By Curt Herron – for the IWCOA
Two programs who’ve enjoyed rich histories in the sport are hoping that 2024 turns out to be one of the most significant ones that they’ve experienced.
Hinsdale South and Evergreen Park met up twice in eight days and while the Hornets got the better of the Mustangs on both occasions, both teams have a lot to be excited about as they prepare for what they both hope will be historic postseasons.
A week after Hinsdale South beat Evergreen Park 39-23 in a mega duals in Evergreen Park to hand the Mustangs their first defeat in 23 dual meets, the teams met in a tournament level on Saturday at Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Memorial Tournament and again the Hornets prevailed, taking top honors in the 12-team competition with 205.5 points while Evergreen Park beat out Glenbard East 169.5-164 to claim second place. Streamwood (76), Argo (60), Lisle Senior (52), Northridge Prep (51) and Westmont (45) were next in line.
Both Hinsdale South and Evergreen Park are ranked in Illinois Matmen’s top 25 for Class 2A with the Hornets 22nd and the Mustangs 23rd.
Leading the way for coach Steve Matozzi’s champion Hornets were title winners Andrew Musil (150), Ben Miller (157), Jovani Piazza (175) and Alec Miller (190) while Al Amir Almannai (138), Darrion Glover (165), Andrew Miller (215) and Gavin Slaughter (285) took second place as the squad split their eight championship matches, which featured the three Miller brothers all competing on the title mat.
Placing third for Hinsdale South were Jamarion Moffett (106) and Mikey Wallace (113) while Mario Lagunas (120) took fourth place with Noah Koeller (126) and Apollo Cobb (132) filling out the 13-man lineup for the Hornets, who also captured a championship at their own Matozzi Invite on December 6 and placed sixth at Lakes Community’s DeRousse and Palatine’s Berman in addition to competing at Hinsdale Central’s Whitlatch.
“We also had big performances from Darrio Glover at 165 and Gavin Slaughter at heavyweight,” Hornets assistant coach Tony Poro said. “It was nice to have them in the finals, they kind of gave us an extra boost. And we had a good performance from freshman Ben Miller at 157, too. There’s great friendships with all of these guys and even our younger guys, they’re feeling welcome all of the time.”
Top performers for coach Ron Zimmerman’s runner-up Mustangs were champions Chance Woods (126), Ashton Gray (138), David Johnson (144) and Eduardo Antunez (215) while Johan Bonilla (113) and Genesis Ward (190) took second place. Angel Ramirez (120), Adrian Cervantes (132) and Gerald O’Hare (285) took third while Andrew Viravec (165) placed fourth. Woods was the recipient of the Melichar Memorial Tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.
This was the third time that Evergreen Park finished first or second in a tournament. It also won a title on December 9, Pontiac’s Munch, and it placed second at Rich Township one week later.
“I’m super proud,” Zimmerman said. “This is our sixth or seventh year here and we’ve had back-to-back second places and hopefully we close some ground on these guys next year. They’ve got a tough team. We’re not making excuses, but we were missing a starter today. Regardless, our guys battled the best that they could and I’m super proud of my guys. Four champs, a couple of runners-up and some thirds so I thought we had a great final round. We want some momentum going into the tournament season, conference and regionals. And just to keep the lineup strong, that’s the key right now. Be healthy and strong going into the regionals.”
Coach Don Pool’s Glenbard East Rams finished strong in the medal round to just fall short of second place. Winning titles for Glenbard East were Waleed Binmahfooz (113), Ismael Chaidez (120) and Cooper Conliss (285) while Lorenz Rios Loud (106) took second, Jesus Chaidez (138), Donte Hudson (150), Leo Mundinger (157), Aaron Dotson (165) and Gus Winkler (215) placed third and Orlando Hoye (175) finished fourth.
“I am proud of the way our kids wrestled,” Pool said. “This tournament was our last preparation for the Upstate 8 Conference tournament. I think our kids are focusing on getting better every day and it showed during this tournament. A lot of guys battled back and got third and fourth after taking tough losses. This is something we need to carry over to the conference tournament.
“Waleed and Ismael have been great all year. They are doing some of their best wrestling. Cooper Conliss has been wrestling so much better the last few weeks, taking second place at Geneva and first this weekend at Lisle.”
