Photo by Gary Middendorf, Chicago Tribune
By ROB SHERRILL
It’s difficult to argue that Class 3A was the most star-studded classification it’s been in some time.
In the first eight finals matches, both finalists were nationally ranked by WIN magazine, at least one finalist was ranked in 12 of the 14 matches, and overall, 20 of the 28 finalists were ranked. Add in the eight ranked 2A finalists, and the championship matches contained a total of 28 ranked wrestlers.
Three wrestlers won their third state title, all in the state’s largest classification: Rudy Yates (132) of Carl Sandburg, Austin O’Connor (145) of St. Rita and Isaiah White (160), one of three champions for Oak Park-River Forest.
Yates made a first-period takedown stand up in a 3-2 victory over Dylan Duncan of Montini, just the third state final match in history matching multi-time state champions. It was his 87th consecutive victory. O’Connor did the same in a 3-2 victory over another defending champion, Shayne Oster of Lockport. Just a junior, O’Connor could become the state’s 16th four-time champion a year from now.
White used five takedowns to record an 11-3 major decision over Johnny Mologousis of Lyons Township. Jason Renteria (120) and Allen Stallings (220) also won titles for the Huskies, who placed nine, eight in the top three.
Carl Sandburg placed seven, Marmion Academy six, Montini five and Lockport and Lyons Township three each.
Brady Wilsie (126) of Byron became the 15th wrestler in state history to pin his way to a state title. With his final-match pin in 4:34 over Cooper Secker of Freeburg, Wilsie recorded four pins in a total time of 9:47. The last wrestler to pin his way to a state title also came from Byron – Nelson Baker, in 2014. Wilsie and junior Nolan Baker (132), Nelson’s brother, both completed 44-0 seasons.
Washington and Chicago Mount Carmel each placed 10 in Class 2A to lead all teams. Jake Tucker (152) was the Caravan’s lone champion. Washington, meanwhile, had three champions, matching Oak Park-River Forest, Marian Catholic and Dakota for the most tournament titlists.
Jacob Warner (182) won his second title for Washington, and Dack Punke (113) and Tyler Delaware (120) also won. Travis Ford-Melton (106), Jose Champagne (160) and Kordell Norfleet (170) all completed undefeated seasons for Marian Catholic, which placed six. Antioch placed four and Lincoln-Way West and Crystal Lake Central three each.
All four Punke brothers earned state medals for Washington. In addition to junior Dack’s title, senior Ryder (160) placed second, sophomore Blaize (138) fourth and freshman Jace (195) sixth.
Dakota’s champions all won their second titles: Alec Henze (113), Greg Krulas (145) and Nathan Olsen (160). The Indians led all 1A teams with six placewinners, followed by Belleville Althoff, which placed five, and Coal City, which placed four. Byron, Lena-Winslow and Vandalia each placed three.
The three Braunagel brothers also took home medals, but senior Jarrid (138) and sophomore Danny (145) both had to settle for second place. Sophomore Zac (170) finished fifth.
Carl Sandburg and Marmion Academy had two champions in 3A. Yates was preceded by Louie Hayes (pictured above), who avenged his two season losses by scoring a stunner at 113, finishing a takedown with 13 seconds remaining to beat defending champion Real Woods of Montini, 2-1.
Austin Gomez (126) of Glenbard North also made a furious rally to win his second title. Tony Madrigal of Oak Park-River Forest rolled Gomez through for four first-period points, and when Gomez cut him loose to start the second period, Madrigal led 5-0. Gomez cut the deficit to 6-4 with two second-period takedowns, including one with three seconds left in the period, then added two more in the third period, including the winner with 25 seconds remaining, to pull out an 8-7 victory.
Nathan Traxler repeated as 182-pound champion for Marmion Academy, and A.J. Jaffe avenged a regular-season loss with a 4-2 victory over Jaime Hernandez of Oak Park-River Forest to win at 138.
Despite the losses by Woods and Duncan, Montini got a title from Joey Melendez (106), giving the Broncos an individual state champion for the 17th consecutive year, extending their state record.
Matt Rowland (170) of Willowbrook nearly set another all-time record with his stunning 22-second pin of Sage Heller of Deerfield. It was just two seconds behind Scott Dierking’s 20-second pin over Jerry Washington of Thornwood in the 185-pound championship match in 1973.
Matt Allen of Hinsdale Central used a third-period takedown to beat Bryan Ditchman of Lincoln-Way Central 3-2, making him the third Allen brother to win a state heavyweight title. Jack (2011) and Brian (2013) were the family’s prior winners.
Two 195-pounders, Christian Brunner of Dundee-Cr own in 3A and Eric Schultz of Tinley Park in 2A, completed undefeated seasons. Both dominated, Brunner pinning Dylan Ervin of Metea Valley and Schultz winning by technical fall over John McKinney of Troy Triad. Wesley Kibler of St. Joseph-Ogden had a chance to join them as an unbeaten champion in 1A, but Riley Kauzlaric of Coal City rallied from a 6-4 deficit to win 9-6.
Hunter Grau (145) of Geneseo and Joshua King (285) of Hinsdale South also repeated in 2A. Sophomore We Rachal (132) not only became Chicago Washington’s first state placewinner, but its first state champion, completing a tournament in which he pinned the top two ranked wrestlers with a pin of Merik Fulton of Troy Triad.
Will Lucie (138) of Warsaw, Colten Cashmore (170) of Alden-Hebron and John Barnes (285) of St. Bede became the first state champions from their respective 1A schools. Tyler Fleetwood (106) of Fulton and Vinny Scaletta (220) of 2A Ridgewood became the first state champions from their respective schools since 1998.