Original Roadrunner Vitek faces final postseason
Melrose Park, 12/08/12--Nazareth's Pat Vitek, 195, wrestles Walther's Ian Miller. Walther Lutheran High School hosted the 15th Warren G. Hoger Wrestling Invitational on Saturday. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:45AM
LA GRANGE PARK — The wrestling program at Nazareth has grown since its inception three years ago, and senior Pat Vitek has been there from the start.
“When I was a freshman we practiced in a (VFW) banquet hall,” Vitek said. “We had to take a bus about 10 minutes to get there and I remember there’d be workers setting up tables while we were practicing.
“Now we practice in a trailer that’s right outside our weight room. That’s where we’ve practiced for the past two years.”
Vitek’s father Brian and senior teammate Dan DeSimone’s father, Joe, were instrumental in getting the wrestling program started at Nazareth. Denis Laughlin took over as head coach last year, when the program crowned its first state champion in Malcolm Watson, who won a Class 2A crown at 220 pounds.
“Some coaches go their whole careers without coaching a state champ so I know how lucky I am,” Laughlin said.
Chicago native Vitek is hoping to make Laughlin lucky again this season. Vitek has gone from a defensive, 152-pound freshman to a more offensive wrestler as a senior at 195 pounds, and with a 26-0 record he’s currently ranked third in Illinois by Illinois Best Weekly and Illinois Matmen.
“I’ve become more offensive on my feet and that has really helped me, confidence-wise,” Vitek said. “Coach (Laughlin) has been pushing me to get five, six, seven shots off during a match.”
Vitek went 29-9 last year at 182 and finished one win away from advancing to the Class 2A finals in Champaign. Vitek lost an 8-6 decision to Roy Hickman of Rich South in the consolation semifinals of the Lemont sectional.
“I had a takedown to send that match to overtime, and then I took a bad shot and he scored on it,” Vitek said. “I’ve been thinking about that match the whole offseason.”
The Roadrunners’ upper-weight wrestlers are all working to get each other ready for the Class 2A regional at Riverside-Brookfield on Feb. 2. Aeneas White (182) and DeSimone (220) are both ranked by Illinois Matmen.
“Aeneas went downstate last year and our sophomore heavyweight (Dmitri Joe) has improved a lot and he’s pushing me in the room,” Vitek said. “And Dan’s a bruiser. He’s going to throw you out of bounds and slam you to the mat. So we all give each other different looks in practice.”
Vitek will play football in college and is considering Winona State, St. Xavier, and St. Joe’s in Indiana. For now, he’ll enjoy what’s left of his final year as a wrestler for a program that has come a long way since practicing in a banquet hall up the road.
“This was the first year we had some freshmen come in with wrestling experience, four or five kids that wrestled at a high level in grade school,” Vitek said. “So it’s been cool to see where we started and where we’ve come to.”