Photos by Becky LaMont / Illinois Matmen

By MIKE GAROFOLA
Illinois Matmen

State Farm Center played host to the individual state finals – and once again the long-time home to IHSA wrestling produced plenty of thrills to the big audience on hand.

Where to start is difficult with so many wonderful and memorable matches to list in all three classes:

Is it the third title collected by both Marian Central Catholic Dylan Connell and Dean Hamiti of Joilet Catholic Academy – the three championship bracket boards lifted by the Bailey brothers from Thornton Fractional North – or the handful of men who became two-time state champs?

With all due respect to all of the individual champions across three state classes – perhaps the best place to begin would be in the final that would have the Nos. 1 and 2 rated wrestlers across from each other.

No. 1 Brandon Hoselton of Prairie Central against No. 2 Daniel Jezik of Coal City were very familiar with each other thanks in part to a late meeting in which Hoselton (56-1) fell behind early, gets back even (2-2) to force overtime.

Once there, Jezik (50-1) chose down – was ridden out – before Hoselton, (ninth nationally before this weekend) used an escape to insure a 3-2 victory.

“We knew each other real well after the first time we met when he rode me out to get the win (but) our game plan didn’t change for our final – because I just had to go out and wrestle my match,” said Jezik, whose third period take-down near the edge was enough to sustain an escape to hold off Hoselton (3-2) who was looking to earn his third state title of his career at 195 pounds.

One week before the state tournament-then No. 1 David Ferrante (Huntley, 46-2) would fall to No. 2 Luke Rasmussen (44-1) in his sectional final, 5-2, sending the 2019 state champion to the other side of the 170-bracket here, and almost guarantee a rematch in the state final.

Both men would get there easily with first class efforts over the two days prior to the final session – once there – Rasmussen opened with a near perfect double to open the scoring.

“(That) take-down was exactly what I needed to inspire (me) and after that, I would dig deep, amp up the pace, and find another gear to turn things around in my favor,” said Ferrante.

An escape drew the Northwestern-bound Ferrante within one, who after choosing down to begin the second period – brought the State Farm Center out of its seats with an underhook – lift – and big throw to stun Rasmussen.

Ferrante would replicate the same move moments into the third period before finishing off the Barrington star (8-2) before letting out a howl that would reverberate all throughout.

“I let out a lot of emotion stored away on that final whistle,” admitted Ferrante.

The brackets set up nicely at 113-pounds where the top two men found themselves on opposite sides of each other after Sergio Lemley (Mt. Carmel, 35-3) upended Diego Sotelo (Marmion Academy, 42-4) in the sectional final at Hinsdale Central.

Lemley got off to a lively start in the second period – using a reversal, then near fall to grab a 5-0 advantage in what would eventually be a 6-4 victory over the reigning state champion.

Sergio Lemley
Sergio Lemley

“My win over Diego the week before gave me a lot of confidence, but it was still important for me NOT to lose focus because of it,” said the Caravan freshmen.

Another freshmen, Saul Trejo, Jr (28-3) from IC-Catholic Prep, held the No. 1 spot in the polls, and showed why he was deserving after his 5-0 decision in the 106-pound 1A final.

Saul Trejo Jr
Saul Trejo Jr

“That was a (rare) and dominate run here at state that you normally seen from a senior (not) a freshmen,” said head coach, Kevin Sliva.

“The only defensive points scored against him were an escape in the first match, another in his second match, and a point for technical violation (locked hands) in his semifinal with Jarek Wehrle in his semifinal.”

The Trejo title is the third in program history, joining former IC star, and two-time champion, Joey Bianchini in the record books.

Freshmen continued to rule in the 1A finals with Phoenix Blakely (Dakota, 37-7) winning it all at 120 after taking down three-time state medal winner, Paul Keane (Peotone, 44-2) in his final, 3-1.

Prairie Central junior, Logan Deacetis stayed perfect at 57-0 at 170, and is now a two-time champion, while Litchfield junior, Will Carlile dashed the hopes of No. 1 Ethen Doty (West Carroll) who had hopes to claim his second straight.

Deceatis now has 110 straight victories after his 3-2 win in his final

Carlile (41-0) sent off No. 2 Gabe Spencer (Heyworth) in his semifinal to advance against Doty – defeating the junior to push his career record to a dazzling 119-19.

Just after the aforementioned Ferrante-Rasmussen classic, Montini Catholic senior, Trevor Swier (182, 40-6) won his first title, and the fourth of five the Broncos would earn on the evening.

Josh LaBarbera (38-8), who moved up from 195 to 220 before the state series began, collected the first of his career, as did senior, Joe Roberts (39-5) at 152.

Joe Fernau (34-9) never scored more than four points from the quarterfinals (on) – but the Montini Catholic sophomore also was as stingy as they came when defeating a trio of higher ranked opponents on his way to the 106-pound crown.

