Brother Rice claims top honors at Geneva’s Newbill Invitational

By Chris Walker – for the IWCOA

Brother Rice wasn’t anywhere near 100 percent when it traveled to Geneva on Saturday for the annual Newbill Invitational, but it didn’t matter.

While the Crusaders were without Pat Gilhooly, Mac Murzyn as well as Bobby Conway, who won the Class 2A state championship at 126 last season, they were still stronger than any of the remaining 18 schools that competed, returning home to Chicago with a new trophy.

Brother Rice (197.5) finished comfortably ahead of a logjam for second place between West Aurora (156), Lane Tech (155) and Glenbard East (152).

The host Vikings (118.5) were fifth and followed by Glenbrook North (115.5), Joliet Central (113), Wheaton Warrenville South (109), Dundee-Crown (107) and Wheaton Academy (83.5) to round out the top 10 teams among the 19-team field.

“It really was a good tournament,” Brother Rice coach Jan Muzyn said. “We actually changed some things with how we practice this season and we’re doing a lot more drilling and a lot less live wrestling.”

Whatever the Crusaders are doing behind the scenes, it’s making a difference on the main stage in front of real competition and fans. Jack O’Connor (144), Gabino Perez (165) and James Crane (190) all won titles for the Crusaders, who qualified for the IHSA Class 2A Dual Team Finals for the first time in 2023.

“I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” Perez said. “No one knows who we really are. We are coming in as a new team. No one knows the skills that we’ve got.”

Those who were at Geneva on Saturday certainly know about Brother Rice’s depth of talent.

“We love being the underdogs,” O’Connor said. “No one knows who we are. We have a lot of freshmen on the team so we’re young and we’ll be in this position for years to come.”

Oliver Davis (138) and Dan Costello (175) advanced to the finals but fell short while James Bennett (132) rebounded to place third for the Crusaders.

“I had a tough loss in the semifinals,” Bennett said. “We’re getting better. My sophomore year we qualified for state for the first time so we’re just getting better every year and I think we’re up and coming.”

Logan Conners (120) and Frank Micelli (150) each placed fourth while Charley Stec (215) finished strong with a win in his fifth-place match and Johnathon Harris (126) took sixth as Brother Rice had 10 wrestlers finish in sixth place or better. Dan Tait (113), Marty Flynn (157) and Brooks Braleel (285) also contributed to the cause for the champion Crusaders. 

“We were down three horses but haven’t had this depth before,” Murzyn said. “The kids keep getting better and better and better. We had three kids who were losing going into the third period and came back to win the match.”

Coach Matthew Yan’s third-place Lane Tech Champions had four champions, Alex Valentin (113), Robert James Zavala (126), Nasser Hammouche (138) and Fernando Lopez (150).

Coach Andrew Plata’s second-place West Aurora Blackhawks had two first-place finishers,  Evan Matkovich (132) and Dayne Serio (157) while Noah Quintana (150) took second.

And coach Donald Pool’s fourth-place Glenbard East Rams also had two title winners, Waleed Binmahfooz (106) and Ismael Chaidez (120) while Cooper Conliss (285) placed second.

The other three Newbill champions were Wheaton Warrenville South’s Sedeeq Al Obaidi (175), Geneva’s Joe Pettit (215) and Glenbrook North’s Cray Paich (285).

Joliet Central had three second-place finishers, Liam Walsh (113), Isaiah Kan (120) and Charles Walker (215). Addison Trail also had three individuals who placed second, Damian Valdez (126), Martin Duarte (157) and Elmer Olascoaga (190).

Others who finished in second place were Geneva’s Sammy Sikorsky (106) and Andrew Wendt (132), Plainfield Central’s Matthias Hautzinger (144) and Glenbrook North’s Shane Onixt (165).

Some of the closest title matches included Pettit edging Walker 4-3 at 215, Zavala beating Valdez 11-8 at 126, Paich capturing a 6-3 decision over Conliss at 285, Crane prevailing over Olascoaga 4-0 at 190, O’Connor winning 6-1 over Hautzinger at 144 and Lopez claiming a 7-2 decision over Quintana at 150.

Finalists with the best records following the Newbill Invite include Al Obaidi (27-1, .964), Lopez (12-1, .923), Zavala (28-3, .903), Valentin (26-3, .897), Walker (25-3, .893), Chaidez (24-3, .889), Serio (24-3, .889), Perez (19-3, .864), Onixt (19-3, .864), Paich (12-3, .857), Olascoaga (14-3, .824), Binmahfooz (23-5, .821), Quintana (17-4, .810), Davis (19-5, .792), Duarte (19-5, .792), Costello (18-5, .783), Hautzinger (14-4, .778), Hammouche (26-8, .765), O’Connor (19-6, .760), Valdez (19-6, .760), Crane (18-6, .750) and Sikorsky (24-8, .750).