Turning in the best finishes for coach Bill Peach’s Streamwood Sabres were title winner Uli Rojas (132), runner-up Juan Cortez (144), third-place finishers Gabe Inorio (175) and Jace Wolf (190) as well as Luis Martinez (113), who finished fourth.
Coach Matthew McMurray’s Argo Argonauts were led by runner-up Carlos Gutierrez (132) as well as fourth-place finishers Kevin Bustillos (138), Darell Ortiz (157) and Jacob Fries (190).
Leading the host Lisle Senior Lions, who are coached by Brandon Wolak, were second-place finishers Alexander Ferari (120) and David Skonieczny (157) while Adam Drake (132) and Ramon Ortega (285) finished in fourth place.
Northridge Prep’s Knights, who are coached by Joseph Rhee, got a title win from Jon Suter (165) while Adam Haddad (175) took second and George McShane (144) placed fourth.
Aurora Central Catholic’s Chargers, coached by Josh McCarty, only had four participants but got a championship from Vince Hefke (106) and a third from Matt Gaylor (126).
The Westmont Sentinels received a third-place finish from Mission Hatchell (144) while Christian Rosa (126), Sean Patterson (150) and Rafael Castrejon-Tello (215) all took fourth.
Coach Denis Laughlin’s Nazareth Academy Roadrunners were led by runner-up Ben Lukes (150) and fourth-place finisher Alek Ramos (106).
Leading the way for coach Tim Eberhard’s Walther Christian Academy Broncos was runner-up Caleb Peterson (126).
In some of the closest title matches, Ashton Gray edged Al Amir Almannai 3-2 at 138, Alec Miller prevailed 1-0 over Genesis Ward at 190, David Johnson got past Juan Cortez 7-5 at 144, Uli Rojas won 11-8 over Carlos Gutierrez at 132 and Ismael Chaidez was a 10-6 victor over Alexander Ferari at 120.
Top records following the tournament included Eduardo Antunez at 215 (28-1, .966), David Johnson at 144 (30-2, .938), Chance Woods at 126 (27-2, .931), Jon Suter at 165 (25-2, .926), Ismael Chaidez at 120 (27-3, .900), Vince Hefke at 106 (16-2, .889), Genesis Ward at 190 (27-4, .871), Johan Bonilla at 113 (19-3, .864), Jovani Piazza at 175 (22-4, .846), Waleed Binmahfooz at 113 (27-5, .844), Alexander Ferari at 120 (21-4, .840), Adam Haddad at 175 (21-4, .840), Gerald O’Hare at 285 (21-4, .840), Andrew Musil at 150 (25-5, .833), Angel Ramirez at 120 (17-4, .810), Alec Miller at 190 (23-6, .793), Jace Wolf at 190 (19-5, .792), Gabe Inorio at 175 (7-2, .778) and Kevin Bustillos at 138 (21-7, .750).
There was a six-way tie for the most team points with 24 between Waleed Binmahfooz, Ben Miller, Andrew Musil, Jovani Piazza, Jon Suter and Chance Woods. Vince Hefke scored 23 points while Eduardo Antunez, Ismael Chaidez, Cooper Conliss and Alec Miller tied for eighth with 22 team points.
Donte Hudson had the most total match points with 45 while Mikey Wallace was next-best with 36 points. Nine individuals recorded three falls with Kevin Bustillos needing just 4:22 to achieve that feat. Jacob Fries and Donte Hudson made up six spots from their seeds to their finish.
Champion Hinsdale South recorded the most falls with 24 while Glenbard East was next with 17 and Evergreen Park had 15 pins. Evergreen Park had the most total match points with 225 while Glenbard East was second with 213 and Hinsdale South third with 177 points.
Although the top three finishers in the tournament have enjoyed a good deal of success and all had Hall of Fame coaches, only one of them has ever qualified for the IHSA Dual Team Finals, Evergreen Park, which advanced to the Class A Finals in 1993 and lost in the quarterfinals.
Hinsdale South enjoyed a great run of success under Mike Matozzi, who was hand as an official at the tournament. The 2011 IWCOA Hall of Fame Inductee, 2013 IWCOA Person of the Year and 2020 Grand Marshall who also served as the IWCOA’s President in 2012-2013, coached in the Hornets program for 33 years, which included 25 seasons as their head coach, during which time the program won 390 dual meets.
