Wrestling: Oak Forest’s Danny Swan looks to stay on top of the state mountain
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media December 12, 2013 10:58PM
Oak Forest's Danny Swan celebrates his 2A state final wrestling match win at Assembly Hall Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, in Champaign. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2014 1:04PM
The Southland boasted nine individual state champions last season. Few traveled the road Oak Forest’s Danny Swan navigated.
While Lincoln-Way East’s Kyle Langenderfer, Mount Carmel’s Bryce Brill and Sandburg’s Colin Holler and Ricky Robertson secured state crowns with unblemished records, Swan stormed through the state tournament avenging previous defeats.
He rallied in the quarterfinals, paid back a debt to Vernon Hills’ Jordan Reich in the semis and avenged a pair of losses to Rich Central’s previously unbeaten Nkosi Moody to earn the Class 2A 106-pound championship.
“That’s the joy of wrestling — the part everyone loves,” said Oak Forest’s Shawn Forst, the 2013 South Suburban Coach of the Year. “It comes down to the dog and the fight. Danny kind of proved that last year with his perseverance and how hard he worked.”
According to Swan, there were a few other key factors: getting hot at the right time and overcoming doubt.
“It clicked in that tournament. Something in my head,” Swan said. “It’s a confidence thing, really believing in yourself and knowing you can do it.”
Swan understands that opponents will be gunning for him as he looks for his second state crown. The junior wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wouldn’t want to go to a tournament and not wrestle tough kids,” Swan said. “I love wrestling good kids. Tough competition is something to strive for.”
So far he’s off to a good start. Swan captured the 113-pound bracket — his new weight class — at the 20-team Conant Classic on Nov. 30, propelling the Bengals to a fourth-place finish. Francis Edelen (106), Mousa Jodeh (126) and Ahmad Ashker (182) added third-place runs for Oak Forest. Nick Graziano (195) took fourth.
“We have some really tough kids,” Swan said. “Being a public school and in 2A, I’m really happy with all the talent and athleticism. We have a great coaching staff and some really good athletes on this team.”
Edelen and Jodeh are returning state qualifiers, as is Patrick Kristin (160/170), whom Forst said is recovering from a concussion but should return to action soon.
Another to watch is junior Alan Durham, a state qualifier as a freshman. Durham won the South Suburban title last season at 120 pounds but broke his ankle in the process, ruining his chance for a return trip to state.
The pieces are in place for Oak Forest to defend its South Suburban Conference title, though the team is eyeing something bigger. With state qualifier Lincoln-Way West headed to the LaSalle-Peru Regional, Oak Forest looks like the prohibitive favorite to win its own regional and advance to the team tournament competition for the first time in five years.
“We expected it would be us and (Lincoln-Way West) duking it out in regionals,” Forst said. “It would be great if we met at state.”
With Swan and Co., that’s looking like a real possibility.