L-W West sectional predictably brutal
By Steve Nemeth
While last week’s Yorkville Regional took four of the state’s stronger Class 2A programs out of the running for the IHSA dual team sectional, Saturday’s Lincoln-Way West-hosted sectional was more like a game of Individual Survivor considering how loaded some of the weight classes were.
To that end, No. 2-rated Montini Catholic and No. 3-ranked Marmion Academy both took a couple hits but came through the “war of attrition” still needing a bus to transport their contingents to Champaign while many others can use a van or school car.
While Marmion has 10 of its 12 Cadets who competed in New Lenox qualifying for the IHSA State Finals, Montini has nine of its 11 sectional wrestlers moving on.
Montini, still riding the wave of having beaten rival Marmion for the Yorkville regional crown and the right to advance to the Sandwich dual team sectional by one point, went from five regional champions to six sectional title winners, including two reversals at the expense of the Cadets.
Yet another testament to how loaded that Yorkville Regional was became evident at Lincoln-Way West when seven of the sectional championships were title rematches from the week before.
Based on the most recent Illinois Matmen individual ratings from Nos. 1 through Honorable Mentions, the fewest number of ranked wrestlers in any one weight class at Lincoln-Way West was four.
At the same time, nine of the 14 weight classes featured anywhere from four to seven of the state’s Top 12 individuals competing in New Lenox.
Yet another indication of the strength of the programs competing at Lincoln-Way West can be found in checking qualifiers from all four sectionals. Marmion and Richmond-Burton share the lead in terms of sending 10-man contingents to Champaign.
Montini and Crystal Lake Central share third with nine qualifiers, while Yorkville is tied for seventh by matching Wauconda for boasting a five-member downstate unit.
Heading up Montini’s six champions on Saturday was No. 1-rated Steve Robertson, the winner at 152-pounds who followed up his fourth regional title with a fourth sectional crown.
Robertson (48-2), the 140-pound state champ in 2010 and 125 titlist in 2009, posted an 8-4 decision over No. 4-rated Joe Kennedy, who became the lone state qualifier for host Lincoln-Way West.
"I'm really looking forward to state and I'm still hungry, especially since I know my field has a two-time state champion also in the mix," Robertson noted. "My goal is to prove he's the second-best in the state at this weight."
Three of Montini’s champions beat rivals from Marmion for their titles. Third-ranked heavyweight Ross Ferraro (38-13) compiled an 11-4 decision for an encore win over Marmion’s No. 7 Alex Fritz (29-14).
The Broncos had two wrestlers avenge regional final losses as No. 3 KeVon Powell (15-5) turned a 6-0 regional setback into a 3-1 overtime victory over No. 1 Jered Cortez (14-5) at 112, while No. 2 Chris Garcia (34-11) notched a 7-3 triumph over No. 3 Eddie Greco (34-11) after losing to the Cadet 5-1 the week before.
Both Cortez and Powell have spent time out of their respective lineups this season, but both are poised to make a run at a state title.
"At regionals (Cortez) got a quick lead and there wasn't much I could do other than make certain I didn't give up any extra team points," Powell explained. "All week I practiced and was ready. With this win I've got a well-deserved first-round bye. We could easily meet again since we both want the state title, but I'll need three wins whereas he'll need four."
Montini's No. 2-rated Frank Baer (35-10) aims to surpass last year's runner-up finish at 145 and moved on via 6-5 nail-biter against Tinley Park's No. 11 Rodney Johnson (36-6). The Broncos' other sectional winner was No. 6 Edgar Ruano (35-9), a 6-4 overtime winner against No. 9 Dequence Goodman (34-5) of Bowen.
Montini’s remaining trio of state competitors are sectional runners-up Tommy Pawelski (33-16) at 103 and Dimitri Willis at 160, along with third-place finisher Drew Vrbenec at 135.
Willis (27-6) placed third in Illinois at 160 last season and the senior secured another downstate berth with a 19-9 semifinal decision over Lincoln-Way West’s Tim Ryan (28-11). Willis lost 6-3 to Lemont’s Derek Nagel (39-1) on the title mat.
Vrbenec (27-16) earned advancement with a 5-0 win over Lincoln-Way West’s Joe Souder (30-12) on the third-place mat.
Marmion’s four sectional champions didn’t match the Cadets’ six regional champs, but there’s still another distinction for the MA faithful to be proud of: specifically, Marmion and Richmond-Burton have the most individual qualifiers -- 10 -- for this Friday and Saturday’s IHSA Finals in Champaign.
“We're taking 10 to state which is one more than last year and both our seniors are going, so we feel good about that," Marmion coach Dean Branstetter said.
Saturday’s sectional finals were another testament to the toughness of the regional finals at Yorkville, as seven of the sectional championships were title-bout rematches from the week before.
It all started at 103 pounds as No. 1-rated Johnny Jimenez (38-4) followed up a first-period takedown with a reversal to start the second period and after allowing an escape, notching another takedown for a 6-1 lead en route to a 10-3 decision against No. 11-rated Tommy Pawelski from Montini. The week before, the Cadet freshman was a 13-4 winner over Pawelski.
“I’m happy with the win and the opportunity to go downstate because that’s been the goal all season. Now I’m just ready to wrestle my very best,” said Jiminez, who boosted his season ledger to 38-4.
The Powell-Cortez rematch came next at 112, setting up a rematch between Alphonse Vruno (34-2) of Sandwich and Marmion’s George Fisher (34-8) at 119. Fisher won a 3-2 decision over Vruno a week prior but Vruno gained revenge with a 2-1 title-mat decision on Saturday.