Evergreen Park’s program was led early on by 1977 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee and 2002 National Wrestling Hall of Fame Lifetime Service Award recipient John George for 20 years and Mike Kladis led the Mustangs to six-straight regional titles, including their lone Dual Team appearance in 1993, during the 1990’s.
Glenbard East was led for over 20 years by 2018 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Carlson, who won the school’s lone IHSA championship in 1981. During his coaching tenure the had eight-straight 20-win seasons and won their only regional title in 2010. The school also had a long run of not only hosting the Al Dvorak Memorial Tournament, which was named in honor of a Glenbard East wrestler, but also in helping to establish it as one of Illinois’ top tournaments.
But having individuals win medals at state has been a challenge considering the difficult postseason paths that each of the programs have had to face throughout the years.
Evergreen Park had 18 individuals who won medals from 1960 when Bob Griffith won the school’s first title and 1982 IWCOA Hall of Famer and 2002 National Wrestling Hall of Fame Lifetime Service Award recipient Tom Heniff took third through 1996 when Dan McNulty placed fourth. The Mustangs are hopeful that the long drought might finally end this season.
Fourteen individuals from Hinsdale South have been IHSA medalists since 1975 when Andy Bazan was a state runner-up. The last time that a Hornet reached the awards stand in Champaign was in 2016 when Joshua King won his second-straight state championship.
Glenbard East has had 15 individuals win medals since 1966 when Mike Hemmerich was a state runner-up. That includes its recent coaches, Carlson a state champion in 1981, and Pool, a runner-up in 1996. It’s been a few years since any Rams have won a medal at the IHSA Finals, with D’Andre Johnson being the last to do so when he took fifth in 2015.
Tournament champions Vince Hefke, Uli Rojas and Jon Suter have a little extra motivation knowing that Aurora Central Catholic has had just five medal winners with the last in 2014, Streamwood had one medalist in 2007 and Northridge Prep hasn’t had any medal winners.
As for dual team prospects in Class 2A, Hinsdale South will be in the Lemont Regional along with the hosts, Providence Catholic and St. Laurence. And Evergreen Park hosts a regional that includes teams such as Brother Rice and St. Rita. The Hornets lost their first dual meet of the season to Downers Grove South and haven’t lost since then. And the Mustangs owned a 22-1 record heading into this past week with a win over Lemont being among the highlights.
The winners of those two regionals meet up with the champions at the Oak Forest and Riverside-Brookfield regionals at the Brother Rice Dual Team Sectional to determine which two teams will advance to the IHSA Finals in Bloomington.
The host Lions are the school in the tournament with both the most individual medalists with 30 and Dual Team Finals appearance with three, which featured fourth place finishes in Class A in 2006 for coach John Ruettiger, an IWCOA Hall of Famer, and in 2008 for coach John Davis.
The Steve Melichar Tournament is named in honor of Lisle Senior wrestler Steve Melichar, who died as the result of being hit by a car in 1986 when was 16 years old.
Here’s a look at the champions and their weight classes at Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Memorial Tournament:
106 – Vince Hefke, Aurora Central Catholic
Aurora Central Catholic and Mooseheart had the smallest teams that competed in Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Invitational, with just four individuals apiece, but that didn’t mean that ACC walked away from the event without winning any significant medals. In fact, coach Josh McCarty’s Chargers had two finishers in the top three with Vince Hefke taking first at 106 and Matt Gaylor placing third at 126. Hefke (16-2), a junior who won a match at the rugged Class 1A Oregon Sectional last season, captured an 11-0 major decision over Glenbard East’s Lorenz
Rios Loud in the 106 championship match. Hefke won his first two matches with quick falls, including in 1:03 over Evergreen Park sophomore Brayden Mateja-Bates in the semifinals.
“We just have to keep pushing at practice and working hard and keep the tempo up and we strive to keep it going no matter what,” Hefke said. “There’s just four, we’re four-strong. And I wrestle my coach (Josh McCarty) a lot too, and he’s got me a lot better this year. He knows what he’s doing. He wrestled ast Byron and coached at Sandwich for a long time. I’ve really taken that step forward this year and we’re going to keep it going and we’re not stopping it, until I get stopped, I just don’t plan on that. It’s all about individual state, so that’s the end goal, obviously winning state is the goal for me and we’re going to try to make that happen. I just go to practice every day and keep the tempo up. And conditioning is a big thing and I feel good after every match. And I lift a lot of weights and work at getting stronger. And I love pull ups.”
