Freshman Dylan Connell became Marian Central’s first state champion wrestler in 31 years when he defeated Cahokia’s Martell Boone in the Class 2A 152-pound state championship match last month in Champaign.
Connell won four matches against four seniors on his way to the title. Marian’s Rich Powers was the last Hurricane to win a state championship with back-to-back titles in 1986 and 1987. Connell also won regional and sectional championships along the way.
He was the only McHenry County-area wrestler to take home a state title this season.
The freshman also helped Marian reach the Class 2A dual team state meet for the first time in school history. Connell finished his season 47-3.
For his accomplishments, Connell was voted the 2018 Northwest Herald Wrestler of the Year, as chosen by the sports staff with input from area coaches.
Connell becomes the first freshman to win the award since St. Edward’s Mike Bondi earned the honor in 1993.
Connell recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about keeping cool on the biggest stage, Tom and Jerry and his biggest hero.
What was the Grand March before the state championship match like?
Connell: It was something that I never thought would happen this year. It was a fun experience, and I wasn’t expecting to do that. It was cool looking around and seeing everything.
What’s it like wrestling on a stage like that?
Connell: When you’re out there, I never notice how many people are there. As soon as you get out there, you forget about it, and all you’re thinking about is wrestling the match. Sometimes I don’t even hear my coaches yelling at me.
How did you get into wrestling?
Connell: When I was little, 5, 6 years old, I started out with soccer. I stopped that, and we were looking for another sport. We found wrestling, and I really liked it, so I kept with it.
So you hadn’t had family members wrestle before?
Connell: No. My dad never wrestled.
Who are your biggest wrestling influences?
Connell: One was Nick Remke. He wrestled at Marian a couple years ago (graduating in 2015). He was always a person I looked up to because he was really good. It was cool wrestling with him and being in the room with him.
What was the best match you wrestled all year?
Connell: In the finals at Geneva (the Jim Newbill Invitational on Jan. 6), it was against a 3A kid (Cole Martin) that had cut down from 160. He was a good kid from Glenbard East. He was a pretty highly ranked senior at 160. I knew it was going to be a tough match. My biggest thing was staying calm and not thinking about it too much. I went out there, wrestled one of my best matches of the year and majored him (9-0).
What’s coach David Silva like?
Connell: He’s a fun coach to wrestle with because he’s young and understands the sport well. He can relate to what we’re going through, and he can show us what we need to do and fix.
What did you do to kill time the morning of the state championship match?
Connell: I went and practiced with (senior teammate) Luke Silva, helped him warm up. We sat there for one round of wrestling for the wrestlebacks. Then I went back to the hotel and slept for a little bit, went to warm up and went to the arena. David wanted me to go back and not sit at the arena so I’d be thinking about it all day.
What was the first thing you ate after the season was over and you no longer had to worry about making weight?
Connell: A Subway sandwich. I got a spicy Italian wrap.
What’s something people wouldn’t know about you?
Connell: I’ve been wrestling for around 10 years. I used to play football a lot. Wrestling has always been my main thing.
What’s your favorite movie?
Connell: I can’t think of one. Tom and Jerry has always been my thing though. I grew up with Tom and Jerry and always watched it a lot. Still watch it today. It’s something I’ve always watched.
Who is your biggest hero?
Connell: Probably my dad (Pat Connell). He encourages me a lot; he pushes me, gets me through tough times – the weight cuts. He tells me everything I need.
Who is your funniest teammate at Marian?
Connell: Probably Elon Rodriguez (113-pound freshman). He’s always happy. He always cracks jokes. He’s one of the clowns on the team. He’s always outgoing, lifts us up.
Who is the teammate you learned from the most?
Connell: Luke Silva. He’s helped me a lot this year, teaching me and helping me through practice. Telling me how this high school experience would be coming out as a freshman.
Do you have any nicknames?
Connell: No. Some people just call me D or DC.
If you could hang out with any athlete, who would it be?
Connell: (Wrestler) David Taylor. He’s always a guy that I’ve noticed and seen him through his life and wrestling, and how good he’s been doing in the international tournaments he goes to. He has always interested me in his wrestling and training.