Matkovich, Serio and Valentin tied for the most team points with 29.5 while Al Obaidi, Binmahfooz and Chaidez tied for fourth with 29 points, Hammouche was right behind them with 28.5 points and Lopez, Paich and Perez tied for eighth with 28 team points. Joliet Central’s 

Jorge Robles had the most match points with 59 while Bennett ranked second with 47 points. Stillman Valley’s Henry Hildreth was the only individual in the invite to collect four falls.

In the team categories, Brother Rice had the most total match points with 144 while West Aurora was second with 138 and Joliet Central ranked third with 132 points. Brother Rice and Dundee-Crown tied for the most falls with 18 while West Aurora was third with 17 pins.

The Newbill Invitational is named in honor of Jim Newbill, who had a 35-year teaching and coaching career in wrestling and baseball at Geneva and Oswego and was Geneva’s athletic director for 10 years.

Here’s a look at the champions and weight classes at the 2024 Newbill Invitational:

106 – Waleed Binmahfooz, Glenbard East

Winning tournaments like the Newbill is something Waleed Binmahfooz could have only dreamed about a few years ago. Now a senior at Glenbard East, he expects to compete for titles. He’s certainly come a long way since he first was introduced to the mats as a freshman.

Binmahfooz (23-5) won the title at 106 with a fall in 4:28 over Geneva junior Sammy Sikorsky (24-8). He opened with a quick pin before capturing a 9-1 major decision over Lane Tech’s Evan Coles in the semifinals to become one of three Rams who advanced to the title mat.

“That freshman kid knew nothing and now how much I know is wild, especially when you see other kids you wrestled over the years who were tougher competition and now you’ve become more competitive,” Binmahfooz said. “It’s nice to be up there on that podium now. I can actually do some things that I wasn’t able to do before. I’ve gotten a lot better. I’ve made huge strides.”

Last year in the Newbill, Binmahfooz placed fourth at 113, but 106 is where he’s at his best.

“It’s my senior year and if I want to perform my best, especially at the state series, I go 106,” he said. “I can go 113 for conference and other matches for the team.”

After not doing much his freshman season due to the pandemic, Binmahfooz filled a spot on varsity right away as a sophomore.

“They threw me on varsity because they bumped the 106 to 113 and he pushed me like crazy,” he said. “I learned a lot and ever since then I’ve always practiced with older, more experienced, heavier wrestlers. Iron sharpens iron. The older, more experienced (wrestlers) have taught me a lot about the culture, the school and wrestling itself. I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without having those older, more experienced and stronger (teammates) pushing me.”

“I just went out there and I knew the kid would be tough because he had just won by tech fall against the kid he wrestled before me,” Binmahfooz said. “I just went out there and tried my best. I had it in me to win it because I’ve been practicing real hard this year working stuff. My offense has been great so I thought I’d go out and try to pin him.”

Following the trend of Binmahfooz’s win by fall, senior Coles (18-10) won with a pin over Stillman Valley junior Michael Pannarale (18-6) for third place while Dundee-Crown sophomore Aiden Healey (16-12) won by fall over Wheaton Academy freshman Buckley Kazmierczak on the fifth-place mat.

113 – Alex Valentin, Lane Tech

Some guys get it quicker than others, but few have gotten it as quickly as Alex Valentin.

In just his third season wrestling, Lane Tech junior Valentin claimed the 113 title after accumulating point after point in a win by technical fall in 2:42 over Joliet Central junior Liam Walsh.

“I took him down early in the first period but I couldn’t really pin him so I started racking up points and it was like 10-0 after one period,” Valentin said. “At the end of the day I’m 26-3. It’s another tournament. I’m still proud that I won first. As for me, I know I’m happy and I’ve got to celebrate the win but also I’ve got to look forward to the next match and what I’m going to do.”

Glenbrook North senior Ayaan Rizwaan (16-4) won an 11-3 major decision over Plainfield Central sophomore Jayden Mizelle (11-3) to capture third place. Stillman Valley senior Mack Jones (21-3) won an 11-3 major decision over Geneva junior Drew Hosman for fifth place.

