By JARED BELL
Dylan Connell heard the chatter and the talk of a dream match.
After the 170-pound junior at Marian Central Catholic won his second Class 2A state title last season, people began to talk online about how cool it’d be for Connell to face Class 3A state champion David Ferrante from Huntley.’
“It was a match that I’ve wanted, and we’ve always talked about getting it,” Connell said.
It was something everyone hoped for but didn’t expect to see.
“After they both won a state title (last year),” Marian Central Catholic coach David Silva said, “I think someone had said something on Twitter, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could put this match together? If Marian could wrestle Huntley and Connell could wrestle Ferrante?’ I responded right away that we’d wrestle them anywhere and any day they wanted.”
Last week, fans got what they wanted.
In one of the state’s most anticipated matches between returning state champions and kids ranked No. 1 in their class, Connell pulled out the biggest win of his season as he earned a second-period pin fall over Ferrante.
.@mcchs_wrestling’s Dylan Connell pins Huntley’s David Ferrante in the second period of the 170-pound match. Both are defending state champs, both entered the night undefeated. pic.twitter.com/jWwkZbGaTi
— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) January 18, 2020
The victory – along with his performance at the Batavia tournament – helped Connell be named this week’s FCA Wrestler of the Week.
“So many people had said that I could never beat him or that he’d beat me by a large amount of points,” Connell said. “But I proved them wrong.”
While many had looked forward to the match all season, not many could’ve predicted the pin-fall finish in a showdown between Big Ten Conference recruits.
“I never thought I’d get the pin,” Connell said. “I thought it was going to come down to third-period scores or a last-second takedown or an escape. I wasn’t expecting it to be a second-period pin.”
It was yet another highlight in Connell’s history-making career.
Already a two-time state champion, the University of Illinois commit – who’s ranked No. 1 in Class 2A 170 pounds in the current GO EARN IT rankings – improved to 29-0 with 22 pins this season and 126-5 for his career.
“Dylan is a kid who’s not only trying to be a state champion again, but we’ve gotten him to a place where he’s trying to be one of the best in the country,” Silva said. “He wants to develop and be a kid who steps into college and has the opportunity to make the Big Ten Tournament, make the NCAAs and become an All-American his first year. And if not in his first year after a redshirt year.”
After he won the 2A 152-pound state title as a freshman, Connell won the 2A 160-pound state title last season. While there’s still plenty of work left to be done, he’s aiming to become a rare four-time state champion.
“When I was coming into high school, I never thought I’d get to the point where I am at,” Connell said. “But after I won my second state title last year that’s when it really hit me that, ˜Wow, I could be a four-time state champ.’ If I could do that, it’d be an unexplainable feeling.”
While Connell has experienced a lot of individual success the last three years, so has Marian Central Catholic.
After back-to-back trips to the dual team state tournament and a third-place finish last year, the Hurricanes are currently unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the Class 2A team ranking and have big expectations for the remainder of the season.
It’s such a great family, and we’re all so close to each other,” Connell said. “Coach Silva has been a huge help, and he’s so close with each and every one of us – and that helps us grow. It’s been a fun ride that we’ve had with us all coming up and getting better.”
Connell was one of four finalists for this week’s award and received 43 percent of the votes to win the poll in a runaway.
“Friends of mine who are big in 3A have won this award before, so I knew of it,” Connell said. “I was just hoping that someday that I could get on the ballot and win it.”
2019-20 FCA Wrestlers of the Week:
1/12: Pucino wins first of many potential matches with Vandervere in front of home crowd
1/5: Joel Vandervere rallies to win Cheesehead
12/29: Ryan Boersma earns top heavyweight spot
12/15: Nicholas Renteria wins loaded bracket at Reaper Classic