk O’Connor that he needed to improve. However, this year at city, he defeated Cobbs, giving Cobbs his first loss of the year. Although Mauk O’Connor still placed in the state competition he did not fulfill his wishes to place fourth or fifth. . Following his state competition accomplishments, he also wrestled in nationals, where he was amazed by the skills of some of the other wrestlers Mauk O’Connor is most proud of the fact that he was able to get 110 varsity wrestling wins during his four years on the Northside Team.
Wrestling in college has become an option for Mauk O’Connor , but he is still undecided on whether he wants to pursue it. If he does wrestle, he will probably only compete in club wrestling with the aspiration of becoming an All-American wrestler.
As a senior, Mauk O’Connor has accomplished many of his goals and has dramatically improved since his freshman year. He found his passion in wrestling to be a challenge, but relaxing and fun at the same time. Because of his hard work and perseverance, Mauk O’Connor has become a state qualifier, and competitor with higher expectations.