Photos by Becky LaMont / Illinois Matmen
By JARED BELL
Total Solar Eclipses.
The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.
A new host on The Price is Right.
All are things that rarely happen but seem to be more common than Anthony Cassioppi wrestling a full match during the high school season.
Throughout the past two years, a victory by the 285-pound Hononegah senior has been as much of a sure thing as death, taxes and the changing of seasons.
However, Cassioppi going the full six minutes in a match has been as rare as four-leaf clovers.
In fact, the Indians’ star has only been out of the first period a handful of times this season.
“I just wanted to keep improving and I just want to keep getting better,” Cassioppi said of his dominance. “I’m not happy with myself until I can do one more rep or get one more takedown. Until I’m the best that I can be, I just want to do the best that I can.”
Cassioppi’s dominance was on display one final time at the IHSA State Tournament in Champaign.
At the star-studded event, Cassioppi shined the brightest as he had four-first period falls en route to winning his second straight Class 3A 285-pound state title.
For all he did at last weekend’s IHSA State Wrestling Tournament, Cassioppi is the final GO EARN IT Wrestler of the Week for the season.
2017-18 GO EARN IT WRESTLERS OF THE WEEK
2/11: Quiovany Santos & Mia Palumbo
2/4: Stone Engle, Mercer County
1/28: Zach Williard, Carbondale
1/21: Bilal Bailey, TF North
1/14: John Paul Smith, Wheeling
1/7: Michael Donatelli, Geneva
1/1: Noah Villarreal, Aurora Christian
12/24: Jack Jessen, Willowbrook
12/17: Joe Roberts, Yorkville
12/10: DJ Hamiti, Joliet Catholic
12/3: Connor Gaynor, Mt. Carmel
11/26: Trevor Chumbley, Marmion
“I just wanted to come in and wrestle,” Cassioppi said. “I figured out that I had never won a match at state that wasn’t by pin, so I wanted to keep that run going.”
He did just that as none of his matches at state went longer than 1 minute, 45 seconds, and he spent a combined time of 5:29 on the mat – or less than the length of one match – to win his second state title.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Cassioppi said. “It’s everyone’s goal to be a state champ, so I’m glad I was able to do it twice.”
And he crushed the competition along the way.
In addition to only having a handful of matches this season reach the second period, Cassioppi finished with a 44-0 record, never went the distance in any match this year, won every match by pin fall or technical fall, and set the Hononegah school record for single-season takedowns (269) after last year he set the school record for pins (38).
After Cassioppi rolled through his first three matches at state, he was actually “pushed” in the title match. Facing Homewood-Flossmoor senior Jeff Griffin in the title bout, Cassioppi was pleased when Griffin went after him early in the match instead of backing away.
At state, Griffin did last the longest of anyone who faced Cassioppi, but that was only 1:45.
“The nice thing (at state) is that some guys have come at me and wrestled with me,” Cassioppi said. “Honestly, it’s kind of hard to score on a guy who’s just backing up and not doing anything. I like it when a guy comes at me and wrestles with me.
“(Griffin) tried to get a quick go-around on the edge, and I was happy and was smiling after that. I had an opponent who was trying to compete with me. It was awesome.”
After he decommitted from Northwestern on July 4, Cassioppi will take his always-present smile to Iowa next year, but he will redshirt as a freshman before competing for a spot in two years.
“I’m going to redshirt next year, so I’m just looking forward to wrestling in all the open tournaments that I can,” Cassioppi said. “I also want to wrestle in the summer and keep improving.
“I think Iowa is a place where I can do big things. I have people to catch (who are already in college), but I think I can do it.”