By JARED BELL
Illinois Matmen

Nicholas Renteria expected to win.

Competing in Saturday’s Plano Invitational, the 120-pound sophomore at IC Catholic wrestled up at 126 pounds and in doing so entered a loaded weight class that featured two former state finalists.

“Going in to the tournament, I just wanted to push the pace the whole match,” Renteria said. “There were a lot of really good kids, but I expected to win every match.”

He did just that.

A transfer from St. Laurence, Renteria defeated No. 6-ranked Cole Horsch of GCMSF in the semifinals and then topped No. 2-ranked and three-time state finalist Pauly Keane of Peotone in the title match to win the tournament and be named the Most Outstanding Wrestler.

It made everyone take notice and, for what Renteria accomplished last week, he’s been named the first Illinois Matmen Wrestler of the Week for the 2019-2020 season.

“He’s one of those rare kids who as a sophomore has that focused mindset,” IC Catholic coach Kevin Sliva said. “There’s not much fear that’s running through his veins. Everyone gets scared and nervous but, if he does, he doesn’t show it. He has a lot to wrestle for – which is awesome – and he’s just letting it fly.”

That showed Saturday.

After he advanced to the semifinals, Renteria topped Horsch – a former state runner-up – by a 10-6 decision to set up the showdown with Keane, a three-time state finalist and a one-time state champion.

In a hotly-contested match, Renteria was able to gain the upper hand and pull out the victory.

“He just never quits and is unfazed by whomever he is wrestling,” Sliva said. “He knows with all the success and the hoopla that this is just one page in the season.

“But the cat’s out of the bag.”

Renteria comes from a strong wrestling family as his cousin Jason Renteria is a former two-time state champion at Oak Park-River Forest and a former wrestler at Nebraska and Iowa.

“I’ve worked out with him in the summer, and we’re always pushing each other to get better,” Nicholas Renteria said. “He’s put in a lot of time to help me get better.”

Wrestling has always been a love affair for Renteria, who first started wrestling at age 7 when his uncle Jason Renteria Sr. pushed him to try the sport.

“My uncle – who recently passed away last month because of cancer – started me and pushed me and got me into it,” Nicholas Renteria said. “I tried it and fell in love with it immediately. I always try to be the best that I can be for him.”

Currently 5-0 heading into this weekend’s Dvorak Tournament, Renteria is aiming to advance to his first state tournament and earn his first state medal this season.

“It feels good to win (the Plano Tournament), but it’s a short-term goal and I have bigger goals still left,” Renteria said. “I need to keep outworking opponents and knocking off guys and end up on the podium – the top of podium.”

Renteria ended at the top of this week’s poll as he received more than 700 votes and 26 percent of the vote.

“After winning the tournament, I was pretty pumped and coach gave me a call to tell me that they put me up for the Illinois Matmen nomination,” Renteria said. “My mom reached out to like everyone she knew and the entire Elmhurst community got behind me.”

Renteria said he shared the contest with his friends and teammates as well as on SnapChat and monitored the results throughout the voting.

“I was pretty stoked when I won,” he admitted.

It’s hopefully just part of a season full of success.

“When he first came here and I first watched him, he was better than I expected,” Sliva said. “His style of wresting is reminiscence of University of Iowa Hawkeyes old school beat the heck out of your opponent. He really is capable of accomplishing great things this season.”