Athlete of the Week: Jon O’Connell, Republic

Every single sprint, every handstand walk, every moment is part of a larger plan.

“He gives everything in every drill we do, sparring that we do in here, conditioning he’s the leader nonstop all the time. He realizes how he wrestles on the mat is how he practices,” said Republic Wrestling Coach Jerry Morton.

Republic senior Jon O’Connell’s intensity in practice is surpassed only by his intensity in competition.

“I’m notorious for not really showing any emotion out on the mat,” O’Connell said.

Don’t confuse that with a lack of passion.

“I’m not afraid of losing,” O’Connell said. “I just don’t like to lose.”

That shows in the 145-pounder’s undefeated record this year.

One of those wins includes a Kinloch Classic championship, giving Jon some family bragging rights.

“Me and my brother had this brotherly competition where he almost won it his senior year in 2016 and then for me to win it and him not, it’s just like that triumph over him,” Jon said with a smile.

With a Kinloch title in the books, Jon and Coach Morton are focused on a different triumph.

“[Jon] knows from being there and being so close the grind it takes to get back, and it’s not guaranteed, so we [as coaches] want nothing more than for him to come out on top at the end of the season,” Morton said.

Few have come as close to championship glory as Jon, who finished state runner up in back to back years, including a 1-0 loss in the final last season.

“That 1-0 loss, I was right there so if I just push a little harder, I can overpower that point next time and get that championship,” Jon said.

Chasing that title comes with a new challenge as Republic moves from class three to class four.

That hasn’t changed Jon’s approach or message to his teammates.

“In my head, I just have to buckle down and work even harder,” Jon said. “That’s the one thing about wrestling, the harder you work, the better you get.”

Jon has won more than 85 percent of his matches in his career.

So as this Tiger gets even better, there’s no telling if anybody can beat him.