Photos by Becky LaMont / Illinois Matmen

By MIKE GAROFOLA
Illinois Matmen

As expected, Montini Catholic would dominate the brackets on semifinal Friday inside State Farm Center here on the campus of the University of Illinois – but what a big night for 2A power Lemont.

The No. 2 Indians went five-for-five and will now have the chance of collecting a record number of championship trophies Saturday night here in Champaign.

“We’ve got just a great room (with) a great coaching staff, to help continue the great tradition at Lemont High School,” said a proud Kyle Schickel (38-3) – now in his fourth consecutive championship bout – this one against Sincere Bailey (Thornton Fractional North, 36-6) at 145 pounds.

Bailey, along with brothers: Nasir (120, 40-2) and Bilal (160, 40-2) will look to make history tonight.

Schickel quickly put to rest the notion there’s extra pressure on him to break the chain of his three straight second place medals he’s collected thus far.

“There are not many guys who get into one final, let alone (three) – so the plan is just to go out there and wrestle for myself, and with the way I know I can – and just see what happens.

Teammates Drew Nash (126, 17-0), Grant LaDuke (152, 38-1), Apollo Gothard (220, 44-0) and heavyweight, Mo Jarad (42-8) will join Schickel in the 5:30 Grand March – putting a little extra pressure on the Lemont coaching staff to find enough dress shirts and ties to participate in the opening ceremonies.

“I’m very lucky to be in the Lemont room (and) especially to have a great work-out partner like (Schickel) – we got at it pretty heavy at times, but it’s all about helping each other to be his best,” admits LaDuke, who enters his final with two previous state medals.

Two-time 2A champion, DJ Hamiti (Joilet Catholic Academy, 44-0) will be the opponent of LaDuke.

Aforementioned Montini Catholic will have a tourney high (9) in the finals, none more of a surprise than sophomore Joe Fernau (34-9) who in consecutive bouts on Friday sent No. 2 Charlie Farmer (Moline) out of the front draw, then in thrilling style, the same to No. 1 Will Baysingar (45-1) of Prospect.

“You always have to believe in yourself, but I knew coming in today that I’d have to beat the two best in order to get into the finals (and) fortunately, my training, and our room was the difference in both wins,” said Fernau, who decisioned Farmer (3-1) and later Baysingar (4-3) with a match-winning deuce with 11 second remaining.

“Joe had a tough year last year because he was behind our state runner-up at 106 (Nick Gonzalez) which forced us to put him into our lineup at thirteen,” began MC head coach, Izzy Martinez.

“He took his lumps (some) bad losses along the way, and it continued for awhile this year – but he never gave up, stayed with the program, and with his training, and today you saw the reward(s) for his efforts.”

“I had him to dinner this week: Monday talking about his first opponent here at state, Tuesday his second, and Wednesday night his third – and now he’s in the final.”

Teammate Dylan Ragusin would prevail, 3-2, to avenge his sectional final loss to Jake Rundell (OPRF) to reach the 126-pound final after this much anticipated semifinal.

An escape from Ragusin (40-3) with 13 seconds remaining was the difference for the Broncos senior, who will face Mike Kaminksi (44-4) who would defeat Jake Penzato (St. Charles East ) 5-3 in overtime.

It will be a rematch of the 113-pound sectional final between Diego Sotelo (Marmion Academy, 42-3) and Mt. Carmel freshmen, Sergio Lemley (34-3) – with that first meeting going to Lemley.

Another undefeated man from Prospect, Jack Milos (138, 45-1) was taken down by Noah Mis (Mt. Carmel, 34-4) who rode the Knights junior hard when he needed to in order to insure his 7-3 victory.

“Noah is (so) long, and it’s a great advantage that uses really well, so when he got the lead on Milos, we knew it would be difficult for him to get much going with Noah on top,” said Caravan head coach, Alex Tsirtsis.

