Wrestling was introduced as a varsity sport at Batavia High School during the 1957-58 school year. Under the leadership of Head Coach, Jerry Linton, the new team comprising 18 wrestlers gained valuable experience in a first year highlighted by a 2nd place finish at the Naperville Invitational Tournament. The yearbook described wrestling as “valuable because boys of all sizes and ages have the opportunity to compete in the sport” and that “with weight lifting and exercises, it is a good body building activity”.
Over the balance over the 1950’s, participation in the wrestling program continued to increase. In 1958-59 season, Denny King, Don Schouw, Vic Benson, Eddie Dahl and Denny Piron became Batavia’s first sectional qualifiers. In 1960, Batavia had its first individual conference champion in Dan Teeter.
Batavia High School's First Wrestling Team
In the first two years of the new decade the team was led by Barry Smith and Don Doenges. In 1961-62 they became Batavia’s first single season 20 match winners, with 21 and 26 victories respectively. In the same year, Doenges also won the second of his two consecutive conference championships and became Batavia’s first district champion. Adding additional depth, the 1963-64 team recorded a 7-7-1 record in dual meets, the best to date. During the 1966-67 season the team was forced to practice in the main hallway of the new high school, as the gym had not yet been completed. Individual and team records for the balance of the era are not available, but pictures show that wrestling had found its place in Batavia, with 30-40 wrestlers participating each year.
With the dawn of the new decade, a new dimension was added to the wrestling program with the addition of the team’s first cheerleaders. These dedicated young women, dubbed the “Mat Maids” in one yearbook, gave energy and support to the team during dual meets and tournaments. Another tradition that emerged during this time was the election of a Wrestling Queen to represent Batavia at the Little 7 Conference Meet each year. The first Wrestling Queen elected in 1974 was Cheryl Thryselius.
In the mid-70’s Batavia graduate Mike Rumple took over the reins of the program, and over the next few years, built Batavia into one of the best programs in the region. The team's record in his first year was an inauspicious 2-15, but with a talented group of underclassmen, the foundation for future success had been laid. 1976-77 saw a big improvement with an 8-9 record, and the first recorded tournament championship for the Bulldogs. With the program on the upswing the team produced Batavia’s first winning season in 1977-78 with a 12-2 dual meet record and also won three tournament championships. The team fell short of its goal with a 3rd place showing in conference, but crowned three conference champions in Jay Leonard, Kevin Drendel and Joe Johnson. Kevin Drendel also advanced to sectionals along with Jeff Hall and Tom Miller, with Miller’s 4th place showing the closest any Bulldog had ever come to reaching the state tournament. The 1978-79 season was a historic one for Batavia Wrestling. Not only did the team have an unbeaten 12-0 record in dual meets, extending their winning streak to twenty-three straight over two seasons, but they also won three tournaments for the second consecutive year and placed 2nd at conference and district. Individually, Batavia had six sectional qualifiers and its first sectional champion and state tournament qualifier in Joe Johnson. Johnson went on to place in the top eight in Champaign. The 1979-80 team ran the unbeaten dual meet streak to forty-one matches with an overall record of 17-0-1 and won Batavia’s very first conference championship, something that despite all their recent success had eluded them over the previous two years. Their dominating performance produced finalists in 9 out of 12 weight classes, and six conference champions. Not stopping there, the team also won its first district championship and placed 3rd at sectionals. As a side note, the team beat Addison Trail, the eventual state champion in a dual meet, in an era before a team dual state tournament. Individually the team had four 30 match winners in Don Anderson, Steve DuVall, Gary Farnsworth and Tom Miller, all of whom advanced to the state tournament; a record number for a single year that stands to this date.
1979-80 District Champions
The 1980-81 season brought an end to Batavia’s unbeaten dual meet streak at 44 matches, but saw Steve DuVall, Brian Drendel and Reuben Cooper head downstate to the state tournament. Steve DuVall ended his high school career with a record of 97 varsity wins and became Batavia’s first state medalist with a 4th place finish at 112 lbs. Reuben Cooper returned to the state tournament the following year, picking up 4th place at 155 lbs, losing to the eventual state champion by a heartbreaking 1 point. Both DuVall in 1980-81, and Cooper in 1981-82, topped the 40 win mark in a single season, the first to do this in the history of the program, with DuVall's 43 wins a record that has been challenged but never matched. The Bulldogs continued their winning ways in 1983-84 led by Gregg Farnsworth and Tom Porch with Farnsworth following in his brother's footsteps by making it to the state tournament. In 1984-85 a 10-11 record stopped the string of consecutive winning seasons seven, but the team did place 3rd at the inaugural Batavia Invitational Tournament. The season also marked the end of Gregg Farnsworth's career, one in which he won 121 matches and became the only four time conference champion in the history of Batavia wrestling. Through the balance of the 1980’s the team had its ups and downs, but had some very strong showings in a number of tournaments along the way. State qualifiers during this period were Jim DeBeers in 1985-86 and Tim Major who made the trip downstate in 1986-87. Remarkably, De Beers also made to state in both cross-country and track in the same year as wrestling. In 1988-89, Mike Rumple returned for his second stint as the head coach and quickly restored Batavia to its winning ways with back-to-back 12-9 and 13-7 records. In the 1989-90 season, the team also won the Batavia Invitational Tournament for the first time, and had a 30 match winner in Lance Pfeifer.
