We'll take a look back at a memorable moment in preps history, thanks to the words of The News-Gazette.
This week: There are several big wrestling invitationals this weekend, so we are taking a look at one of the state's traditional powers: Mahomet-Seymour.
Date: Jan. 11, 2007
Headline: Ledin focused on success
MAHOMET – While growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Rob Ledin admits he took a pretty insular view of the state high school wrestling scene.
For the then-teenager – and many like him in the Second City – what he knew of Illinois prep wrestling rarely extended south of Interstate 80.
There were, however, a few exceptions that managed to seep across the Cook County/collar counties line and into the consciousness of this St. Laurence High wrestler. Although it was a Class A school then – and Ledin existed pretty much in a Class AA world – Mahomet-Seymour commanded his attention. And his respect.
"Growing up in Chicago and wrestling at a big Class AA school – we had about 1,600 guys – we were wrestling big-time programs there," the 1985 St. Laurence grad recalled. "But if there was any school you really knew about from down south, it was Mahomet-Seymour. Year in and year out, Mahomet-Seymour had that tradition. Even though they were Class A, we knew about them."
Two decades later, the 39-year-old Ledin finds himself coaching them. In June, Ledin succeeded Chad Hay at the Bulldog helm, becoming the latest to direct what has long been the Rolls Royce of area wrestling programs.
"When I had the opportunity to coach here, I jumped at it," Ledin said.
Whenever this particular job comes open, there’s a particular urgency for those doing the hiring to get it right. When you have the type of resume M-S wrestling has written through the years – five state titles; a current streak of 16 regional crowns and 26 overall; 28 individual state champions – you don’t entrust the program to just anyone.
Perhaps no one recognizes this more than M-S principal Marty Williams, who helped direct Bulldog wrestling to extraordinary heights in the 1980s before moving into administration.
"It was very important for us to get someone in there that eats, sleeps and drinks wrestling," Williams said. "Rob was that person. He had taken the Clinton program to another level because of his dedication and commitment to the sport. In our mind, that was one of the large keys to competing at the level we want to compete at."
Ledin started small – in park district programs – and served as a volunteer coach at middle schools and small colleges. When he got his first big breakthrough – hired by Clinton in 1995 as head coach – he made the most of it. The highlights of an eight-year stint at the Maroon helm include a state runner-up finish in 2000, third place in 2001, a two-time state champion in Tyrone Byrd and a 1999 state champ in Jeremy Ryerson.
From there, Ledin spent two seasons as Morton’s coach before leaving and completing his master’s degree in educational administration at ISU.
M-S gave him the chance after Hay resigned in May. His successor inherited one of the youngest Bulldog teams in recent memory – the starting lineup includes three seniors and one junior.
Although M-S has struggled at times this season, Ledin never wavered from his step-by-step plan of teaching and implementing his system. For signs of progress, look to last Saturday, when M-S returned from Morton with the title of a 12-team tournament.
"The expectations here, of course, are high," Ledin said, "and I set high expectations for myself. So even though we’ve taken our lumps, we’d like to bring home a state trophy. We have that as a goal."
At M-S, that goes without saying.