Nearly unstoppable at 152, No. 1 E’lan Heard (Libertyville, 28-2) saw his chance to reach his first state final from coming over from Ohio when Montini Catholic senior, Joe Roberts (38-5) dashed his hopes with a terrific six-minute performance during his 7-5 victory.

“E’lan is so dangerous, so I picked my spots, and knew my conditioning would pay off because I was prepared to go six hard minutes against an opponent who has won so many matches with quick pins and tech-falls,” said Roberts, who will meet James Pierandozzi (Plainfield South, 32-3) in the finals.

For those who missed seeing-then No. 2 Luke Rasmussen (Barrington, 44-0) defeat No. 1 David Ferrante (Huntley, 45-2) last week in their sectional final – the two giants will go at it against at 160 pounds.

Both cruised into the final – adding an extra exclamation point to their work thus far with dominating efforts in the semifinals.

“Not coming away with a medal last year following two disappointing losses last year (stayed) with me over the summer, and leading into the season – but I put all of that behind the second the year started, and haven’t looked back (just) forward,” said Rasmussen.

There won’t be a second state title in trophy case of Christian Olsen (113, 29-4) after the No. 1 man from Crystal Lake South fell to Markel Baker (33-2) of Freeport, 4-3 in a 2A semifinal.

“One of my goals was to get to the state final, and bring home a second straight championship after Major (Dedmond) so last season,” said the Freeport sophomore, who faces Chris Moore (Aurora Christian, 42-8) himself a giant killer after his quarterfinal defeat of top rated Chad Bellis 50-4) of Bloomington.

Marian Central Catholic junior, Elon Rodriguez (42-2) continued his stingy post-season ways after his 3-1 victory over Carter Hall (34-2) to join teammate Dylan Connell (170, 43-0) in the Grand March.

Rodriguez had conceded just 13 points since the conference tournament, while recording a pair of falls in route to his regional championship.

This weekend, Rodriguez, fifth a year ago here, allowed just two points in his two tournament victories.

Nationally ranked, and No. 1 Hayden Copass (Westville, 25-0) advanced into his 1A final at 285 pounds following a hard fought 1-0 victory over a stubborn Anthony Enlow (23-1) from Vandalia.

“We worked all week (top positions) and it paid off in my semifinal, but I really needed to get more shots in against Enlow to make things a little easier for me,” admitted Copass, who refuses to get caught up in his top spot in the state polls, and No. 3 in recent InterMatWrestling polls.

“I am not fazed at all about where they have me in the rankings, I just go out and wrestle, have some fun, and do the best that I can,” added Copass, who plans on playing football at Wisconsin in two years.

Joe Braunagel (Belleville Althoff, 35-4) was in a little bit of trouble in his 182-pound semifinal with Micah Downs (35-4) – chasing a 7-2 match to the Unity senior star heading into the second period.

Never fear Althoff fans, your top man uncoiled a throw, and pin at 4:25 to stun the upset hopes of Downs to reach the state finals against Johnsburg senior, Justin Peake (26-2) – who’s looking for his third state medal in as many years.

“My¬†conditioning¬†is carries me through every time I go out, and I challenge anyone in the state to be in better shape than (me) – so I knew if I kept my composure, and looked for my chance – my match with Downs would be over fast,” said a confident Braunagel, sixth here a year ago at 170 pounds.

And finally, we would be remiss not to make mention of the 195-pound final – a match in which two wrestling high speed trains will collide.

It will be No. 1 Brandon Hoselton (Prairie Central, 56-0) against No. 2 Daniel Jezik (49-1) of Coal City in what promises to keep all eyes focused on the 1A mat here tonight.

Hoselton is currently No. 9 in the nation, Jezik sitting at No. 14, with his lone defeat coming to the two-time state champion Hoselton in a 3-2 tie-breaker.

Immediately following the always entertaining Grand March, tournament officials will kick off the championship matches beginning this year at 106.