Wrestling: Langenderfer preparing for freshman season at Illinois
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media June 12, 2013 8:18PM
Kyle Langenderfer | File photo
Updated: July 15, 2013 7:26PM
The University of Illinois is getting a good one in Lincoln-Way East graduate Kyle Langenderfer.
The two-time state champion who most recently won the 152-pound title with a 43-0 record is now hitting the mats with his future Illini teammates to prepare for his freshman season.
“This is a totally different level,” Langenderfer said. “There’s definitely a learning curve to it. Everyone at this level and in our room is at the top of their game.”
If any freshman can navigate the steep jump to the collegiate ranks, Langenderfer heads the list.
“Every kid that he’s wrestling, from practice to competition, is a state champ and one of the best around,” said East coach Tyrone Byrd, a former Illinois wrestler. “Some kids crumble when they’re under that kind of pressure. For a kid like Kyle, he’ll strive in that situation.”
Langenderfer also was an All-State linebacker for the Griffins football team and saved some of his best performances for crunch time. For his mat work, he recently was voted the Illinois Wrestling Coaches & Officials Association’s (IWCOA) Class 3A Wrestler of the Year.
He also earned the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) State Scholastic Award, which is given to the state’s top wrestler. The accolades were voted on by a committee of coaches from around Illinois.
“It definitely meant a lot coming out of a big-time wrestling state like Illinois with a bunch of really good wrestlers,” Langenderfer said. “Some of the other guys had phenomenal years — not saying I didn’t — but you don’t really expect to win against some of those guys who have more titles or awards.”
Byrd said Langenderfer is “without question” the top wrestler to ever come through the program. But with Langenderfer splitting time on the mat and the gridiron, it was easy for him to fly under the national radar compared to wrestlers competing year-round.
“He doesn’t go to Fargo (National Wrestling Championships) and receive those All-American statuses each year,” Byrd said. “It’s easy to pass him up as far as recognition, but I think these awards show he really opened some eyes.”
Langenderfer finished his career at East with 67 consecutive wins. He hit the state podium in each season and owns the school’s career record for wins (165), takedowns (455), falls (82) and winning percentage (92 percent).
“It kind of sucks that it’s over,” Langenderfer said. “I built a lot of great bonds with my teammates and my coaches. Those are guys I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”
Byrd shared a similar sentiment and noted Langenderfer’s drive and influence will be missed.
“I’m proud of him as a student and an athlete, but even more so as a person,” Byrd said, “because you really felt the maturity level his senior season and saw that in his leadership.”