If Dom Collado’s biggest contribution to Crystal Lake South’s wrestling team is providing a bigger body for Gators junior heavyweight Alec Natrop to deal with in practice, that’s fine with him.
Collado did not expect to make a huge impact in his first year as a wrestler. He only wanted to become a better all-around athlete, lose some weight and move better while battling defensive linemen on the football field next fall.
Collado, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound sophomore, has attracted notice from NCAA Division I schools after starting on South’s offensive line for the past two seasons. College coaches appreciate that he has taken up another sport in the winter, one that should only help him when he is blocking defensive linemen next fall.
South assistant coach Pat Frett, who works with both football and wrestling, approached Collado about wrestling after the football season. Collado was not a difficult sell, even with the demanding nature of wrestling.
“The thing that really got me was the back-to-back 3-6 records for football,” Collado said. “I wanted to do whatever I could to get better. Coach [Frett] talked to me at the right time. I love to work hard. I’ve heard wrestling really helps your body and it’s tough, and I just love going through that and working hard.”
Collado usually wrestles in the junior varsity matches and practices against Natrop, who also urged Collado to try wrestling. Natrop was a nose guard in football and is close friends with Collado.
Trevor Keegan, a 6-6, 295-pound junior offensive lineman, was the first freshman to start in football for the Gators in 2015. The next season, Collado became the second. When college coaches, many of them from the Big Ten Conference, visit South to talk to coach Rob Fontana about Keegan, they also ask about Collado.
Collado said he has heard from many of the Big Ten schools and plans on hitting several showcase camps this spring and in the summer. He has dropped 26 pounds and plans on playing football at a lighter weight next season.
“I was at Northwestern and their coaches were like, ‘We heard you’re wrestling, and we really like that you’re doing that,’ ” Collado said. “I’ve heard things from other coaches, too, like Mr. [Luke] Butkus (Illinois’ offensive line coach). He said, ‘We really like that you’re wrestling.’ ”
Gators wrestling coach Ross Ryan feels there are multiple ways Collado’s new sport will benefit him.
“Ultimately, it helps to develop grit,” Ryan said. “Which is something you can’t physically see, it’s something inside the mind. He’s becoming tougher because of the sport. He’s pushing himself, not only mentally and physically, but emotionally, to limits he hasn’t been to before.
“For a college coach, to know you have a guy who’s willing to go through the grind of a wrestling season to better himself, it’s pretty impressive. It speaks a lot about character right there.”
Crystal Lake Central senior Wyatt Blake signed with Northwestern in December and is in his second season wrestling as the Tigers’ heavyweight. Blake thought dropping basketball for wrestling his junior year was a good move for him.
“It definitely helped me have more body awareness and control, and like staying lower,” Blake said. “It helped my hips and everything. It’s a really good carry-over sport for football. It will help [Collado] a lot, especially next year. He’ll get off the ball a lot faster and stay low.”
Collado thinks better mobility will be an advantage against pass rushers.
“I want to play right tackle and make sure our quarterback (Ian Gorken) is comfortable this year,” Collado said. “Last year, he was a sophomore, and I want to be sure we give up zero sacks the first couple games and move on from there. It’s going to help me a lot more when I’m on an island with defensive ends. It’s going to help me stay in shape. When we get into conditioning, I won’t have to deal with that as much, I’ll still be in shape from wrestling.”