By JARED BELL
Illinois Matmen

Kyle Schickel had an army of support.

After the Lemont 138-pound junior had a standout week last week, he was selected as a finalist for this week’s GO EARN IT Wrestler of the Week award, and his mother led his campaign.

“I’m surprised she didn’t buy a billboard,” Schickel joked.

A two-time returning Class 2A state runner-up, last week Schickel had two pin-fall victories, two technical fall wins and a last-second come-from-behind victory over Sandburg’s Pat Nolan, who’s ranked No. 2 in Class 3A 138 pounds in the current Illinois Matmen rankings.

His strong week and the win helped Schickel get nominated for this week’s award. Then his mother took over in full force as Schickel received 632 of the 1,266 votes – or one vote shy of exactly 50 percent of the vote.

It’s the highest percentage one nominee has ever had in any of the GO EARN IT Wrestler of the Week votes in the two-year history of the award.

“I want to be as humble as possible, so I didn’t really do much to spread the word or even tell my buddies about voting for me,” Schickel said. “But my mom texted everyone she knew. One of my family members lives in Virginia, so it felt like everyone in this town in Virginia voted for me. Someone in Virginia has a daughter who goes to Virginia Tech, so she ended up telling everyone, and his son ended up telling his whole school. I also have a huge family, too, so everyone shared the post. It was crazy.”

Crazy and well-deserved.

After Lemont started its season late on Dec. 1, Schickel made up for lost time.

In a stretch that saw him wrestle six times in three days last week, Schickel went unbeaten and culminated his week with a thrilling victory 10-8 victory over Nolan.

“When you’re a little 2A school like Lemont, you always want to challenge yourself against some of the big boys,” Lemont coach John St. Clair said. “Kyle has had some success against the big boys and a win like that will really give him a boost of confidence. Getting that signature win right off the bat should help him out big time.”

In the match, Schickel – now ranked No. 1 at 2A 138 pounds – trailed 8-6 with 15 seconds to go when Nolan took a shot. However, Schickel countered it to a match-tying takedown and then the match-winning three-second near fall.

The four-point move not only erupted the crowd but put Schickel on top in the highly-anticipated state-ranked showdown.

“Even though I was down, I still believed in myself,” Schickel said. “I just had that mindset, went out there and got the job done.”

Schickel hopes to keep up his success throughout the season and make a return trip to the IHSA State Tournament in February.

A two-time state qualifier, Schickel has twice advanced to the state title match and has twice come up short, including last year’s 4-2 sudden-victory loss to Brother Rice’s Hassan Johnson.

“Taking second two years in a row is not a fun thing,” Schickel said. “I already have my spot in the tunnel where I never want to be at again. I’ve had a great career so far, but I know there’s another step for me to take – and that’s to go out there and get the job done instead of coming up short. It’s not that fun and it’s really motivated me.”

It pushed him throughout the offseason as Schickel lifted more, ran cross country in the fall to improve his stamina and soaked up everything he could about wrestling.

“Kyle is an absolute student of the game,” St. Clair said. “He lives, eats and breathes wrestling. When he’s not on the mat, he’s watching it and studying it. He really loves the sport. His dad coached him when he was young and really instilled a great work ethic and love for it, and that’s really helped him in high school.”