GLASFORD, Illinois (WMBD) – Tucked in the corridors of Illini Bluffs High School, in a wrestling room not much bigger than their classrooms, the Tigers four wrestlers are preparing for the state meet in Champaign.

They know each other well; it’s the exact same four wrestlers the Tigers sent last year. And they’ve been wrestling together since they were young.

The team wrestling for the Tigers has been basically the same since kindergarten really.”

Hunter Robbins, Illini Bluffs Junior

Sophomore Jackson Carroll added “[It] feels really good. I know all these guys and been practicing with them since I was a little kid.”

For junior Ian O’Connor, the history of the small room is in his blood. His grandfather started the program in 1970 and is now being coached by his dad.

“Expectations are probably a little different than some other people on the team. But I thin most of the time he just wants to push me to be better.”

Ian O’Connor, Illini Bluffs Junior

Robbins has been using the small space as motivation after losing in the state championship bout last year.

“I don’t like getting second. I want to be on the top. I’m just more ready that I was last year,” he said.”

But no one is looking forward to going back more than Paul Ishikawa. The lone senior won state in 2021, but lost in double overtime of the semifinals last year.

This season, he’s 48-0 and wants a perfect season to end his career.

“Motivation is definitely winning a state title this year. And then being so close to third and then losing again definitely motivates me. I’m not ready for it to be over but since it’s going to be over, hopefully I’m a state champ.”

Paul Ishikawa, Illini Bluffs Senior