Bolingbrook wins 2nd Eckert Classic at Morton

By Bobby Narang for the IWCOA

CICERO – Three days after Christmas, the Morton Fieldhouse and gymnasium were filled with wrestlers aiming to add some post-holiday hardware.

The 2023 Steve Eckert Holiday Wrestling Classic was a nonstop flurry of activity, with the fieldhouse doors open, which allowed plenty of space for wrestlers to roam before and after their matches. Some wrestlers walked to the far corner of the field house following their matches, while others took short jogs around the track.

In the end, Bolingbrook captured its second-straight title at the event, finishing with 211 points to narrowly beat out Riverside-Brookfield (200). Stagg claimed third place with 148.5 points, host Morton took fourth with 127.5 points and Plainfield South snared fifth with 117.5 points.
Bolingbrook coach AJ Knoll said his five champions were part of a deep and motivated lineup that led his team to the victory. The weight-class winners for Bolingbrook included Jared Craig (120), Damin Hudson (126), Aaron Camacho (144), Tommy McDermott (165) and Gonzalo Camacho (175).

“Last year, we were the younger team, but had a fuller lineup,” Knoll said. “I’m not sure what it is about this year because we had a couple of starters not come back but the ones that did are seeing the payoff of the hard work they are putting in. Our core guys dominated, and we got an outstanding wrestler (award) out of it — Gonzalo (Camacho) at 175, who pinned his way through the tournament.

“They are buying into the program. Last year, it was just me basically coaching the varsity team. This year, we have a full group of assistants. The (team is) starting to believe. I put a good staff around me, and we are starting to see kids buy in.”

Morton first-year coach James Hensley is no stranger to the event, though he did say the name of the invite has changed several times. It is now named for former head coach Steve Eckert, who guided the Mustangs’ program from 1999-2015 and spent 23 years total as a coach with the program.

After coaching at Morton for several years and spending seven seasons at Naperville North, Hensley is back, but this time as the head varsity coach.

“Overall, they wrestled nicely as a team,” Hensley said of his team. “Everyone was excited. I know I’m excited to get back to where I started. We have held (the tournament) for a long time but took a break a couple of years ago. Overall, I think it went fantastic.

We had full brackets. We had a close race for first. I was happy we finished fourth, just ahead of Fenwick. We lost to them in dual two weeks ago, and were able to finish three places higher than Fenwick today. My team showed a lot of growth and although we didn’t have any champions, they are getting better. We’re very young, with just three seniors. We’re getting better every day.”

106 — Jamiel Castleberry, Proviso West

Jamiel Castleberry was on a mission on Thursday. After an impressive second-place showing at the prestigious Dvorak tournament, Castleberry was aiming for a first-place medal.

He achieved his goal by beating Ridgewood’s Islam Khater with a 15-4 major decision in the finals.

“I kept my feet moving at all times, got my hands on my opponent to create angles, getting to my attacks and working hard on top and scoring as many points as possible,” Castleberry said. “Whenever I do those things right, I feel very confident and feel I can come out on top every time.”

Castleberry (16-1) said he’s benefitted from some tough matches early in the season, helping him gear up for a possible run at making state. His lone defeat came against Hononegah’s Rocco Cassioppi at the Dvorak finals.

“I’ve had a few good matches against some solid guys and I came out on top, so that’s always a confidence going into the second half of the season,” he said. “My lone loss was lopsided, but I know for a fact I’m way better than what the score was. I just wasn’t in the right headspace a bit and was shell-shocked, I didn’t get to my attacks, and I was flat-footed most of the time. I know I will wrestle him again and the outcome will be way different.”

Castleberry said his best win this season came against then-top ranked Wauconda’s Gavin Rockey at Dvorak in a semifinal match.

“(Gavin) is a pretty good wrestler and he’s lanky, so I knew I had to finish my attacks quick and protect my legs,” Castleberry said. “Besides that, I felt I controlled the match very well and came out on top. My goals for this season are to stay healthy, keep competing to the best of my ability and to win a state title.”

