Bloom Twp. wrestler Reed rebounds from tragedy
BY ANDRE' MORGAN
Northwest Indiana Times
When the final whistle blew on Bloom Twp. wrestler Reggie Reed's junior season, a lot more than just another match had ended. So much had happened during the year, but so much seemed incomplete.
The Sauk Village resident finished sixth at 215 pounds in the Class AA state tournament. The 2-1 overtime loss left a dejected expression on Reed's face as he climbed the steps out of the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall. Reed (41-3) became the program's first all-stater in almost two decades, but his biggest fan was not there to celebrate his success.
In August of 2007, his mother Karen died and left him with a huge void.
Reed had completed his second season of wrestling after picking up the sport as a freshman looking to stay in shape between football seasons. During that fateful summer Reed garnered USA Wrestling All-America honors with a fourth-place finish at the Greco-Roman national championships. In a 24-month period Reed went from having never wrestled to being recognized as one of the best in the country.
And Karen Reed had been the rock that young Reggie could count on.
She was always at his matches cheering him on and at home providing a stable environment.
Along with Reed's ascension, Bloom Twp. has climbed from the depths of Illinois wrestling to become a solid team again.
Last season the Blazing Trojans won the SICA and finished second to Marian Catholic while hosting the regional. In the 1970s and '80s Bloom High School was a wrestling powerhouse, including state championships in 1976 and 1982. Longtime coach Tom Tong was there to see it all, and he realizes that Reed is a special prodigy.
"He has such great hips to go along with that fantastic body," Tong said. "He is a leader that has generated a lot of interest from colleges. I think his mother would be really proud."
Reed has seen his name placed on the champions' wall inside the Bloom wrestling room with past greats. Although his is the first new name since Stanley Johnson (189) and Bryant Young (Heavyweight) in 1990, Reed feels there is still much work to do.
"I feel I could have worked harder last year," Reed said. "I am working a lot harder for my final season. I have got to lay it all on the table. I gotta raise the bar."
Reed has transferred that special role that his mother provided to his coaches Brian Fuqua, Gabe Damiani and Tong.
"With the right coaching, I feel I can do anything," Reed said. "What they have shown me will stay with me forever. This season is all about and dedicated to my mother, Coach Tong and my other coaches that have helped me."
Reed and Bloom will compete in the Al Dvorak Memorial Tournament at Machesney Park Harlem. It is the top mid-season tournament in the state. Reed will come across the best 215-pounders in the state and have a chance to gauge his state championship readiness.
The 2009 preseason Illinois Best Weekly rankings have Reed No. 1 at 215. With that selection comes the realization that he is no longer the hunter but has become the hunted for the state's other wrestlers.
"I believe in five principles -- hard work, leadership, knowledge, strength and courage," Reed said. "The Dvorak will give me another opportunity to pound my opponents and show what I plan to do at state this year."
Scouting local Illinois wrestling teams
Wrestlers to watch: Chris Gonzales, Sr., 135; Curtis Crims, Jr., 125; Reggie Reed, Sr., 215; Eddie Castillo, Sr., Hwt.; Jerald Wilbanks, Jr., 103; Justin Starks, Jr., 130.
Outlook: Led by 2007 USA Wrestling All-American Reed, Bloom may be the marquee public school program in the area. The defending SICA champs have improved their schedule by entering the Al Dvorak Memorial, Illinois' toughest midseason tournament. Coach Tom Tong feels the pendulum has finally swung back to kids in the community wanting to play sports again. Bloom boasts 110 kids combined on three levels, and Tong attributes that to the recent creation of the Crosstown Crushers kids program that practices at Bloom Trail.
Quote: "Talent-wise this is the best team we have had in a long, long time." -- Tong
Wrestlers to watch: Allen Tate, Sr., 119; DeAngelo Chambers, Sr., 189; Robert Fortson, Sr., 160; John McCormick, Sr., 145.
Outlook: Tate, a 2007 USA Wrestling All-American and two-time state qualifier, was injured part of last season, but he is a legitimate state title contender. Hit hard by graduation, the Warriors will compete in Class 2A but need to replace seven starters. First-year coach Milton Leathers said a lot of freshmen and sophomores will be the future of the program.
Quote: "I expect Tate to have a big season for us and himself." -- Leathers
Wrestlers to watch: Brandon Courtney, Sr., 119; Tim Stevens, Jr., 112; Derrick Caldwell, So., 145; Sylvester Neal, Sr., 160.
Outlook: H-F finished 10-10 but also lost 10 starters to graduation. Returning starters Courtney and Stevens will be counted on to lead by example. Rebuilding with inexperienced wrestlers will be the theme for the Vikings. Fifth-year coach Brett Geijer said last season's squad had eight wrestlers out of 10 who competed before high school, but this year's team only has four who have prior wrestling experience.
Quote: "Once I can get them some experience, then we can get back to the way we were in the past -- winning." -- Geijer
Wrestlers to watch: Albert Dekker, Jr., 125; Luke Lyzenga, Jr., 160; Joey Groen, Sr., 152/160.
Outlook: The Vikings will be competitive come tournament time. With more upperclassmen than they have had in the last eight years, Illiana hopes to build on last season's 17-9 record. Coach Dean Bosman said it is not impossible to regain the regional championship form that the Vikings showed when winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.
Quote: "The kids are real loose and kind of take everything in stride. They are never too high or too low." -- Bosman
Wrestlers to watch: Damonte Riley, Sr., 119; Matt O'Boyle, Jr., 125/130; Mark Marianovich, Sr., 135/140; Elias Larson, Sr., 140/145; Brendan Murphy, Sr., 130/135; Steve Murphy, Jr., 125.
