Class of 2024

John Dergo, Morris/Univ. of Illinois


When a football player rushes for over 3,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season and not only is the consensus Illinois Player of the Year but also receives recognition as one of the nation's top players, it would usually have been a foregone conclusion that the athlete would have continued his football career at the collegiate level. But that's not what John Dergo had in mind after after he ran for 3,010 yards and 52 touchdowns in 2005 to lead Morris Community High School to the a perfect 14-0 season and the school's third state championship and first in 31 years when it won the IHSA Class 6A title 14-9 over Normal Community under the direction of first-year head coach George Dergo, John's father. Instead of continuing on the gridiron, the Tribune/WGN and Sun-Times Prep Athlete of the Year decided he was going to continue his wrestling career at the University of Illinois. A four-time letter winner in football, wrestling and track and field at Morris, he won the final 87 matches of his high school career, which included Class AA championships at 171 in both 2005 and 2006. A three-time medalist at 171 while also competing for his father, he beat Hononegah's Adam Latella to cap a 43-0 senior season in 2005-06 after going 44-0 in his junior season by winning over Reavis' Jim Kernats in overtime in the 171 championship match in 2005. He took third place at 171 in 2004 to conclude a 44-2 season. As a freshman, he was 22-0 after the regional but failed to advance from the sectional. At the University of Illinois competing for IWCOA Hall of Fame coaches Mark Johnson and Jim Heffernan, he earned All-American honors as a senior in 2010 when he placed fifth at 184 and he also was a Big 10 champion that season. He was a four-time NCAA qualifier, advancing at 184 in 2007, 2008 and 2010 while qualifying at 174 in 2009. A four-time letter winner from 2007-10 for the Fighting Illini who was nationally-ranked for most of three of his four seasons, he's tied for ninth in single-season wins with 2024 IWCOA Hall of Famer and Illini teammate Jimmy Kennedy with 36 from 2009-10 and also is tied for ninth with three others for most pins in a season with nine. His .900 winning percent in 2009-10, when he went 36-4, ties him for 15th place. And he's also tied with two other IWCOA Hall of Famers, current Illini coach Mike Poeta and longtime Augustana coach Kevin Puebla, for 21st place in career victories with 105.