Lorenz Rios Loud (13-6), a freshman, became one of four finalists for the Rams after he won a 5-2 decision over Nazareth Academy freshman Alek Ramos in the semifinals. Hinsdale South sophomore Jamarion Moffett (19-10) bounced back from a quarterfinals defeat with three victories in the wrestlebacks and took third place with a 3-0 decision over Ramos (19-10).
113 – Waleed Binmahfooz, Glenbard East
After winning 31 matches a year ago but getting eliminated in the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional, Waleed Binmahfooz has much bigger plans for this season and the Glenbard East senior is definitely moving in a positive direction toward those goals after following up on a title at Geneva’s Newbill Invite with a Melichar Tournament title at 113. He improved to 27-5 after recording a fall in 3:19 over Evergreen Park’s Johan Bonilla in the championship match. Binmahfooz, who was one of three champions and four finalists for the Rams, opened with a pair of falls, including one in 1:53 over Hinsdale South’s Mikey Wallace in the semifinals.
“I think that a lot of guys at our lower weights are very focused on this sport specifically and they want to see that success,” Binmahfooz said. “We’ve been putting in the work throughout the offseason, too. Ish has been my practice partner in the room and in the offseason, as well, and it’s very competitive. Last year we had a little bit of a rough year but this year we’re bouncing back, we’re looking a lot tougher and I like to see that improvement, Obviously winning is great and seeing your partners and yourself win. So being able to compete and actually win is a great thing. I think the quality that I like about us is that we’re really tough. We don’t give in when things are looking bad because we’ve been through bad situations and we persevere through it. We always fight back and we stick together.”
Johan Bonilla (19-3), a senior who went 28-14 last season and was one of Evergreen Park’s four IHSA Class 2A state qualifiers, recorded a fall in 0:51 over Nazareth Academy’s Charlie Dvorak in the semifinals, which was his only other match in the tournament. Junior Mikey Wallace (23-11), who went 19-9 last season and qualified for the IHSA Class 2A Finals, became one of the 10 individuals from the champion Hornets who finished third or better when he recorded a fall in 3:26 over Streamwood freshman Luis Martinez in the third-place match.
120 – Ismael Chaidez, Glenbard East
Ismael Chaidez followed in the footsteps of teammate Waleed Binmahfooz and became one of the three champions for Glenbard East when he captured a 10-6 decision over Lisle Senior’s Alexander Ferari in the 120 championship match. Chaidez (27-3), a sophomore who went 31-12 last season and fell a bit short of qualifying from the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional, like Binmahfooz, also added to a Newbill Invite title from one week earlier. He earned his spot on the 120 title mat with a fall in 1:33 over Hinsdale South’s Mario Lagunas in the semifinals.
“I have really strong hips and we all work hips in the Glenbard East room,” Chaidez said. “Hips are a big thing, especially for Waleed, he teaches me a lot. We all came out strong and we were trying to push today. At first we came in with the idea of winning and we found some tough opponents, but we’re still coming through. I feel like we all come together and we all support each other. We’re all just a big family. My coaches always push us and they’re like family. It’s always tough with back-to-back tough teams, but I feel like we’re always up for the battle.”
Alexander Ferari (21-4), a sophomore who was one of two finalists for the host Lions, reached the 120 title match after capturing a 6-4 decision over Evergreen Park’s Angel Ramirez in the semifinals. A year ago, Ferari went 30-10 but he like many others, came up a bit short in his efforts to advance out of the Class 1A Oregon Sectional. The two semifinal losers bounced back with victories to meet up in the third-place match and Mustangs junior Angel Ramirez (17-4) won by fall in 1:35 over Hornets freshman Mario Lagunas.
126 – Chance Woods, Evergreen Park
Not only was Chance Woods one of the six finalists and four champions for coach Ron Zimmerman’s runner-up Evergreen Park Mustangs at Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Memorial Tournament, he also was the recipient of the event’s Outstanding Wrestler Award after claiming the championship at 126 with a fall in 2:54 over Walther Christian Academy’s Caleb Peterson. Woods (27-2), a sophomore, earned his spot on the title mat after recording a fall in 2:58 over Mooseheart junior Jaime Briceno in the semifinals. Last season, Woods made an impressive debut for the Mustangs by going 31-12 and qualifying for the IHSA Class 2A Finals.