After his hard fought victory over long-time rival Jake Rundell (42-2) in his semifinal, Dylan Ragusin (42-2) put together a masterclass effort to win the 126-pound final via a tech-fall over Mike Kaminski (44-5) of Lockport.

Yorkville senior, Nick Stemmet (46-0) on his way to Stanford next fall, was near unstoppable as he won at 195, giving his program its first ever state title.

Joel Vandervere (33-1) would give Warren Township its first state champion since 1966 (Craig Murphy) after his capped a magnificent three days at 138 by defeating Fabian Lopez of DeKalb.

“I fell just short a year ago in overtime (it) was something I was not going to let happen again,” said Vandervere, who missed most of the 2019 campaign while recovering from ACL surgery during the offseason.

Josh Ogunsanya (Oak Park-River Forest), 42-4 would finally climb atop the podium on his fourth and final visit to Champaign at 145 pounds, as did Edwardsville senior, Luke Odom (160, 50-1) who erased the memory of his first round injury a year ago that knocked the Illinois-bound Odom out of the 2019 tournament for good.

Peoria Notre Dame senior Tristan Daugherty didn’t flinch when his three previous third-place finishes were mentioned: “some never get into the final once in their career” was what the new 126-pound 1A state champion would say.

Daugherty, on his way to wrestle next fall at the University of Buffalo, could have easily been named Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament following his three tech-falls (one in the final) and quarterfinal pin to dominate the field during his three-day performance.

“Tristan is as good a person as he is wrestler,” said PND head coach, Kevin Burk.

Daughtery (48-0) would set a state record for win in the state finals with (17) – and a program record 176 career victories.

The dynamic duo of Dallas Krueger (138, 47-0) and Nathan Thorne (145, 50-0) would reign supreme on Saturday evening – giving Rockridge its Nos. 8 and 9 state titles in program history.

For 2A power Lemont, Drew Nash (126, 18-0), Apollo Gothard (220, 45-0) and heavyweight, Mo Jarad (43-8) added three championship medals to the Indians trophy case to double what the program had collected in advance of the tournament.

The Cramer family will have to find space for a second state bracket board in its home after junior Adrien Cramer (170) threw everything he had at Alex Knauf (Aurora Christian, 37-11) which ended with a pin at 2:32.

“I talked to my brother (Alex) on Friday night to get a few words of encouragement, but to be honest, I went out there and did it for myself in my final,” said Adrien Cramer (39-1) who will join his brother at Old Dominion in the fall of 2021.

While Knauf feel short in his bid to win, teammates Chris Moore (113, 43-8) and Noah Villarreal (138, 41-4) each stood out in their respective weight divisions.

Moore would defeat No. 1 Chad Bellis (Bloomington) in his quarterfinal, while Villarreal collected his third consecutive state crown.

“What Noah did tonight is amazing in the fact that he (was) as sick as a dog all throughout the day – went to Urgent Care to be treated, yet found a way to come out here tonight to put together a wonderful effort to win for the third time,” said a proud AC head coach, Justin Pearch.

Washington wonder freshmen, Kannon Webster (46-0) was rarely touched en route to the 106-pound title, while 195-pound senior, Robbie Bates (38-1) of Morris stunned No. 1 Cody Goodman (Deerfield, 53-2) to win his first state title, and seventh overall in program history.

Circling back to Hamiti (152, 45-0) and Connell (44-0) at 170, teammates for Team Illinois – each would deliver blistering attacks all throughout to lift championship brackets.

“DJ is an unbelievable talent in our sport, whose speed, combined with his technique and relentless pressure makes him a very special young man,” said his head coach, Ryan Cumbee.

David Silva, the man in charge at Marian Central Catholic had this to say following the 7-0 decision by Connell over Joey Jens (40-7) long time friend of Adrien Cramer.

“Dylan is a tremendous young man – both on and off the mats, and from here on out, our goal is to prepare him as best as we can in order for him to compete at the next level,” said Silva of the Illinois-recruit.

Last, but certainly not least was the crowning achievement of: Nasir (41-2), Sincere (37-6) and Bilal (41-2) Bailey at: 20, 45 and 60 who made history as the first brother act to win three state titles in the same season.

The trio would best the Danny and Zac Braunagel (Belleville Althoff Catholic) duo who (twice) won, most recently, in the same year (2017, 2018).

The freshmen Nasir entered the tournament No. 1 in his weight class, same as Bilal, who now is a two-time state champion.

No. 2 Sincere would avenge three previous defeats to No. 1 Kyle Schickel (Lemont) who is now a four-time runner-up.

The three state champions give TFN (14) state medals overall, and (7) titles, the last coming (before Bilal’s last year) in 1968 when Rich Casiano earned his second straight.