Riverside-Brookfield’s Mateo Gonzalez bested Stagg’s Javier Corral for third place, and Morton’s Tristan Rodriguez scored points for the host program with a win over St. Laurence’s Seamus Gahagan.

113 – Edgar Mosquera, Riverside-Brookfield

Riverside-Brookfield junior Edgar Mosquera encountered a tough hurdle against a motivated Isaac Harris of Bolingbrook in the 113 final. Mosquera outlasted Harris with a 6-5 decision to claim the title.

“I just tried to tire him out and I know I can keep a better pace,” Mosquera said. “That was my first time wrestling him. My conditioning and keeping persistent helped me, especially when my opponents got tired (on Thursday). My best match was against Stagg (Jaime Corral). He was keeping a good pace, but he got tired in the second period. In the third period, he was so tired. I felt I could outpace him.”

Mosquera (20-2) said he was encouraged by his performance at Morton.

“I think it was my best showing of the season,” he said. “There were some good wrestlers. I have to keep on training and working hard to get better.”

Meanwhile, Harris said he’s been wrestling for seven years and plans on making a big leap in 2024.

“My coaches keep telling me to wrestle tough and hard,” Harris said. “This year the tournament had more teams and was harder. I have to be smart and pay attention in the (wrestling) room. I’m trying to build up. I’m lanky right now, so I’m trying to build some muscle.”

120 – Jared Craig, Bolingbrook

Jared Craig earned a big win for Bolingbrook in the lower weights, knocking off Proviso West’s Anthony Brown 7-1 in the finals.

“The keys for me were confidence and going into the tournament knowing I was going to win,” Craig said. “I also trusted and stuck to what I learned and practiced in the wrestling room. I think my best win this season was from this tournament, when I beat (Stagg’s Anas Ahmed). I lost to him last year in the same tournament in overtime. I stuck to what I know and that’s wrestling smart, keeping my foot on the gas and (staying) confident in myself. I pinned him in the third period for the win.”

Craig was part of a strong contingent of Bolingbrook wrestlers who dominated at the Morton invite. He said he’s hopeful for many more big wins this season, especially after building his belief in himself.

At 12-6 on the season, Craig said he has made some adjustments that will help him for the second half of the season.

“My season has been going pretty good,” he said. “At first, I was down on myself about a few losses I took against some pretty good kids, but now I’ve been trying to get my mindset right and been feeling pretty good.”

Stagg’s Ahmed captured third place by topping Riverside-Brookfield’s Jayden Tulian, and Fenwick’s CJ Brown beat Little Village’s Jovanni Harris for fifth.

126 – Damin Hudson, Bolingbrook

Damin Hudson wrapped up a long and productive afternoon with a solid win over Stagg junior Dinero Garcia in the finals. Hudson (5-0) is showing a lot of promise for a sophomore wrestler.

“I listened to my coaches,” Hudson said. “They were telling me to breathe through the matches and take my time. I feel great going into 2024. I feel there’s a lot to be learned but I’m ready for bigger and better competition. My goal is definitely to get on top of the podium at state.”

Chicago Phoenix Military Academy junior Elijah Torres downed Morton’s Nicholas Guzman in the third-place match, and Riverside-Brookfield’s Nathan Stanard earned fifth by beating Maine East’s John Moor.

 132 – Colton Huff, St. Ignatius

Full-time wrestling is starting to pay off for Colton Huff.

The St. Ignatius wrestler made a decision to spend more time focusing on wrestling, which is looking like a smart move.

“This is my first season that I’ve fully focused on wrestling,” Huff said. “In years past, I’ve split my time between basketball and wrestling. This has given me the opportunity to really spend the time on technique. I’ve been studying a broader array of moves. My coaches at St. Ignatius have really pushed me on this effort.”

The competitors at 132 pounds on Thursday discovered the new and improved Huff. He rolled to the title in his weight class, defeating Riverside-Brookfield’s Jacob Godoy 7-4 in the finals.