120 – Ismael Chaidez, Glenbard East

In his debut as a freshman at last year’s Newbill, Glenbard East’s Ismael Chaidez placed third at 120. This year, he is the champ at 120 after winning by fall in 2:44 over Joliet Central junior Isaiah Kan to improve to 24-3.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a competitor ever since the offseason,” Chaidez said. “I switched my focus so it wasn’t just about wins anymore.”

Rather, he’s focusing on the skills that make him such a tough opponent. Take, for example, what he did to beat Kan (17-12).

“Right out of the game he started with strong pressure,” he said. “I’m used to strong collar ties and I usually take a strong sweep. He was leading with his legs and I took a sweep.”

Chaidez was blessed to work with Jacobi Moore in the room last year, but Moore has since graduated. Still, that experience has stayed with Chaidez.

“I feel like I lost one of our senior wrestlers (Moore) who was somebody I practiced with a lot,” he said. “Wrestling with others I’ve come to realize how much different people are. You’ve got to open them up. Jacobi always said to be loose and don’t be tight and it’s something I’ve got to learn, it’s the way he was seeing from his perspective.”

On the third-place mat, Dundee-Crown junior Christian Gerardo (13-13) won by fall over Brother Rice sophomore Logan Conners (10-10). In the battle for fifth place, West Aurora junior Joseph Hiocochea earned a 7-3 decision against Lane Tech sophomore Angel Santana.

126 – Robert James Zavala, Lane Tech

Lane Tech’s Robert James Zavala won a battle between seniors for the 126 title, capturing an 11-8 decision over Addison Trail’s Damian Valdez.

Zavala, who improved to 28-3, followed a quick fall with a 9-1 major decision over Dundee-Crown junior Chris Gerardo in the semifinals to become one of the Champions’ four finalists and all four would ultimately be Newbill champions.

On the third-place mat, West Aurora senior Aiden Massaro (20-8) scored a 9-1 major decision over Gerardo (23-8) while Wheaton Academy sophomore Lincoln Hoger (22-5), a Class 1A state qualifier last season, edged Brother Rice freshman Johnathon Harris (16-5) by a 3-2 score for fifth place.

132 – Evan Matkovich, West Aurora

It feels good to stand on the podium. West Aurora sophomore Evan Matkovich found himself up there for the first time this season after his victory by technical fall in 3:30 over Geneva junior Andrew Wendt for the 132 title.

“I hadn’t made it to a championship and this was my first time being on the podium this year so it feels pretty good,” Matkovich said. “I just think it was more like persistence, trying to work my turns faster and moving, transitioning onto the next thing over and over that made the difference.”

Matkovich (21-8) just kept piling on the points on Wendt.

“I think it was more of a matter how it came to be,” he said. “And not the kid I faced.”

Brother Rice senior James Bennett (19-6) bounced back from a loss to Matkovich to defeat Glenbard East junior Shane Salerno (15-8) with a 14-3 major decision for third place while Dundee-Crown senior Vinnie Velazquez (17-12) won by fall in 4:36 against Alton sophomore Donovin Moore for fifth place.

138 – Nasser Hammouche, Lane Tech

Lane Tech junior Nasser Hammouche finished his run through the 138 bracket with a win by fall in 5:59 over Brother Rice sophomore Oliver Davis in the title match.

Hammouche (26-8), who was one of four title winners for coach Matthew Yan’s Champions, opened with a fall, got a win by technical fall in the quarterfinals and won a 9-0 major decision over Wheaton Academy senior Will Hupke in the semifinals.

Wheaton Warrenville South senior Cooper Hollis won a 7-6 decision over Hupke (20-4) for third place while Joliet Central senior Jorge Robles (17-10) earned an 8-3 decision over West Aurora senior Adrian Ortiz on the fifth-place mat.

144 – Jack O’Connor, Brother Rice

Brother Rice junior Jack O’Connor improved to 19-6 after winning a 6-1 decision over Plainfield Central junior Matthias Hautzinger to win the 144 title.

“I was just focusing on getting to my moves, my underhooks,” O’Connor said. “I was staying defensive while being offensive and just working through my stuff.”

In a match pairing two sophomores, Alton’s Brayden Drew (18-8) earned a 3-0 win over Wheaton Academy’s Tyler Jones (21-9) for third. In a matchup of juniors on the fifth-place mat, Stillman Valley’s Henry Hildreth (11-5) won by fall over Joliet Central’s Tremaine Cooper (17-11).

150 – Fernando Lopez, Lane Tech

Lane Tech’s Fernando Lopez dropped a 9-7 decision a year ago at the Newbill in the 152 finals to Stillman Valley’s Jack Seacrist. This year, he also went the distance, but came out on top, defeating West Aurora’s Noah Quintana (17-4) by a 7-2 decision in a battle of seniors at 150.