Outlook: The regional champion Spartans (25-4) ended Marist's 27-year domination of the East Suburban Catholic Conference by capturing their first title last season. Marian features a deep and experienced team that will battle Lincoln-Way Central, Bloom Twp. and Providence for suburban supremacy and a trip to the Class 3A team state tournament. Coach Joe Gilbert said Riley, Larson, Marianovich and the Murphy brothers are state title contenders.
Quote: "Our goal is to be the best we can be by conference and regional time." -- Gilbert
Wrestlers to watch: Charles Argue, Jr., 171; Mike Maggi, Sr., 125/130; David Skryzpiec, Sr., 135; Mike Pulido, Sr., 140; Ryan Fitzpatrick, So., 112; Brian Strenk, Sr., 140/145.
Outlook: Mt. Carmel has 12 individual state champs in the last seven years. The Caravan (23-5) captured the Chicago Catholic League championship and had 11 state qualifiers last year, and six return. Powerful national tournaments in Ohio (Ironman) and Minnesota (The Clash) have been added to the schedule. Coach Jason Erwinski said he would need some guys to mature quickly to handle the upgraded schedule. Two-time state champ B.J. Futrell has graduated, but plenty of new blood has entered the Caravan wrestling room, led by IKWF state champs A.J. Foster and Chris Wright.
Quote: "There is no reason we can't compete for a state title. I just want their best effort. " -- Erwinski
ST. FRANCIS deSALES
Wrestlers to watch: Francisco Vitela, Sr., 119; Rosendo Vitela, Jr., 135; Cedric Rhone, Sr., 160; Martin Florea, Sr. 145; Eddie Gonzales, So., 125.
Outlook: Coach Robert Garay is in his second season and expects to field a complete lineup, but the program is in a rebuilding mode. How competitive is the question with a lot of youth in the lineup against much larger schools. The Vitela brothers are both regional champions who hope to repeat.
Quote: "We feel the season's success will be determined by what we do at regionals." -- Garay
Wrestlers to watch: Dominique Jones, Sr., 171/189; Kadeem Taylor, Jr., 112; Kenyon Johnson, Jr., 135/140; Quincy Sullivan So., 171.
Outlook: The Falcons will be in a transforming phase, especially after a 1-11 campaign in 2008. Second-year coach Mike Potacki hopes Sullivan's transfer from Indiana team state champion Mishawaka can add some spark to the lineup. Potacki points out the tremendous support his program has received from the administration in the form of new mats, singlets and warm-ups. Thornridge missed the IHSA's Class 2A cutoff by 100 students and will compete in Class 3A.
Quote: "My goal is to get the kids to reach their potential" -- Potacki
Wrestlers to watch: Hernandez Banks, Sr., 135/140; Mike Foster, Sr., 145/152; Dominique Davis, Sr., 145/152; Rashard Moorehead Sr., 112/119; David Prater, Sr., 160/171.
Outlook: Thornton will feature a senior-dominated lineup, and coach Terrance Randolph feels he can guide Hernandez and Wiggins deep into the sectional. The Wildcats finished as regional runners-up in 2008, but a year's experience should make them contenders for a regional title.
Quote: "The team is in the room every day, positive about the workouts and what we are trying to do." -- Randolph
Wrestlers to watch: Charles Lewis, Sr., 215; Jordan Black, Jr., 119; Michael Anderson, So., 125/130; Michael Willis, So., 125/130.
Outlook: Thornwood finished last year 10-13 and still has several strong individuals led by Lewis and Black. Sectional qualifier Lewis (35-7) had several close battles with Bloom Twp.'s Reggie Reed. Black, also a returning sectional qualifier, has the talent to advance to the state tournament.
Quote: "I am hoping we can get back to our glory years of the late '70s and '80s." -- coach Rod Galvan
Wrestlers to watch: Damian Rodriguez, Jr., 103; De Andre Potts, Sr., Hwt.; Johnny Harris, Jr., 145/152; Bamidele Elegbede, Jr., 152/160.
Outlook: Artie Rogers is back as coach and has a young team after the Meteors graduated nine seniors and seven sectional qualifiers. The Meteors must replace state qualifier Justin Michalowski (160) who was their second straight qualifier after a 30-year absence from the state tournament. North has only four wrestlers with experience while competing in the tough SICA.
Quote: "We have some good kids and hopefully they can reach their potential." -- Rogers
Wrestlers to watch: Carl Mosby, Sr., 152/160; Ellis Duddley, Sr., 189; Kevin Day, Jr., Hwt.
Outlook: Last season, state qualifier Kyle Hanson led T.F. South, but graduation has created an uncertain lineup for this year. Coach Mike Tisza said most of his team's struggles in the past come from not having a full lineup. That trend may continue this year as well with the Rebels featuring experienced upperclassmen in the upper and middleweights but underclassmen in the lower weights.
Quote: "We might start out slow but hope to improve and finish strong." -- Tisza
Wrestlers to watch: Keith Hayes, Sr., 119; DeSean Kyser, Jr., 189; Nathaniel Fenderson, Jr., Hwt.
Outlook: First-year coach Joe Villagran comes over from Lockport to rebuild the program. The Minutemen (CPS Blue South) will feature some strong individuals but will have some holes in the dual team lineup. Coach Villagran hopes transfer sophomore Jose Gonzales (Bishop Noll) can make an immediate impact.
Quote: "Last year we only had six wrestlers so I am hoping to build two levels for the future." -- Villagran
-- Compiled by Times Correspondent Andre' Morgan