“We’ve been training pretty hard and the fact is that we’re trying to hone in our moves,” Woods said. “I think we could be a little higher, but right now, we’re doing pretty good. We beat Lemont at the beginning of the year and I think that was the first time we beat them in over five years. They (the coaches) want us to hone in on our one and two moves and just being really focused on good positioning. And they’re pushing us pretty hard, too. I think that we all push each other. If someone is down, we’re like, ‘come on, let’s go’. If you’re running slow, you’ve got to run faster, and I think we do a pretty good job on that. We’re winning and we’re having fun doing it.”
Caleb Peterson (17-6), a junior and the lone medalist for coach Tim Eberhard’s Walther Christian Academy Broncos, only needed nine seconds to record a fall in the 126 semifinals over Aurora Central Catholic’s Matt Gaylor. Last season, Peterson went 32-13 and fell one win shy of advancing to the IHSA Class 1A Finals from the Coal City Sectional. Gaylor responded to his quick semifinals loss to capture a 6-5 decision over Westmont junior Christian Rosa (11-9) for third place. The pair also met in the quarterfinals with Gaylor winning 11-9 by sudden victory.
132 – Uli Rojas, Streamwood
Uli Rojas is quick to admit that he probably didn’t deserve to be brought up to the Streamwood varsity when he was a sophomore. But as the Sabres senior reflects back on some of the tough losses that he took, it seems to have paid off for him after he was able to stand on top of the awards stand with a bracket board for the first time in his varsity career as the result of his 11-8 decision over Argo’s Carlos Gutierrez in the 132 title match. Rojas (13-5), one of two finalists and the lone champion for coach Bill Peach’s Sabres, reached the finals with two decisions, with the last of those a 7-2 win over Evergreen Park’s Adrian Cervantes in the semifinals.
“It was very tough,” Rojas said. “I was so tired, all I was thinking about was the win and I didn’t know if I could do it but I pulled through. This was my first ever first-place win. It’s my last year so I feel like it’s a good achievement, this is what I’ve wanted since my freshman year. I was always looking at the seniors getting first place and now it’s finally happened. Last year there were probably about 30 kids and this year we have 70 or 80, so there’s a lot of kids and we have a girls team, so that’s good. From when I started, I was so bad. They put me on varsity my sophomore year but I don’t think I was ready for it and I lost a lot but I learned a lot, too.”
Sophomore Carlos Gutierrez (12-11), who entered the competition with a 10-10 record, was the lone finalist and one of four medal winners for coach Matthew McMurray’s Argonauts. After opening with a major decision, Gutierrez won a 10-5 decision over Lisle Senior’s Adam Drake in the semifinals. The two individuals who lost in the semifinals met for third place and Mustangs sophomore Cervantes (20-7) won by fall in 4:33 over Lisle Senior freshman Drake (15-7).
138 – Ashton Gray, Evergreen Park
While many of his Evergreen Park teammates competed in the regional and some of those advanced to the Hinsdale South Sectional and then on to Champaign a year ago, Ashton Gray hopes that he can be a part of this year’s postseason team that not only wants to get individuals through the sectional and back to state, but the Mustangs would like to be in the mix among those that are vying for spots in the IHSA Dual Team Finals, something the program did just once, in 1993. Gray (21-10), a junior, did his part on Saturday as he was one of his team’s four champions after edging Hinsdale South’s Al Amir Almannai 3-2 in the 138 title match. Gray opened with a fall and won a 10-5 decision over Westmont’s Joseph Salerno in the semifinals.
“I met the guy from Hinsdale South at our home mega dual and I won that match,” Gray said. “They’ve been great competition for us and there were a lot of tough matches today. In my second match, I got elbowed in the mouth and started to bleed. So I just had to wrestle smart and just listen to my coaches. I trust them when I go on the mat and one of them wrestled DI at Purdue. Our main goal this season is that we want to get to super Tuesday and we want to win team state. We believe that we have the firepower this year. I would definitely say that it’s our bonds together outside of the practice room. After multiple meets, we’ve got out and had team meals and it’s about building that family sense because it truly does strengthen you. It feels great to be a part of this and I hope that even after I graduate that we keep getting better.”