Lopez (12-1), who was one of Lane Tech’s four champions, won his other two matches by fall, including in 2:15 over Brother Rice freshman Frank Micelli in the semifinals.

Wheaton Academy junior Chasen Kazmierczak (21-4) won a 4-2 decision over Micelli (19-6) for third place and Glenbrook North junior Ilan Ruderman (21-9) won a 7-4 decision over Plainfield Central junior Jack Bowen (18-10).

157 – Dayne Serio, West Aurora

Don’t let Dayne Serio get on top.

“Once I get on top, it’s like my dads says, it’s pretty much over,” Serio said.

Serio,  a West Aurora sophomore, got on top of Addison Trail senior Martin Duarte (19-5) often enough and turned it into a win by technical fall for the 157 title.

“I’m just really persistent with this top work and all these turns,” Serio said. “I’ve just been working on top the whole time. I think only one person scored on me this whole tournament and it was on one reversal. I’m 25-3 right now so I’ve been doing pretty good this year.”

Wrestling for the first time in over three weeks, Geneva’s Peyton Marzen won by fall against Glenbrook North sophomore Henry Hafner (18-11) to take third place. A similar result happened on the fifth-place mat as Wheaton Academy senior Deonta Giles (16-12) won by fall against Lake Zurich sophomore Filip Kawalec.

165 – Gabino Perez, Brother Rice

With nearly 40 wins and just five losses between them, the 165-pound title match paired a couple of juniors who aren’t used to losing often this season.

Brother Rice’s Gabino Perez improved to 19-3 after winning by fall in 4:29 over Glenbrook North’s Shane Onixt, who dropped to 19-3.

“It was pretty straightforward going into it,” said Perez, who placed fourth at 195 in the 2023 IHSA Class 2A Finals. “I was just thinking straight, what could I set up and what I could do with the next takedown.”

In a third-place battle pairing two seniors, Dundee-Crown’s Jose Gavina (21-7) and Oak Lawn’s Isaac Barba (20-8), Gavina earned a 6-1 decision. In the fifth-place match, which also featured two seniors, Wheaton Warrenville South’s Corey Gul (18-12) scored an 8-0 major decision over Stillman Valley’s Braden Rogers.

175 – Sedeeq Al Obaidi, Wheaton Warrenville South

Wheaton Warrenville South’s Sedeeq Al Obaidi added to title wins at Niles West and his own Ed Ewoldt Invitational with another championship as the senior who recently celebrated his 100th victory improved to 27-1 after winning by technical fall in 3:40 over Brother Rice freshman Dan Costello (18-5) in the 175 finals.

Al Obaidi, who went 38-7 last season and fell one win shy of getting a medal at the IHSA Class 3A Finals, opened with a fall and then won by technical fall over Lake Zurich junior Maciej Szelazek in the semifinals to become the only Tiger to reach the title mat.

On the third-place mat, Glenbrook North senior Kieran O’Sullivan (22-6) earned a 7-2 decision over Szelazek while in the fifth-place match, Glenbard East sophomore Orlando Hoye won by fall over Joliet Central junior Amilio Gonzalez (18-13).

190 – James Crane, Brother Rice

James Crane was the third Brother Rice wrestler to win a title at the Newbill, winning a 4-0 decision over Addison Trail senior Elmer Olascoaga (14-3) in the finals at 190.

Crane, a junior who improved to 18-6, recorded a fall in 2:58 over Glenbard East senior Blake Salvino (21-8) in the semifinals after capturing a 5-0 decision over Shepard junior Yazen Ashkar (19-6) in the quarterfinals.

Senior Elvis Muja (18-6) joined Wheaton Warrenville South teammate Cooper Hollis (138) with a third-place finish after receiving a forfeit win over Salvino. And Ashkar prevailed by an 8-4 decision over Stillman Valley junior Brock Needs on the fifth-place mat.

215 – Joe Pettit, Geneva

A year ago, Pettit was in the same situation that he was on Saturday as he advanced to the Jim Newbill finals at 220. Last year he fell to Dundee-Crown’s Teigen Moreno but this year, he upset Joliet Central’s Charles Walker by a 4-3 decision for the 215 championship.

No doubt, Pettit was ready to battle Walker in a matchup of returning Class 3A state qualifiers. Pettit was 32-17 last season while Walker (25-3) went 37-14 a year ago and fell one win shy of a medal at 220 at the IHSA Finals.