“In this tournament, I was able to get on my offense on my feet,” Huff said. ‘I implemented some new ties that I’ve been practicing that worked well for me. My shape was good, and I continued to pressure in each match. I lost to (Godoy) at Fenton a month ago, and it was important to me to redeem that loss.

 “I (want) to continue to improve and wrestle hard, maintain my work ethic throughout the entire season and ultimately make it downstate in February.”

Maine East’s Dulguun Nyamdavaa earned a 6-4 decision over Stagg’s Samer Suleiman in the third-place match, and Argo’s Carlos Gutierrez downed Fenwick’s Burke Burns for fifth place.

138 – Vince Ramirez, Chicago Little Village

Before his matches on Thursday, Vince Ramirez maintained a positive attitude and made a point to visualize a victory.
His pre-match ritual worked to perfection, ending with a pin over Argo’s Kevin Bustillos in the 138 final.

“I had to visualize being on top of the podium,” Ramirez said. “I knew I had to be consistent and wrestle smart because there was going to be tough competition. I reminded myself to put myself in good positions that I was comfortable wrestling in and didn’t hesitate to take action.”

Ramirez called his victory over Bustillos his toughest match of the day.

“(Kevin) was pretty quick to recover, gave me a hard time looking for a takedown and he had a heavy club for sure,” he said.

Ramirez said working hard in the wrestling room is important if he wants to achieve his goal of “taking it all the way to state.”  Ramirez said he’s undefeated wrestling this season at 138, his two defeats coming at 144 pounds.

“Last season it was tough for me to compete because I was thinking I didn’t belong,” he said. “I thought I was just lucky enough to where I am, when in reality, I’m here for a reason. This season, I can’t settle for less. My loss in sectionals really motivated me. I have to keep being mentally tough and do whatever it takes to win.”

144 – Aaron Camacho, Bolingbrook

After dropping a 7-5 decision to Joliet West’s Carson Weber at the Dvorak tournament, Aaron Camacho bounced back in a big way at Morton. 

Camacho (18-1) closed out his showing at the diverse meet with an impressive win, topping Riverside-Brookfield’s Josh Gonzalez by fall for the title.

“I just tried to break down the kids and keep a high pace and keep on scoring points,” Aaron Camacho said. “I feel good. I’m not cutting a lot of weight, so I’m just focusing on technique instead of losing weight.”

Like his brother Gonzalo, Aaron Camacho has big goals for the remainder of the season.

“Winning state and doing good in the offseason wrestling,” he said. “I want to make a statement in wrestling.”

In the third-place match, Phoenix Military Academy’s Jose Lua pinned Argo’s Aldo Gutierrez, and Plainfield South’s Brad Surwillo pinned Fenwick’s Max Kenny for fifth.

150 – Marquis Deloach, Proviso West

Winning was just part of Marquis Deloach’s goals on Thursday.
He wanted to make a statement, too.

He accomplished his mission with a strong effort, pinning Morton’s David Roa in the second period to win the championship at 150.

“I was just going with the flow and getting to my offense first and getting to what I know (well),” Deloach said of the keys to winning at 150. “My season has been good. I’m looking forward to staying undefeated and winning state this year. I feel like I put on a show for everyone here and I had the coaches from other teams telling me that they like my positive energy and the way I wrestled.”

Bolingbrook’s Marcus Poe capped off a solid day by pinning Riverside-Brookfield’s Jacob Noe for third place. St. Ignatius junior Nate Sanchez claimed fifth by pinning Shepard’s TaVayris Howard.

157 – Aiden Burns, Fenwick

Aiden Burns prefers to do his talking via his actions.

Burns was making big-time moves on the mat throughout Thursday’s meet, and he preferred to let his actions do the talking for him where his first-place showing was concerned.

Burns claimed a 9-1 major decision over Plainfield South’s Chase Pierceall in the 157-pound final.

“I went into my matches ready to go,” Burns said. “My last match I put it all together by staying aggressive and keeping the tempo going.”
Burns said he’s been wrestling for almost seven years and he’s starting to see the fruits of his labor pay off this season. A linebacker on the football team, Burns said he’s devoting more time to wrestling.