Al Amir Almannai (14-10) was one of eight Hornets who advanced to the title mat and just missed being a title winner in the competition. He reached the finals with a fall in 1:06 over Glenbard East’s Jesus Chaidez in the semifinals. A year ago he qualified for the sectional at his school. In the third-place match at 138, Glenbard East’s Chavez (16-16), a senior, won a 12-2 major decision over Argo senior Kevin Bustillos (21-7) in a rematch of the quarterfinals match, which Chaidez also won with a 12-2 major decision.
144 – David Johnson, Evergreen Park
One year ago, David Johnson was one of 12 Mustangs who qualified for the Class 2A Hinsdale South Sectional and finished 28-13. Now he and the other six individuals who were sectional qualifiers look for even better success there as Evergreen Park hopes to have more than four individuals advance to the IHSA Finals. Johnson (30-2) already has more wins than he had last season after getting past Streamwood’s Juan Cortez 7-5 in the 144 title match. Opening with a fall, he captured a 7-6 decision in the semifinals over Lisle Senior’s Johnny Consuegra Lopez.
“We just work hard and keep going,” Johnson said. “We listen to the coaches and trust the coaches. They’re really passionate about what they do and we just feed off of that. Whatever they do and whatever they say, that’s what we do. This year we’ve had a lot of first-place winners. (Placing at state) That should be a goal for me and a lot of other guys. I really do like our coaches because of how passionate about the sport they are and how they trust us and how they want us to succeed.”
Juan Cortez (16-6), a junior who was one of two finalists and five medalists for Streamwood, won a pair of decisions to reach the 144 title match, with the second of those being an 11-5 win over Nazareth Academy’s Andrew Fowler in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Westmont junior Mission Hatchell (15-11) won a 10-5 decision over Northridge Prep sophomore George McShane (17-9). Hatchell lost to Johnson in the quarterfinals and then got two pins to reach the third-place mat. McShane lost to Cortez in the quarterfinals and also won his next two matches, edging Lisle Senior freshman Johnny Consuegra Lopez 6-5 to get to the third-place match.
150 – Andrew Musil, Hinsdale South
After going 32-9 last season but falling one shy win shy of a trip to the IHSA Class 2A Finals at his own sectional, Andrew Musil hopes to cap his senior season at Hinsdale South by being a state qualifier and faring well in Champaign. He’s off to a 25-5 start and was one of the four title winners and eight finalists for the champion Hornets after capturing the 150 title with a fall in 3:05 over Nazareth Academy’s Ben Lukes. Musil won first-period falls in his other two matches, recording a pin in 1:54 in the semifinals over Argo’s Diego Reynoso.
“It was an excellent tournament,” Musil said. “We’re a very tight-knit team and we act like a family. I was across the room, screaming for my teammate, we grew up together and we’ve been wrestling since fifth grade at Eisenhower. I feel what makes a good team into a great team is when you have those outside of the mat room relationships if you grew up together or you just know the guys. I love my coaches. Mister Matozzi has been working here forever and he knows his stuff and a strong thing that he does well is that he disciplines us and that he makes us who we are today. This is a lot of our senior years so I’m super excited to see how our season turns out.”
Ben Lukes (17-7), a sophomore who was the lone finalist and one of two medal winners for Nazareth Academy, won two decisions to advance to the 150 finals, claiming a 10-3 win over Streamwood senior Noah Rodriguez in the semifinals. Glenbard East’s Donte Hudson (9-19) and Westmont junior Sean Patterson (14-10) took long routes to the third-place match, where Hudson won a 10-2 major decision. Hudson lost his opener to Rodriguez and then won his next four matches while Patterson lost to Rodriguez in the quarterfinals and then won his next two matches, edging Argo’s Diego Reynoso to reach the third-place match.
157 – Ben Miller, Hinsdale South
It’s not very often that you see three brothers who are competing on the same team, but that’s the case for Hinsdale South’s Alec, Andrew and Ben Miller. And it’s especially unusual to see three brothers competing on the title mat in the same event, but that’s also what happened at Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Memorial Tournament when all three Millers made the finals and freshman Ben and senior Alec won titles while senior Andrew took second. Ben Miller improved to 20-9 after recording a fall in 2:59 over Lisle Senior’s David Skonieczny in the 157 finals. The freshman advanced with two falls, including in 1:44 in the semifinals over Argo’s Darell Ortiz.
