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  • Hinsdale Central meatgrinder recap

    By Gary Larsen
    Illinois Matmen

    This year’s Class 3A individual sectional at Hinsdale Central was a classic wrestling meat-grinder, with 29 wrestlers present ranked among the state’s top 6, including 5 No. 1-ranked wrestlers.

    Those that survived to advance to this year’s state finals in Champaign had to earn it.

    Start with Metea Valley’s Kenan Carter (37-8). Faced with either the doom or the elation of the consolation round semifinals, Carter came through in a 5-1 decision over Stagg’s Tyler Mackessy, a 39-match winner this year.

    When hard work pays off in wrestling, there’s no feeling quite like it.

    “Once you come out and qualify – even if you lose on the third-place mat – you can’t complain because you’re going to state,” Carter said. “There’s no feeling like it.”

    Hinsdale Central

    For Hinsdale Central’s Matt Allen, the first order of business toward state qualification was to keep a potential finals match against Hinsdale South’s Josh King out of his mind. After all, he had a regional champion in front of him in Marmion’s Lucas Warren.

    Warren has only been wrestling for a week since returning from injury but the sophomore fought tooth-and-nail throughout Allen’s 3-2 victory.

    “I thought Warren would be out of shape but he was in pretty good shape for only being back a week,” Allen said. “I wanted to either go with my double leg and attack him or go upper body because I remember he had (an upper body injury).”

    Allen (37-4) won his semifinal match before taking his first sectional title with a 5-1 win over Batavia’s Connor McKeehan. “I just saw (McKeehan’s) semi’s match and I knew he liked to roll. I never really saw him on neutral so I didn’t know what he did,” Allen said. “When I got the first takedown it was a relief.”

    For teammate Juwan Edmund, Saturday’s sectional title match was yet another reunion with Carl Sandburg’s John Pellegrino. “I’ve wrestled him about eight times now, so me and him are quite acquainted,” Edmund said. “I just have to stay in my stance against him and keep my fakes going.”

    Edmund won his first sectional crown with a pin of Pellegrino in the third period. Last year’s state runner-up at 138 improved to 44-1 at 145 this season.

    “I started feeling good this year at our tournament (the Whitlatch in December),” Edmund said. “I had to go through a couple grinding matches to get my lungs back to where they need to be. I had a better record this year than I did last year, and I’ll go into practice this week with a good mindset and hope for the best.”

    As one of the five wrestlers ranked No. 1 in Hinsdale, Red Devils senior Brian Allen (42-1) used a fall and a major decision to reach the title mat at 285, where he won 7-3 over DG South’s Michael Hobbs (35-4), currently ranked third at heavyweight by Illinois Matmen.

    Defending state champion Allen won his second consecutive sectional crown and will be chasing his fourth downstate place medal in Champaign.

    Central juniors Matt Price (113) and James Manikas (132) also competed at this year’s sectional. Price finished his season with a 33-15 record while Manikas finished 18-13.

    Downers Grove North

    The Trojans advanced two wrestlers through Hinsdale Central’s meat-grinder in sophomore Pat Walker (106) and senior Nick Bonomo (170).

    Ranked No. 2 at Illinois Matmen, Walker opened with a decision win before topping No. 7 Isaac Jacquez of West Aurora in an 8-0 major decision on the semifinal mat.

    No. 2 Austin O’Connor of St. Rita pinned Walker (38-3) early in their title match but the sophomore is primed to do some damage in Champaign.

    “I’m really proud of his effort and the way he’s wrestling,” McGrath said. “He’s such a dangerous wrestler and he’s gotten back into the sport more and more and more. He’s back into the swing of things after a rough year last year as a light 106-pounder, but he’s one of the elite wrestlers in the state right now.

    “He wrestled great against Jacquez and was on the attack and I think he was prepared to do that again against O’Connor. He just caught in a really tough crusher and he fought it as good as he could. Sometimes that happens, but Pat is such a dangerous wrestler and sometimes you have to live by the sword and die by the sword. That happens to everybody.”

    Bonomo (41-4) also opened the sectional with a decision win over Sandburg’s Patrick Brucki before losing a 10-4 semifinal decision to eventual champion Nick Ferraro of Marmion. Bonomo went into the sectional ranked No. 6, with Ferraro ranked No. 6, and the two have a long history together.

    "I wrestled Bonomo all the time when I was a little kid," Ferraro said. "He's been a great opponent and he beat me the last time we wrestled at frosh-soph state, so I've wanted to have another shot at him ever since.”

    Bonomo bounced back to secure a trip downstate via a 6-2 consolation semifinal decision against Marist’s Jakada Hull. The Trojans’ senior then built a lead on Brucki on the third-place mat before Brucki earned a takedown and back points for the win.

