Mt. Carmel wins 14th Chicago Catholic League Title
Jahwon Akui becomes 11th Four Time Champ
By Andre’ Morgan
In its 99th year as a conference, the Chicago Catholic League’s 2011 version crowned its most prolific conference champion, Mt. Carmel again and anointed its 11th perfect individual champion, Jahwon Akui. There were very few surprises or upsets although two weight classes, 125 and 135 pounds were fought tooth and nail to the bitter end and their outcomes could of gone either way.
The Chicago Catholic League, a thirteen-team conference that is all about their tradition and pride showcased the old and the new on Saturday at Providence Catholic in New Lenox. Very few conferences have accurate records of their past tournaments yet the CCL’s tournament program list every individual finals match since 1974 along with each most outstanding senior (Tony Lawless Award), outstanding coach (Coaches Lawless Award) and outstanding individual tournament wrestler (Outstanding Wrestler).
In attendance were many of the past Catholic League champs and they were there monitoring the progress of their old conference and to welcome a new member to the exclusive four-time champ club. In addition, a new team to the conference, the St. Joseph Chargers crowned their first champion in the 130-pound weight class.
There was an unmistakable buzz in the air in reference to if the conference was experiencing a down year. General opinion was that while the teams may not be as deep as in the past years, the leagues individual champions will make a definite impact on the podium at the state finals. This confidence was buoyed by the fact that five of the states top ranked wrestlers were in the finals with four capturing titles and the fifth losing to the second ranked at that weight. In addition, two state second ranked wrestlers, a fourth and a sixth ranked also won conference titles. A total of ten top six wrestlers were showcased and all ten were in the finals.
Often referred to as the CCL’s big three, Mt. Carmel, Providence and St. Rita have captured twenty-three of the last twenty-five championships. Mt. Carmel won its 14th league championship, first since 2008, while crowning two champions, outdistancing a late charging Providence, 179 to 160. St. Rita was third with 144 points followed in the distance by Brother Rice with 71.50. Fenwick 69 points rounded out the top five and newcomer St. Joseph’s Chargers finished a close sixth with 62 points.
Providence led the parade of champions to the podium with 4, followed by St. Rita with three and Mt. Carmel with two. St. Joseph, St. Laurence, Fenwick, Brother Rice and De La Salle each had one apiece.
The state’s top ranked 103 pounder according to Illinois best weekly, Fenwick’s Matt Gerelli (33-1) captured his second title in three finals with a resounding 10 to 3 decision over St. Rita’s Jonathan Gahagan. “I want to make sure I am doing the right things, peaking at the right time,” said Gerelli. “I know that my coach Dave Herrera was a four time champ so I am just trying to do everything I can do to keep our Fenwick tradition going. I am really excited that next year the conference championship will be at Fenwick.”
Providence picked up their first champion with a 10 to 0 major decision at 112 pounds by Cole Ferguson (25-7) over Mt. Carmel’s Carlos Hernandez.
At 119 pounds, St. Rita’s Mike O’Connor (10-6) needed a overtime takedown to slip past Fenwick’s Tony Aguilar 10 to 8.
Providence’s second ranked 125 pound Eddie Klimara (30-0) positioned himself to have a shot at being the next four time CCL champ when he clinched his third title versus his rival, Mt. Carmel’s Mike Mizaur, 8 to 6. I accomplished what I wanted to, tough match in the finals,” said Klimara. “It is difficult to wrestle him because he knows what I do. We were on th same team in eight grade. He knows what I do and I know what he does. He is a great competitor. I am shooting for being a four timer this time next year. This conference gets you ready for state.”
Bryant Roby (26-3), who had never wrestled prior high school and lost his first 10 matches, marched into Catholic League history when he became St. Joseph’s first champion, defeating Mt. Carmel’s Brendan Tyler-Hall 3-2. “It means a lot to me to get it done, especially in the Chicago Catholic League, the best conference in the state,” said Roby. “This gives me confidence and momentum heading into regional, sectional and hopefully state. All I wanted to do was come here and be a champion. This let’s me know I can be on the podium downstate.”
In one of the meet’s best two best finals (17-1) 125 pounds the other) and the closest thing to an upset, Providence’s second ranked Mike Tougher (31-3) beat always tough top ranked Mike Avelar of Brother Rice, 3 to 2. Togher became the conference’s twenty-first three-time champion. “I was hoping to keep it close, thank god I got that takedown,” said Togher. “I didn’t know what was going through my head, I just knew I had to get a takedown if I wanted to win. I just snapped on his head, I had to react quick, hit that sweep single, and score. I have all of the respect in the world for him (Avelar). This means a lot to me, especially after coming up at state last year. Over the summer, I hit the weight room hard and worked on the little things. It looks like it’s working.”
