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Short Season, BIG Impact

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 7:04 p.m. CDT
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(Herald Photo by Lisa Pesavento - lpesavento@morrisdailyherald.com)
After finishing fourth in the State in Class 3A this winter, Minooka senior Corbett Oughton was named Wrestler of the Year by the MDH.

MINOOKA — He finished wrestling his freshman year for Minooka thinking ‘what’s next’. He finished his senior year with the Indians asking ‘what if?’

Corbett Oughton won one of the most critical bouts in the history of MCHS his freshman year in the Class 3A State finals — a match that Minooka won for the first team state title in school annals. Fast forward to the weekend after last Thanksgiving and a dislocated left elbow nearly ended his high school career prematurely.

Drawing encouragement from coach Jeff Charlebois, the Indians’ senior not only came back at the end of the season, but he finished the year by being named All-State for a second straight year — then he won his final bout ever in a Minooka singlet.

After four seasons over which he compiled a 129-27 record, combined with a 7-1 record in dual team finals, and a couple of All-State performances, Oughton has been named this year’s Morris Daily Herald Wrestler of the Year.

Four Years Ago

Entering high school, Oughton walked through the doors of MCHS with expectations. After all, he had placed several times for the Little Indians in IKWF competition, including winning a State championship as a seventh grader. Oughton stepped right into the Indians lineup that year as a freshman and made his mark right away.

Still, there was a learning curve.

“As far as high school wrestling goes, he’s evolved so much since his freshman year,” Charlebois said. “He won 37 matches his freshman year at 103 by being just a tough, scrappy kid. He has since grown after wrestling at 112 as a sophomore to where he was wrestling at 45 as a junior. Not only did he grow physically, but by then end of his career he was more technically proficient and he also showed a new level of mental toughness.”

That tough and scrappy wrestler tag was never more apparent than when Oughton took to the mats at team state for the Indians in the finals held down in Bloomington at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum his freshman year.

“When we wrestled for the State championship, we had lost five matches in a row when it came to Corbett — he and Leo Ruettiger,” Minooka coach Bernie Ruettiger said. “I told them that they had to stop the bleeding. I had to tell that to a freshman. Then he (Corbett) goes out and wins his match in overtime to get us started to lead us to a State championship.”

Not just any overtime match either. Regardless, it was a heck of a way for him to cap his freshman season with the Indians.

“Coming into high school as a freshman, I was itching to get into the starting varsity lineup. I did right away and wrestled the whole year. It was fun with the team because we knew we were going to be good. We knew that we’d have a chance to win it,” Oughton said. “Then going into the team state tournament, at the beginning of the day, Rudy and Charlebois were joking around that it would come down to me and (Matt) Myer.

“Little did I know they were right. We were down 16-0. Kudos to the guys who lost to keep them (Sandburg) from bonus points. I had a tough match and it went down to the tiebreaker in triple overtime. That got us rolling. It was awesome.”

Charlebois said that it was a clutch performance.

“That’s about the most pressure you can put on a person,” he said. “Let alone to do it in that fashion for the dual team championship. We were down after losing the first five matches and then he goes out and wins in overtime.”

Oughton and Leo Ruettiger both won and Meyer finished it off as Minooka beat Carl Sandburg 26-20 for a state title.

“Right off the bat coming into high school and winning a team state title was the best feeling I’ve ever had. Winning as a team and getting to celebrate with my teammates was awesome. We knew we had another good team coming back the next year, but that team just fell one dual short and got second. That was still fun, but it wasn’t the same.”

Flash Forward

After going 37-8 as a freshman, Oughton went 35-8 as a sophomore 112 pounder. He hit a growth spurt heading into his junior year where he wrestled at 145. That year he went 43-6 and finished fourth at individual state, which set the stage for a potential fantastic finish his senior year.

Four matches into the season, however, Oughton dislocated his left elbow while wrestling Nate Higgins of Belleville West in Minooka.

“Coming off the edge of the mat, the kid got behind me when I was going to switch,” Oughton explained. “We were going off the mat and there would be no points, so I posted my arm and instead of turning with it, it went straight over and collapsed.”

He had to be carted out of the gym on a stretcher that day. In a twist of eerie irony, the night before at practice Charlebois was sharing a college story with Corbett about a guy who dislocated his elbow.

“We were talking the night before about my college career (at Lassen Community College in California),” Charlebois said. “It was my first match ever and I was wrestling a guy named Stan Greene. I was telling him about that and how Greene dislocated his elbow in that match against me, but then came back from it to finish fourth in the nation that year. Then when Corbett dislocated his elbow, that was the first thing that popped into my head. I tried to assure Corbett that it was not the end of the season for him. When they put him on that stretcher, I told him, “Right now it feels like the end of the world, but you know you can come back from this.” A month and a half later, he comes back and makes another All-State run.”

Training All Over Again

The elbow injury opened up the ‘what if?’ questions right away — even at the end of the season with a fourth-place medal around his neck.

“It probably restricted me. Because if I had the extra two months, I mean, who knows where I could have been,” Oughton said.

It would have meant more than 19 matches wrestled his senior year — which means less conditioning — not to mention learning to trust the elbow again.

“It was hard at first. Getting back into it and getting my conditioning back,” Oughton said. “That and finding out how much pressure I could put on the elbow. I felt a little timid at first when I was wrestling with it.”

A timidity that was gone by the time the postseason rolled around.

“He beat a returning state place winner in (Mitch) Cook and then also had to wrestle two of the best kids in the country in (Kyle) Langenderfer and Brian Murphy,” Charlebois said of his fourth-place run. “He’s been a very successful wrestler and you know he is going to do whatever it takes to win.”

Bernie Ruettiger says that the way Oughton bounced back and made All-State was remarkable.

“Especially with the injury he sustained — the dislocated elbow — for him to come back and be one of the top kids in the State of Illinois, especially in that weight class is great,” Ruettiger said. “That class was loaded this year. He came back and wrestled so well throughout the rest of the year.”

While that weekend down at the Assembly Hall marked the end of his individual career, one final team state appearance was still at hand.

Once More with Feeling

It was similar to his freshman year. By the time Corbett Oughton took the mat his senior year down at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, the Indians were trailing Marmion 14-3. In another ironic twist, the first Minooka win of the day came one weight before when Corbett’s brother — freshman Carson Oughton — recorded a 4-1 win. Corbett then went out and recorded a 17-2 technical fall victory to give the Indians a fighting chance with the score 14-8 at the time.

The win was the seventh of Corbett’s career at the team state for the Indians.

“That’s mental. When you go 7-1 over four years against the elite of the state in high pressure matches … that’s thriving under pressure,” Charlebois said.

Corbett says that he looked forward to representing the Indians no matter the occasion.

“I always knew when something was on the line for the team,” he said. “That’s when I usually performed my best.”

Post Script

The elbow injury may have played a role in a lack of interest in Oughton as a Division I wrestler in college. Then again, someone who’s heading to the U-of-I to just be a student has little to regret. He says he is leaning on pursuing a business degree there.

When asked if Oughton was one of the best wrestlers in Minooka history, Charlebois was succinct and to the point.

“He’s right up there,” he said.

An .827 winning percentage, two All-State medals, four team dual appearances and a 7-1 record in that environment says enough.

“It was a pretty good career, I guess,” Oughton summed up. “I’d have liked to have done a little better individually my freshman and sophomore and maybe finish a little bit better this year, but Illinois is a tough state for wrestling, so I can’t really complain.”

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