Joliet coach O’Connell named to wrestling coaches hall of fame
Veteran Joliet Central and Joliet Township coach Pat O’Connell has been enshrined in the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame.
O’Connell is set to join a class of 16 that also includes late Joliet Central wrestler Joei Bales and Plainfield Central coach Paul Faris. O’Connell, who has been coaching for more than four decades, is among the few out of more than 600 inductees in the hall not to be there for having been a head coach or wrestling star.
“I was definitely surprised and the group that I went in was amazing,” O’Connell, who besides being a longtime assistant also earned a reputation for volunteering at the Illinois High School Association finals as a weight in official since 1981, told the Daily Herald.
O’Connell has also been instrumental in leading the charge that ended with Joliet Junior College moving to restore its wrestling program.
“It was wonderful,” he added to the Daily Herald. “I had the family there, and it was good to also have some friends there. And it was good to get Joei in at the same time and his daughters were able to accept the award. There’s quite a few from JT who are in the Hall of Fame, and I’m still trying to get in some more and sometimes it takes four or five years.”
O’Connell, who comes from one of the most well-known coaching families in the Joliet area, hinted he sometimes wonders where he would be without having become a coach.
“I’ve got a special thing with wrestling, and I don’t want to say that it saved me, but I owe the rest of my life to it,” he told the Daily Herald. “I got to go to college doing it and wrestled at Millikin for four years. So I try to get kids out for the same reason that I did it. It’s going to build you up both mentally and physically. It’s just such a great way of life.”