“I know I can do better and have a lot of room to improve,” he said. “Overall, my offense has improved. My goal is to make it downstate.”

Fenwick coach Seth Gamino said Burns has the skill set and motivation to make a trip to state.

“Aiden’s goal to make it downstate and make some noise,” Gamino said. “He’s a really hard worker. He was excited to wrestle at Morton. He took third at Morton last year, so he really wanted to win and he took every match the same way by wrestling tough. His championship match was one of his finer matches of the season.”

Morton’s Rafael Lopez-Granados went on to finish in third, Maine East’s Tim Kato placed fourth, Shepard’s Isaiah Martinez took fifth and St. Ignatius’ Grant Ghaly ended in sixth.

165 – Tommy McDermott, Bolingbrook

Sophomore Tommy McDermott added another big victory for Bolingbrook by pinning Phoenix Military Academy’s Jules Rodriguez in the finals.

McDermott said he gained valuable experience at the Morton invite.

“I feel there are some things I can work on and things I can clean up, but overall I think I’ve pushed the pace in my matches and wrestled pretty good,” McDermott said. “I need to work on the bottom a little bit more and get better at neutral, plus the little mistakes I make on top can cost me some matches. I also have to work harder.”

After wrestling his freshman year at 138 pounds, McDermott, who also plays baseball, said he feels more comfortable with the additional experience on the varsity – and the additional pounds.

“It feels different this year for me,” McDermott said. “I’m definitely not as big of an underdog but I still feel I have a lot of things to prove and people are (still) overlooking me. I like being that dark horse that nobody knows is coming.”

Little Village’s Edwin Govea earned a big 9-7 decision over Fenwick’s Dominic Esposito in the third-place match, while Shepard’s Aiden Hill claimed fifth and Plainfield South’s Colin Bickett placed sixth.

175 – Gonzalo Camacho, Bolingbrook

Undefeated Gonzalo Camacho (8-0) added to his family’s memorable day with a flurry of pins, including a first-period pin over Maine East’s Isai Ocampo-Velasquez in the finals.

Camacho said his plan for Thursday’s meet was pretty simple.

“The keys for winning for me was to put the kids away, and that’s what I did,” Camacho said. “My season has been great heading into the end of 2023. I got on the mat after five years without competing. I’m having fun returning after a long time being out. I haven’t faced anyone challenging so far and I’ve pinned all my kids so far. My goal is to definitely improve as a wrestler day by day.”

Rounding out the top six spots, Fenwick’s Patrick Gilboy beat Riverside-Brookfield’s Max Strong for third place.

Argo’s Cornelius Vigovsky finished in fifth and Plainfield South’s Connor Matlock took sixth.

190 – Matthew Elzy, Riverside-Brookfield

Riverside-Brookfield junior Matthew Elzy was looking for his second tournament win this season. Elzy, who captured first place at 190 pounds at the Fenton tourney, is adjusting nicely to his new weight class after competing at 182 pounds last season.

Thursday was another example of his improvement, as Elzy closed out the tourney with a win over Morton’s Lenin Contreras for first place.

“I just stayed focused throughout my matches,” Elzy said. “I stayed locked in and kept my eyes on the prize. The 190 (class) is a lot tougher and stronger, so I had to focus on my endurance. At Fenton, I was pretty much able to pin a lot of guys in the first and second periods. I had to push myself here a lot because I had a lot longer matches.”

Elzy (13-1) said he was excited for his match against Fenwick’s Luke D’Alise, his second of the day. D’Alise is a star linebacker who committed to the Miami Hurricanes.

“My second match was my best one,” Elzy said. “He was a really tough guy. I just happened to pin him, kind of a fluke. He did a move, and I just happened to get him. I think all of the guys were tough. This is one of the few tournaments without a big variance. Overall, I feel fantastic. Last year I wasn’t quite good enough at 182. I got second at Morton. This year I’m winning 80 to 90 percent of my matches.