For his efforts, Togher was voted the meets Outstanding Wrestler Award by the coaches poll.
Another tight contested match took place at 140 pounds when former teammates met. Second ranked Tyler Argue (30-7) fell to unranked St. Rita’s Tim Corse (20-6) 4 to 3. “He put a beating on me (At the Dvorak) last time so I wanted to turn that around, give myself some more confidence,” said Corse. “This time I hand fought more, he is a very good hand fighter so I had to stay in there, I couldn’t back up and I was ready when I took my shots I had to be ready for his re shots.”
When reflecting on the Chicago Catholic League, Corse who transferred to St Rita from Mt. Carmel prior to the season thought about the history and tradition of winning the title. “It is the toughest conference’” stated Corse. “There is nothing tougher than the Chicago Catholic League and everybody knows it. It’s that time of the season, and you are in the toughest conference and if you are here winning it then you are ready to go.”
Senior Edwin Cooper (26-1) Providence’s top ranked 145 pounder, climbed to the top of the podium for the third time becoming the leagues 22nd three-time champion on the heels of a fall at 2:34 over Gordon Tech’s Alexis Barrera. “Everything is going good’” said Cooper. Reflecting on his three pins Cooper stated, “I just wanted to get on the mat and off the mat, help the team get points. We are in a race with Mt. Carmel. I had to be ready to go at all times, do what I got to do. This was my last time at Catholic League, I got to show what I can do, leave an impression.”
Mt. Carmel’s sixth ranked Ricky Robertson (28-6) claimed the Caravan’s first title when he slid past Fenwick’s Graham Joss 8 to 7 at 152 pounds.
Brother Rice’s Malik Taylor (20-1) ranked second in the state, garnered his second league crown when a 5 to 0 shutout of a feisty Angelo Rivera (29-4) of De LaSalle.
“I am just getting ready for state,” said Taylor. “I am waiting on that regional date. That is when the real show begins. To compare the Chicago Catholic League it’s like the Big Ten of high school wrestling. It’s the most historic conference in the state, a real challenge every time out, we got like five or six state champs coming next month. No one goes out there to lose, everyone is going out to win and you have to be ready. That’s how it is.”
Joining the exclusive group of four time champions, St. Rita’s defending state champion and top ranked 171 pound, Jahwon Akui (21-0) became the 11th member with a 20 to 5 takedown clinic of Loyola’s Michael Paloian. Akui received the league’s top honor, the Tony Lawless Award as the top senior in the conference. He became the third St. Rita Mustang to be recognized following Albert White their other four-time champ from 2007 and Alexis Rivera in 1998.
“It feels unbelievable feeling,” said Akui. “A lot of state champions come through this conference and know that I am just the eleventh four timer here is an unbelievable. It says something about our coaches and our program. For me it is a really big achievement. I felt like my offense was going, I know no one was going to score on me, but every time I stepped on the mat I wanted to bring the rain. It’s just another notch on my belt. I feel like I am the best 171 in the state, for the second year in a row. I got a point to prove. I came in and wanted to win four state championships, I didn’t do that but I got four CCL’s, three nationals championships and I am still going for my second state championships so I am ready to go.”
St. Laurence crowned their first champ since 2008 when Nick Cartwright (19-7) posted a 12 to 8 decision at 189 pounds over St. Rita’s Ben Threloff.
Mt. Carmel sophomore, David Denne (215) remained on the path to four conference titles with his second title in as many years when he recorded the fastest fall of the day, 16 seconds over Providence’s Justin Ibarra. “I just felt really confident coming into the match,” said Denne. “I feel like I am wrestling good but we as a team and myself need to step it up, not be just the best but be great.”
Fourth ranked James Buss, De LaSalle’s heavyweight put St. Joseph’s Jaleel Johnson to his back in 1:59 to improve to 30 – 0.
“I felt like we started out strong, I wish we could of finished stronger but overall you can win the Catholic League tournament it’s a feather in your cap,” said Mt. Carmel head coach Jason Erwinski. The title was Erwinski’s second in his five-year tenure. Erwinski also captured his second Tony Lawless Award as the outstanding coach of the conference.
Last edited by MR TWISTER; 01-24-2011 at 12:01 AM.