With Coach Rumple still at the helm, the 1990-91 season brought back memories of his dominant teams of a decade before. A 16-3 record, two state qualifiers in Josh DeKoyer and Neil Sauter, and a tournament win in Evergreen Park made this team one of the best to date. Josh DeKoyer made a repeat trip to the state tournament the following year and had a top 10 finish in what was Coach Rumple's last year as head coach.
The arrival of the 1992-93 season brought a new head coach in former Bulldog standout, Brian Drendel. His team went 6-10-1 and 2-12 in his first two campaigns, and while the current team had its struggles, it was at this time that he helped establish the Batavia Pinners youth wrestling program. He is quoted at the time as saying "it takes a few years to really begin to see the results of the program, but it is a key to building a sustainable winning tradition". He was clearly prescient in this respect, as by the end of the decade these young wrestlers were the foundation of the success that the Bulldogs continue to enjoy on the mat to this day. In 1997-98, Andy Hankes and Joe Krachala became the first wrestlers in six years to make it to the state tournament, and they were followed the next year with a 3rd place showing turned in by Matt Weight. The 1999-2000 season saw Batavia return to prominence with a stellar 16-4 record, the best record in a decade. The team sent seven wrestlers to sectionals, and Matt Weight emerged to clinch 2nd place at state; the highest postion ever reached by a Bulldog wrestler. Weight also followed up his 40 win season in 1998-99 with a 41 win season, becoming the first two-time 40 match winner in Batavia history.
2000 and Beyond
The team kicked of the new millenium with a record of 11-9-1, and again advanced seven wrestlers to sectionals. In 2001-02 both James Ryan and Matt Sauter qualified for state, with Sauter bringing home 4th place honors. By 2002-03, a number of the youngest members of the Batavia Pinners when the club was formed had broken into the varsity line-up, and started to leave their mark. One wrestler in particular, Clint Arlis, who had already won 31 varsity matches as a freshman the previous year, continued his assault on the record book, and with Joey Graves made his first trip to the state tournament. Not only was this Coach Drendel's last year, but it was also the last year that his father Gib Drendel served as the announcer for the Bulldogs. Gib had served in this capacity for over a quarter century, and had helped the program in many other ways over the years. It is perhaps no surprise then that many individuals associated with the program still consider him to be "Mr. Batavia Wrestling".
In 2003-04, Clint's father, Tom Arlis, took over the reins of the program after a very successful coaching career at Naperville North, and began a streak of three straight Suburban Prairie Conference North championships. Clint Arlis, who passed 100 career wins with a 41 win season, was once again accompanied by Joey Graves downstate, and they were joined by Chris O'Connell. By 2004-05, all the pieces were in place, and Bulldogs posted a single season record of 18 wins, and won the Suburban Prairie Mega-Conference championship, an eighteen team meet. Clint Arlis became the first three-time state qualifier, finishing his career with 147 career wins, and was joined this time by Jon Escamilla. While the previous record for dual meet victories had stood for almost a quarter century, the record set in 2004-05 lasted only one season. The 2005-06 team not only set a new record with a 20-4 record, but also won the first regional title since 1979-80, and fell just one match short of qualifying for the team state tournament. Once again the team was well represented at the individual state tournament with Jon Escamilla, Kevin McFarland and Greg Schroeder. Schroeder brought home a 6th place finish and in the process reached the 40 win plateau. 2006-07 was the inaugural year of the new Western Sun Conference. Although a new name, the conference has many of the same rivalries. The team got off to a slow start, but came on strong, finishing the season with a 14-7 record including a big wins against local rivals West Aurora and Kaneland. Kevin McFarland led the way with 35 wins and a state tournament berth, and but for the exception of an injury the week of sectionals, Jon Escamilla would almost certainly have become a three-time qualifier.
The 2007-08 marked the 50th year of Batavia Wrestling and it provided many exciting moments. The 50th Anniversary celebration was attended by over 100 wrestling alumni representing all eras, including several members of the original team in 1958 and all the living coaches. On the mat the team recorded a 14-9 dual record including a 6-1 record in the conference (the only loss on a tiebreaker rule). The team also won 3 of the 4 tournaments they entered including the Batavia Invitational and Western Sun Conference. Logan Arlis, Rocco Wade and Danny Watson all won over 30 matches and finished their seasons in Champaign at the State Tournament and Matt McCarter also hit the 30 win mark, and but for an untimely injury, had a great change to finish the season downstate.
The 2008-2009 season was a historic one for the Bulldogs. The overall team record of 15-7 continued a streak of six consecutive seasons with a winning record. The team defended its Batavia Invitational title for the first time in its history, making it three championships in the past four years. The Dogs were part of a three way tie for the regular season conference championship with a 6-1 dual meet record, but claimed bragging rights by winning its second consecutive Western Sun Conference tournament championship. The team made more history in the IHSA tournament tying the team record set in 1980 with four state tournament qualifiers, namely, Logan Arlis, Andrew Rudd, Charlie Ryan and Danny Watson. The four went on to make more history in Champaign with Logan Arlis taking 2nd place (equalling Matt Weight's finish in 2000 and the best by any Bulldog). Danny Watson took 3rd place, finishing the season with a 43-2 record, and tying Steve DuVall's 29 year-old record for most wins in a season. He also set the new mark for single-season takedowns with a phenomenal 260. Andrew Rudd was the third Bulldog to earn all=state honors with a 6th place finish. For a team that has never had more than a single place winner in a single season this year was truly remarkable.