“I feel more dominant and am one of the bigger guys in my weight class. I’m working hard and not taking any days off.”

Rounding out the top six placers includes Argo’s Jacob Fries, D’Alise, Shepard’s Yazen Ashkar and Phoenix Military Academy’s Chris Tillman.

215 – Matt Janiak, Plainfield South

At 23-3 on the season, Plainfield South’s Matt Janiak is looking to make a splash in the next six-plus weeks. The senior added to his solid season by pinning Phoenix Military Academy junior Kaleb Abney in the finals.

St. Laurence’s Xavier Bitner knocked off Morton’s Carlos Arriaza for third place, while Argo’s Jesus Ibarra pinned Riverside-Brookfield’s Anthony Esposito for fifth place.

285 – Nicholas Armour, Leo

Staying in solid shape is one of the main factors explaining why Nicholas Armour was the top wrestler in his class on Thursday. The Leo junior pinned Stagg’s Terrell Williams in the second period to win his class.

“I just tried to tire them out,” Armour said. “The last match was tough. It was my most competitive and (Williams) was the only one at heavyweight who would shoot at me. He also knew to grab my ankle when I got off from the bottom. I was using my left foot for everything, so I had to switch it up.”

Armour credited his father for pushing him throughout an arduous day.
“My dad had a hand in hyping me up,” Armour said. “Every day leading up to the tournament, he would tell me to win out and he would make something good to eat. So I was motivated to win bad because I had a little extra. 

I have to stay locked in and continue to take in the information my coach gives me and also to keep my energy up. I’m excited to see how this season plays out. I’m going to try my hardest to get to state for both of my last two seasons.”

Bolingbrook senior Isaac Amoh claimed third place, Plainfield South’s Ian Portillo finished fourth, Phoenix Military Academy’s Brendyn Shields ended in fifth and Morton’s Miguel Rojas placed sixth.

Steve Eckert Holiday Wrestling Classic championship match results:

106 – Jamiel Castleberry (Proviso West) MD 15-4 Islam Khater (Ridgewood)

113 – Edgar Mosquera (Riverside-Brookfield) F 2:58 Nathan Martinez (St. Laurence)

120 – Jared Craig (Bolingbrook) F 2:49 Anthony Brown (Proviso West)

126 – Damin Hudson (Bolingbrook) SV-1 7-5 Dinero Garcia (Stagg)

132 – Colton Huff (St. Ignatius) D 7-4 Jacob Godoy (Riverside-Brookfield)

138 – Vince Ramirez (Little Village) F 3:06 Kevin Bustillos (Argo)

144 – Aaron Camacho (Bolingbrook) F 2:53 Josh Gonzalez (Riverside-Brookfield)

150 – Marquis Deloach (Proviso West) F 3:24 David Roa (Morton)

157 – Aiden Burns (Fenwick) MD 9-1 Chase Pierceall (Plainfield South)

165 – Tommy McDermott (Bolingbrook) F 1:37 Jules Rodriguez (PHX)

175 – Gonzalo Camacho (Bolingbrook) F 1:30 Isai Ocampo-Velasquez (Maine East)

190 – Matthew Elzy (Riverside-Brookfield) D 6-4 Lenin Contreras (Morton)

215 – Matt Janiak (Plainfield S) F 2:00 Kaleb Abney (Phoenix Military)

285 – Nicholas Armour (Leo) F 2:51 Terrell Williams (Stagg)

Final team scores: 1. Bolingbrook (211) 2. Riverside-Brookfield (200) 3. Stagg (148.5) 4. Morton (127.5) 5. Plainfield South (117.5) 6. Phoenix Military Academy (109.5) 7. Fenwick (109) 8. Argo (102) 9. Proviso West (94) 10. Maine East (81) 11. Shepard (79) 12. Little Village (71) 13. St. Laurence (61) 14. St. Ignatius (60.5) 15. Leo (32) 16. Ridgewood (25) 17. Hammond, IN (0) 17. North Chicago (0).

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