Garcia’s revenge match against Greco at 125 came next, and Marmion’s Ben Whitford showed his form next at 130.
Whitford (38-1) takes aim for his second straight IHSA title after capturing the 130-pound sectional title with a 1:12 pinfall over No. 4 Bryant Roby of Westchester St. Joseph’s. Rated No. 1 all year 130, last year’s 109-pound champion brings a stellar 38-1 ledger into his first-round bye at Assembly Hall.
Marmion freshman and 135-pounder Bryce Brill (36-3) followed up an 11-2 regional title win over Yorkville’s No. 4 Connor Bass with a 4-1 sectional title decision to bring his record to 36-3.
“Facing him again I knew I’d be in for a tough match, so I just wanted to battle through the same as always, look for my takedowns and be aggressive on my feet,” Brill said. “Hopefully a good week of practice will have me ready to do more of the same at state.”
At 140 pounds, Angelo Silvestro (37-7) gave Marmion yet another encore win over a familiar foe in Yorkville HM Clayton Bass. The No. 2 Cadet junior followed up his 14-8 regional success with a 12-7 decision in New Lenox to improve to 37-7.
"This week's title was tougher and next week's opponents will be that much tougher," Silvestro admitted. "But my goal is to keep my mind on the prize, a hard week of practice, continuing to work on conditioning, and being ready. As much as someone may want to beat me because I'm ranked or I'm from Marmion, at state everyone is a marked man. Whoever you wrestle is gunning to beat you, so I just know I'm also hungry to win.”
Marmion’s Eddie Breen (26-10) advanced downstate with a pancaking of Park Forest’s Kenneth Naylor on the third-place mat at 152, and Cadets’ senior Jon Wolfgram (26-13) qualified for Champaign with an 8-2 decision for third at 171, against Lincoln-Way West’s Scott Crosby. Before losing to Ferraro on the title mat, Fritz punched his ticket downstate with a 2-1 overtime decision against Yorkville’s Seth Gonzalez in their semifinal match at 285.
“In Wolfgram's case, he was 11-19 last year and now as a senior, he's a state qualifier. That’s great for him,” Branstetter said. “If you survive sectionals and get down to state, it's anybody's game.”
For Lincoln-Way West, Joe Kennedy (28-3) reached the title mat at 152 thanks to a 10-1 semifinal decision against Yorkville’s Steven Pozeg, which guaranteed West its lone representative in Champaign.
The third-place mat was cruel to Lincoln-Way West on Saturday, ending the season for five of its wrestlers. Matt Quigley (35-10 at 125), Joe Souder (30-12 at 135), Tim Ryan (28-11 at 160), Scott Crosby (33-12 at 171), and Colin Mulroe (22-10 at 189) all finished one win away from state qualification.
After winning a sectional title at 189, Yorkville’s Brant Corwin echoed the feelings that state qualifiers feel every year.
“It feels really good because everyone has to work hard to get out of regionals, but then sectionals is often the top obstacle to someone’s state dreams,” Corwin explained.
“You’ve got a bracket with four other regional champs, runners-up wanting to prove they’re better than what they showed at regional, and others hungry for the shot (at state). It’s really that much tougher.
“Once you’re at state, you can almost relax and just wrestle. Yes, everyone is tough, but by then you’ve got to believe enough in yourself to know you’re just as capable because you’re right there with them, and they all have to respect you. That’s why my prep this week will be the same and my goal is just to keep (success) going.”
Corwin earned his sectional title with a solid 7-3 decision over Oak Forest’s Alec Brown, one of five honorable mention entrants at New Lenox. However, unranked Chris Giatras of Lemont knocked out the other HMs with a 5-1 decision over the host school’s Colin Mulroe.
Just before Corwin, the top slot on the podium belonged to another member of the Foxes in fellow No. 3-ranked senior A.J. Messenger, who claimed the 171-pound title with a 5-1 decision over No. 6 Nick Collofello, who is Joliet Catholic’s lone state qualifier.
In addition to Messenger and Corwin, Yorkville’s state qualifiers include runners-up Connor Bass (135) and Clayton bass (140) plus third-place finisher Adam Wyeth (119).
Vruno took a calmer approach to his rematch against Fisher at 119.
“Last week I was a little too nervous and was thinking too much about being a defending state champion,” Vruno admitted. “Losing took the pressure off me and this week it was on him to beat me again. Even though the state finals are the biggest stage, I’m just going to go with a hard week of practice and conditioning in order to go out and have some fun defending my title.”
Vruno will be his school’s lone qualifier as is the case for Westchester St. Joseph runner-up Bryant Roby (130) plus third-place qualifiers John Scraidt (285) of Riverside-Brookfield, Bernard Ferrell (160) of Olympia Fields Rich Central, and Jared Kowalewski (140) from Morris.
“Knowing how tough it would be to get through (the Yorkville) regional and here, I couldn’t be prouder of my guys,” Morris coach Jon Lanning said. “Despite our (No. 19) team ranking, we’ve just got a group of hard workers who put together a solid 10-7 dual record in a very tough conference and have now set the cornerstone for future success.”
The only other Lincoln-Way West Sectional title not accounted for belonged to Lemont 160-pounder Derek Nagel, who will be joined by teammates Glen Malecki (125) and Giatras, both third-place finishers.
Moving on after taking third in their weight classes will be the Park Forest trio of Cameron Bonds (130), O’Neal Bruce (145), and Robert Wesley (215). In addition to 145-pound runner-up Rodney Johnson, Tinley Park’s Ryan Abney (103) moves on after taking third.
Last edited by Larsen; 02-15-2011 at 12:08 PM.