Photo: Submitted to The Herald News
HINSDALE – When an area can boast having four teams in the top nine of one of the top wrestling tournaments in the state and also have the second- and third-place teams and have an athlete who receives the most outstanding wrestler award, it’s viewed as a good day by all.
And that was just the perspective from the four state-ranked teams who took part in Hinsdale Central’s 54th annual Rex Whitlatch Invitational, which featured 25 teams, including many of the state’s best programs and individuals.
Oak Park-River Forest had three champions and three second-place finishers to post 211.5 points, which was good for the team championship. Lemont took second with 189 points, while Minooka scored 179.5 points to finish third ahead of Sandburg (167.5) and Barrington (166). Lincoln-Way West (124.5) was sixth and Joliet Catholic Academy (114) ninth in their debuts in one of the state’s oldest and respected tournaments.
Those four schools sent eight individuals to the title mat and came away with three champions. In a matchup of two unbeaten competitors, JCA’s Dean Hamiti posted an impressive 13-2 victory over OPRF’s Joshua Ogunsanya in the 152-pound finals. That win, after three falls, helped the junior improve to 15-0 and earn the event’s top honor.
“I wrestle through every position the best that I can,” said Hamiti, a two-time defending state champion. “I think that I can get out of anything and can score as many points as I really want to if I push as hard as I can for the whole six minutes. I don’t know if anyone can stop my offense or defense if I get around. But I still respect everyone like it was a state final. Even if it’s the first round, I get ready the best that I can and try to finish a match quickly.”
The other two tournament champions from the area know all too well about competing for big titles at a high level. Lemont senior Kyle Schickel and junior Apollo Gothard both placed second in Class 2A a year ago, and Schickel is a three-time state runner-up.
In the 145 finals, Schickel improved to 13-1 after capturing a 21-7 victory over Lincoln-Way West senior Garrett Geigner, who fell to 12-2. And in the 220 pound finals, Gothard saw a lead slip away and had to go to overtime against Minooka’s Drew Gutknecht. But he got a quick takedown to claim a 5-3 win to improve to 13-0, while the Indians senior fell to 14-2.
“The team is looking really good and I think that we’re finally starting to believe in ourselves,” Schickel said. “This year, we’re just trying our best every day to push these kids to do what they’re truly capable of doing because most of our team are underclassmen since we only have five seniors.”
Gothard also is excited about what the Indians might be able to achieve this season.
“This is really awesome, honestly,” Gothard said. “We’ve all grown up together and since some of the kids are seniors, this is the last year that we’re all together. I’d rather wrestle a ranked wrestler every day than wrestle kids I know that I can beat every day. I want to have that competition each week.”
The Indians had one other finalist, junior Ray Hernandez, who reached the 132 title match, but fell 9-4 to Warren’s Cameron Domke, who improved to 16-0. Hernandez is 11-3.
Also reaching the title match for Minooka was Jake Shipla, who lost to Sandburg’s Mike Bosco (14-0) in the 285 finals as the Indian senior fell to 11-2 on the year.
JCA freshman Gylon Sims got to the finals at 106, but was beaten by Sandburg’s Sammie Hayes (17-0) by a 12-1 score as Sims fell to 14-2.
Third-place finishers included Minooka’s Michael Ruettiger (132) and Jack McClimon (145), Lincoln-Way West’s Javen Estrada (138) and Payton Geigner (160), and Lemont’s Grant LaDuke (152). Fourth-place finishers were Lincoln-Way West’s Karter Guzman (106) and Brock Pfeifer (152), Lemont’s Kyle Zator (160) and Minooka’s Michael Carey (126).