Revealing the Untold Tales of LHP Wrestling


Tony Rotundo

(Above) Coach Mike Palazzo (left) and Coach Donny Simpson (right) matside during a huge finals match at the Doc Buchanan tournament in California. The Doc Buchanan is one of the biggest and most important tournaments in the country. Photo courtesy of

Brady Conlin, Staff

A lot of people throughout the Lake Highland campus always ask: what makes the champion LHP wrestling team what it is? As a member myself, I would say a lot of hard work and dedication. Every wrestler on the team has a different way of finding success individually. This team, in my belief, is the hardest working team on campus at LHP, maybe even one of the
most hardworking teams in the country out of every sport. The training that coaches Mike Palazzo, Donny Simpson, Joe Bakewell, and Destin McCaulley put us through is definitely an experience. On the outside looking in, it could seem harsh or grueling, but in the long run, it truly benefits us for the tough schedule that we have to face this year.

Even though the season starts in December, we are practicing hard every day, trying to better ourselves for the upcoming season and our future as wrestlers. The one thing that Coach Palazzo stresses to us is, “You practice how you wrestle.” What this quote means is if athletes are going to slack off in practice, they’re not going to perform to the best of their ability during their match. But if athletes practice hard, then the results are going to show on the mat.

This process that the wrestlers have to go through, throughout the entire season is a lot. All of the morning practices start at 6:45 A.M., then the wrestlers go right to school, and then right to another practice. It is a lot to handle. It is very tiring and time consuming to the point where when the wrestlers get home all we want to do is go to sleep. Coach Palazzo does this for a reason: to get us to the place where we can excel on the mat and reach our full potential. I know when I first got here I didn’t like it because I would be tired everyday, after going back to back to back every single day. But then I started to believe in the process that Coach Palazzo has put in front of me and my team, and I believed in his abilities.

Coach Palazzo is a one-of-a-kind person. I know in my life time I have never ever met a coach quite like Coach Palazzo. I can definitely say that he is a polarizing figure. He has been very successful as a wrestler, a student, and especially as a coach. He is a two-time Illinois Freestyle State Champ in high school, Illinois Folkstyle state champ, an Indiana University four year letterman, Indiana University team captain, and an NCAA Division 1 qualifier. He also has a Master of Science Degree in Nutrition Science, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Marketing. As a coach, he has 2018 LHP Coach of the Year, 2018 NFHS Coach of the Year, 2017 NHSCA Coach of the Year, 2017 Dairy Farmer Coach of the Year, 2016 Flo Wrestling’s National Coach of the Year, and 2016 Orlando Sentinel All Sports Coach of the Year. He also has accomplished Team State Champions in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; Team State Runner up in 2014, Team Dual State Champions in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; 42 Individual State Champions; 51 State Place Winners; 43 NHSCA All Americans (five Champions); 15 Super 32 All Americans (four Champions); 10 Ironman Place Winners (two Champions), and six Flo National All Americans. As one can see from all of these accomplishments Coach Palazzo knows what it takes to be the best coach in the country.

Coach Palazzo explained,“Hard work will undoubtedly pay off. Hard work is a necessary component of our lives, as history has shown. Academics and work hard to achieve higher grades; if you are working, you must be committed to your job. Hard labor pays off in the end, as history has shown. Consistency over a long period time. If you are working hard once, twice, here and there that doesn’t hold a stick to working hard for long periods of time and having the ability to look much further down the line about what you’re trying to accomplish throughout the season.”

Coach Palazzo has been inspired by a lot of people in his life, but there is nobody that he has met quite like his high school coach, Coach Khan. Khan was Coach Palazzo’s coach while he
was wrestling for his high school Glenbard North in Chicago, Illinois. Coach Khan has helped Coach Palazzo succeed on and off of the mat. Coach Palazzo explained, “My inspiration for getting into coaching would have to be my high school coach, Coach Khan. I have never met anybody like him that is a better human being and someone who has changed more lives. It’s
amazing what he does to change people’s lives on the wrestling mat and off of the wrestling mat. I have known him for 40 years, and the guy is like gold. He is truly amazing,” Coach Palazzo has proved through his different methods that he is one of the best coaches in the country. He not only makes people better wrestlers, but he makes better human beings. He does this by stressing the four top things, Faith, Family, School, and then Athletics. Coach Palazzo has created a one of a kind culture and team at Lake Highland Prep.

(Above) Joe Sealey, the newest member of the Lake Highland Prep wrestling team, catching his breath during the finals of U17 World Team Trials match against KJ Evans from Oklahoma. Sealey won this match and then went on to dominate in Sofia, Bulgaria to become the U17 71kg World Champion. Sealey will bring a new dynamic to the Lake Highland Prep wrestling team with his high paced offense and his insane scrambling and baseline defense. Photo courtesy of Tony Rotunda. (Photo courtesy of Tony Rotunda.)
(Above) Lake Highland Prep wrestler Ethan Mojena is celebrating a great tournament at Fargo 2021. He placed 3rd in Freestyle, and 4th in Greco Roman. Fargo is one of the biggest if not the biggest offseason tournament in the country. His great performance at Fargo has garnered up a lot of interests from Division I colleges throughout the nation. Photo courtesy of (Photo courtesy of
(Above) Coach Mike Palazzo coaching his wrestler to victory, courtesy of his high energy and willingness to win. Palazzo is a very polarizing figure as he makes his presence known by being loud and confident for his wrestlers. Photo courtesy of Stephen M. Dowell. (Photo courtesy of Stephen M. Dowell.)