Griffin Duffin enjoyed a successful freshman season with the St. Rita varsity last year.

But all along, he knew would need to take a big step forward in Year Two, and after a busy offseason, Duffin continues to be a strong performer for the Mustangs under Coach John Anderson, a St. Rita alum who is in his first year leading the team.

Duffin, a sophomore, said hard work is paying off.

“It’s been the practice for sure,” he said. “My practice partners have been great. I’ve been able to train way harder than I did last year. In the offseason this summer, it was a big jump from last year for me.”

Duffin was a big bright spot for the Mustangs in a Chicago Catholic League (CCL) dual meet at Mt. Carmel on Jan. 9, winning his match at 126 pounds in an exciting 8-3 decision.

The host Caravan, the No.-2 ranked team in the state, beat St. Rita 61-9.

Duffin (Mt. Greenwood, Queen of Martyrs) credited his practice partners, Austin Dangles, Dave Schied, Matt Dorris and Jax Kalemba, for helping him improve so much as a sophomore.

A 2012 graduate of St. Rita, Anderson has been impressed with Duffin’s performance.

“Griffin has done really well this season,” Anderson said. “He’s got a very unique style that works for him. He’s getting better every single day, really taking it seriously and working hard in practice.”

Looking ahead to the postseason, Duffin expressed confidence.

“I want to finish the year with a lot of wins and make it out of sectionals to state,” Duffin said. “I want to finish the year strong and end on a positive note.”

St. Rita will compete on Jan. 25 at Providence Catholic in the CCL meet and on Feb. 8 at the Class 3A Reavis regional.

Other winners against Mt. Carmel included Kalemba with a 4-2 decision at 152 pounds, and in the dual’s best match, senior Marty Larkin claimed an exciting 8-6 victory in extra time at 160 pounds over Mt. Carmel’s Ashton Breen.

Larkin and Breen are both ranked in the top 10 at 160 pounds in Class 3A.

“Jax had a great match tonight. That was the best I’ve seen him wrestle,” Anderson said. “Marty’s been the forerunner for it all and is really setting the tone. It’s really good we have a guy like that who can help set the tempo.”

Anderson was a two-time state qualifier during his time at St. Rita. He wrestled collegiately at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and spent the last three years as an assistant coach at Collinsville High School.

Coaching at his alma mater, Anderson has worked to put his personal stamp on the wrestling program.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Anderson said. “I’ve used a lot of things that I learned as a student-athlete and as an assistant and put all those things together from those coaching styles. I tried to customize it to my own plan for what works for me and go from there.”