    “(Ferraro) is good and he wrestled smart, but I think we can beat him, and we just needed to finish the match against Brucki,” McGrath said. “I thought those three kids were pretty evenly-matched and if you wrestle that sectional ten times and it could go ten different ways. It’s about who gets a break and who finishes.

    “But Nick will be a very dangerous fourth-place sectional finisher downstate. He’s going to wrestle a No. seed and no No. 1 seed wants to wrestle him.”

    Also competing for the Trojans in Hinsdale were seniors Diego Rodriguez (19-12 at 132), Milad Abd (33-12 at 152) and Mike Gastaldello (38-12 at 160).

    Gastaldello finished one win away from advancing downstate, going 2-2 on the day and losing his consolation semifinal to Marmion’s Sammy Breen.

    “Diego and Milad had an uphill battle,” McGrath said. “Milad didn’t wrestle at all last year and Diego missed the start of the year because of injuries, so I’m very proud of their efforts this year. We talk a lot in wrestling about how it’s not what you do, it’s what you overcome that counts, and how wrestling is supposed to teach you never to quit. And those kids never quit.

    “For (Gastaldello), I really thought he was the fourth best kid in his bracket, but that’s just not how the brackets fell.”

    Junior heavyweight EJ Phillips entered the sectional with only 5 matches under his belt, having missed nearly the entire season with a football injury. Phillips lost his first sectional match but won twice in the wrestleback round before losing his consolation semifinal to Stagg’s Mantas Drukteinis.

    “I would have liked for EJ to have a shot at (Drukteinis) with 30 matches under his belt,” McGrath said. “EJ is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. He’s a warrior and he kept coming. If he stays healthy he is going to be a force next year.”

    Lyons Township

    The good news for LT is that a young team is still alive to compete in a Class 3A team sectional this year, and that six of the Lions’ eight sectional qualifiers will be back next year, including a blue-chip crop of quality freshman.

    Unfortunately, only freshman Johnny Mologousis was able to advance through Hinsdale’s individual sectional and on to Champaign.

    Mologousis (37-11) came out on fire, posting a tech fall win over Marmion’s Matt Ferraro and then posting a 9-0 win over St. Rita’s Jack Threloff to reach the semifinals. He lost to an eventual runner-up in fourth-ranked John Pellegrino of Sandburg in his semifinal match, but beat Ferraro again by major decision in the consolation semifinals.

    Mologousis then wrestled Hinsdale South’s No. 6 Justin Maslow for the fourth time this season, losing by decision on the third-place mat.

    Mologousis will open up in Champaign with a preliminary match against Belleville West’s Nick Foster (40-8), and a win there would put the freshman in a state quarterfinal match against the winner between Glenbard East’s Josh Martin (32-4) and Lake Zurich’s Brandon Arteaga (34-5).

    A trio of Lions regional champions finished one win away from advancing downstate, in freshman Zach Villarreal (33-14 at 113), sophomore Ezra Avery (182), and senior AJ Villarreal (35-7 at 152).

    Zach Villarreal ran into a returning state champion in second-ranked Rudy Yates of Brother Rice in his consolation semifinal, while Avery was stopped in his semifinal by Mt. Carmel’s sixth-ranked Jimmy Mickens.

    No. 6 AJ Villarreal bounced back with a pair of wrestleback wins after losing his first match before losing in overtime to No. 4 Trace Carello of Marmion in their consolation semifinal. Villarreal departs the LT program with a sixth-place medal at 152 from last year’s state finals.

    Metea Valley

    For Carter, the jump from 126 last year to 152 this season has borne the fruit of a trip to Champaign. The junior won an individual tournament at Conant to start the season and has flirted with tournament titles throughout the season.

    His 8-0 win to open the sectional, over a regional champion and a returning state medal winner in LT’s Villarreal, was a great starting point for Carter.

    “Conant was a high point for me this year and then things sort of evened out with all the second-place (tournament) finishes,” Carter said. “But beating Villarreal, my confidence just skyrocketed. I had to stay on my offense and I knew he liked the outside single to my right leg, so taking that away from him and attacking him instead was huge in that match.

    “That’s something I’ve had to grow into this year. Last year I was really defensive and I didn’t make it to state. I’ll practice hard this week, a lot of rotations going live a lot, and drawing on the things we see from here that I did wrong so I can prepare.”

    Also competing fpr Metea in Hinsdale were Joey Riordan (28-15 at 106), Axl Ariza (28-14 at 113), Jake Toepfer (27-19 at 120), and Sam Elston (30-16 at 160). The Mustangs will return all five of its sectional qualifiers to next year’s team.