“I knew he was tough just based off of rankings and whatever,” Pettit said. “But I knew that didn’t matter. I knew I could wear him down. I kind of knew if I was going to win, it was going to be in the third period so I kind of wore him out and then took my shot when I had it and reversed him and ended up on top.”

As a captain who also plays rugby and was an all-conference selection this past fall on the football field, Pettit is undeniably a leader who inspires his teammates.

“He loves to compete and he hates losing,” Geneva coach Tom Chernich said. “He’s just a hard worker and an easy kid to coach, an easy kid to root for. I was probably a little too excited in the finals match, but you’ve got to have some fun.”

Pettit was voted in as this year’s tournament’s Most Valuable Wrestler.

“He’s (Pettit) the MVP right there,” Geneva 157-pounder Peyton Marzen said. “And if I had to pick a most hard-working guy that would be him. He’s going to rugby practice right now after winning a tournament. He’s crazy, but that’s just how he is.”

On the third-place mat, Plainfield Central junior Anthony Minnito (21-3) earned a 5-2 decision against Glenbard East senior Gus Winkler (16-11). And Brother Rice junior Charley Stec (12-7) won by fall over Wheaton Warrenville South junior Mason Monte (16-13) for fifth place.

285 – Cray Paich, Glenbrook North

Cray Paich had a tough season on the JV squad a year ago. But on Saturday, he was a Newbill champion on the varsity team as the Glenbrook North senior improved to 12-2 after persevering to defeat Glenbard East junior Cooper Conliss by a 6-3 decision in the 285 title match.

“It definitely wasn’t my prettiest match, but I’m glad I ended up on top,” Paich said. “This was a nice tournament. I’d heard a few things about guys from different schools here and there that there would be some really good wrestlers and very good competition. The people were right. It was nerve-racking, but at the end of the day the only thing I can control is how I wrestle and not who I’m going against.”

This time of the year with the school break and the holidays can be especially challenging for athletes. For Paich, it was an opportunity to get better.

“My coach has taught me a lot these past few days and especially over break so I’ve had a lot to learn and improve on,” he said. “I’m just kind of getting over that mental barrier that I had before. My coach just really helped me push through today.”

Stillman Valley senior Blake Mollet (16-7) edged West Aurora senior Noah Chacon (14-10) 7-6 for third place while Wheaton Warrenville South junior Ashton Kibbe (19-9) won by fall against Shepard senior Javier Cano (16-8) for fifth place

Championship matches at Geneva’s Newbill Invitational

106 – Waleed Binmahfooz (Glenbard East) F 4:28 Sammy Sikorsky (Geneva)
113 – Alex Valentin (Lane Tech) TF 2:42 Liam Walsh (Joliet Central)
120 – Ismael Chaidez (Glenbard East) F 2:44 Isaiah Kan (Joliet Central)
126 – Robert James Zavala (Lane Tech) D 11-8 Damian Valdez (Addison Trail)
132 – Evan Matkovich (West Aurora) TF 3:30 Andrew Wendt (Geneva)
138 – Nasser Hammouche (Lane Tech) F 5:59 Oliver Davis (Brother Rice)
144 – Jack O’Connor (Brother Rice) D 6-1 Matthias Hautzinger (Plainfield Central)
150 – Fernando Lopez (Lane Tech) D 7-2 Noah Quintana (West Aurora)
157 – Dayne Serio (West Aurora) TF Martin Duarte (Addison Trail)
165 – Gabino Perez (Brother Rice) F 4:29 Shane Onixt (Glenbrook North)
175 – Sedeeq Al Obaidi (Wheaton Warrenville South) TF 3:40 Dan Costello (Brother Rice)
190 – James Crane (Brother Rice) D 4-0 Elmer Olascoaga (Addison Trail)
215 – Joe Pettit (Geneva) D 4-3 Charles Walker (Joliet Central)
285 – Cray Paich (Glenbrook North) D 6-3 Cooper Conliss (Glenbard East)

Team scoring at Geneva’s Newbill Invitational

1. Brother Rice 197.5, 2. West Aurora 156, 3. Lane Tech 155, 4. Glenbard East 152, 5. Geneva 118.5, 6. Glenbrook North 115.5, 7. Joliet Central 113, 8. Wheaton Warrenville South 109, 9. Dundee-Crown 107, 10. Wheaton Academy 83.5, 11. Stillman Valley 82, 12. Addison Trail 80.5, 13. Plainfield Central 74, 14. Alton 44.5, 15. Shepard 35, 16. Lake Zurich 32, 17. Oak Lawn 28, 18. Metea Valley 6, 19. Boylan Catholic 3.

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