Loss could spur Sklavanitis to new heights
Best yet to come
Here's a scary thought for future wrestling opponents of Oregon senior Brandon Sklavanitis: You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Sklavanitis, the Hawks' 170-pounder, has amassed a sparkling 36-1 record this season, including championships at the Polo and Stillman Valley tournaments. It was his lone loss this season, however, that could mean the best is yet to come.
On Saturday, Sklavanitis dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Alleman's Sean Wetherell in the finals of the Bob Mitton Invitational in Orion. The wrestlers were ranked No. 2 (Sklavanitis) and No. 3 (Wetherell) in Class 1A by Illinois Matmen, and it's helped the Hawk realize he's got to bring more to the table against top-flight competition.
"He's an excellent defender," Sklavanitis said, "but I was not near as aggressive as I should have been during the match. Part of that could be my conditioning, and I'm starting to work on that more."
Sklavanitis has been arriving at school at 6 a.m. for 45-minute workouts that include extra running and time on the stair climber – "all the fun stuff", he said with a smile – and he hopes teammates join him as the season heads toward its conclusion.
The lack of aggression against Wetherell is something Sklavanitis has been trying to correct. He attended an elite wrestling camp, the Purler Takedown Machine Training Camp, at Newman over the summer. His training partner was the Comets' Brian Bahrs, a 2-time state champion. It was all takedowns, all the time.
"It's actually just the basics, but you drill it over and over 6 hours a day for 5 days," Sklavanitis said. "There's a few new setups, but everything else, I primarily already knew. You get a lot of mat time with it."
The results have been showing. In 30 bouts (not including seven forfeits) this season, Sklavanitis has racked up 20 pins. He had 17 as a junior.
"Last year, I was a lot more laid back," Sklavanitis said. "I'd have close matches and be comfortable with it. This year, I want to take the next step and spread out the lead."
Oregon head coach Mike Guzman has taken notice.
"He's a really good defensive wrestler on his feet," Guzman said, "but what he's done this year is allow himself to take more risks on his feet."
The ultimate goal is to show his stuff at the state tournament. He qualified a year ago, but was a one-and-done competitor after dropping a 5-2 decision to Roxana's Tyler Floyd in the 160-pound preliminaries. It wrapped up a 37-4 junior season.
"It's motivated me a lot," said Sklavanitis, whose 138 career wins are third all-time at Oregon, behind Randall Peterson (157) and Tom Bottoms (142). "I don't want to go down there and go home right away. I got the nervous butterflies out of the way last year. Now it's just going down there and doing what I do best."
Sklavanitis has gotten the job done off the wrestling mat as well. He's ranked 11th in an Oregon senior class of 137 with a grade point average of 4.1, and he plans on becoming a doctor. He hopes to attend the University of Wisconsin.
"My parents have always been pushing me to go as far as I can," Sklavanitis said, "and I think it would be a big challenge in college to become a doctor."
Oregon's career win leaders
1. Randall Peterson (2004-07) 157
2. Tom Bottoms (1995-98) 142
3. Brandon Sklavanitis (2010-13) 138
4. Brent Suter (1995-98) 136
5. (tie) Jeremy Benesh (1997-00) 133
Eric Berg (1998-01) 133