Lena, Ill. (WIFR) Coming off of a state championship year, Lena-Stockton co-op wrestling is setting their sights on back to back titles this season. The Pantherhawks took the 1A team title last year, knocking off Dakota, who won state four years straight. Though Lena-Stockton lost in their conference dual against the Indians Wednesday night, the team says their main goal is focusing on what they say matters most, the Regional title.
"It's never fun to have a loss, but it's good to have a loss sometimes because it resets you and makes you want to work harder to beat that team the next time, and it's always harder to beat a good team twice," said Lena-Winslow senior Ian Kuehl, a heavyweight wrestler.
The Pantherhawks currently hold the number one ranking in the class 1A. Though in a region filled with tough wrestling programs, head coach Kevin Milder said it will be even more difficult this year with everyone gunning to knock them off. Now in his 24th season as head coach, he said their toughest competition will continue to be Dakota. But that heated rivalry only makes fighting for the title that much more exciting.
"People are excited for the rivalry, they're talking about wrestling which is always good, so it's great to have those competitive juices flowing," Milder said. "There's a lot of work to do here in January and it's starting to get to that exciting time of year where it's win or go home."
Lena-Winslow also added another championship in winning the 1A football state title back in November. Senior wrestler Rahveon Valentine earned championships on both the mat and the field, but said an individual title would be the icing on the cake.
"Coming into this season after winning state, we knew what the expectations were and it was high coming right into the season so had to work right off the bat," Valentine said, a 170-pound wrestler. "The first personal goal is to obviously win a state championship and that will bring us together to win a team state championship, too."
"Another state championship after a football state championship in my senior year, that would be tremendous."