“I have five other brothers, so that’s six in total,” Ben Miller said. “It’s fun because I get to wrestle them some times and they’re both going for first now. We have a lot of seniors and four people who went to state last year. We all have fellowship and we all get along. And we’re all good wrestlers.”
David Skonieczny (19-10), a sophomore, was one of the two finalists and four medal winners for coach Brandon Wolak’s Lions. Despite the inclement weather, Lisle Senior was able to hold its annual tournament that’s named for a former Lisle wrestler who died in 1986 at the age of 16 shortly after being hit by a car. Skonieczny won his only other match, in the semifinals, when he recorded a fall in 1:07 over Streamwood’s Jeff Li. In the third-place match, Glenbard East’s Leo Mundinger (14-11) won by fall in 1:32 over Argo’s Darell Ortiz, in a rematch of the quarterfinals where Ortiz won with a pin in 1:14. Mundinger responded by winning his final three matches.
165 – Jon Suter, Northridge Prep
Jon Suter went 20-4 a year ago and came close to advancing out of the Class 1A Coal City Sectional, but instead suffered half of his losses in that competition. Now as a senior, he hopes not only to advance to the IHSA Class 1A Finals and do something that no one at Northridge Prep has ever done in the sport, and that is to be a state medalist. He’s already surpassed last season’s win total and improved to 25-2 after winning by fall in 3:31 over Hinsdale South’s
Darrion Glover in the 165 title match. One of two finalists and three medalists for coach Joseph Rhee’s Knights, Suter won by fall in 4:37 over Glenbard East’s Aaron Dotson in the semifinals.
“Last year was my real competition,” Suter said. “Two years before that it was COVID and then the second year I was JV because I switched schools. I was happy with my performance tonight. I couldn’t say that about several other tournaments that I’ve been to, so it does feel good. We started our program about six years ago and I joined in my sophomore year. It’s run by one family, the Kopeckys, he’s our coach right now, Bill Kopecky, and his nephew was the team captain for four years in a row. We’ve been growing this program very well and I’m hoping that we’re going to do good next year. It’s the culture there because it’s a real small school. You’re real close with all of your teachers and all of the teachers are really interesting people. And our wrestling, all it’s about is our coaches are trying to teach us about how to be men. I’m so impressed with my coaches.”
Darrion Glover (13-11), a junior who was one of eight finalists for the champion Hornets, recorded two falls to reach the 165 title mat, winning in the semifinals with a pin in 1:35 over Evergreen Park senior Andrew Viravec. The two individuals who lost in the semifinals met for third and Glenbard East’s Aaron Dotson (14-16) won by fall in 3:25 over Viravec (21-11).
175 – Jovani Piazza, Hinsdale South
Jovani Piazza has enjoyed a very impressive run of tournament success this season and the Hinsdale South senior hopes to continue that into the postseason. He won his second title at Lisle’s Steve Melichar Tournament and has been in the top-three in all five of his tournaments and reached the title mat four times. He improved to 22-4 after winning the title at 175 with a fall in 5:38 over Northridge Prep’s Adam Haddad. He became one of the champion Hornets’ eight finalists when he got his second of three pins, a fall in 2:00 over Streamwood’s Gabe Inorio. After going 28-5 last season and qualifying for the IHSA Class 2A Finals, he hopes along with many of his teammates that one of them will become the program’s first medalist since 2016.
“Wrestling 3A schools helps so much more than just wrestling 2A schools,” Piazza said. “We have a really good team. And it helps a lot when you see the rest of your team win, because then you have to win. We started young and half of our starters are from our middle school, Eisenhower Middle School. And every day is a hard practice with them. All of our coaches are great. Coach (Steve) Matozzi has been here for a long time and we have two new coaches who are great, coach (Tony) Poro has been here for three years and I feel that he’s a great coach. We give it all for the entire match.”
Adam Haddad (21-4) was one of two finalists for Northridge Prep. The Knights junior went 22-9 last year and fell one shy of advancing from the Class 1A Coal City Sectional. He’s hoping the he and 165-pound title winner Jon Suter can advance to the state finals and try to become the first individuals from the Niles school to earn a medal in Champaign. Haddad earned his spot in the 175 finals with a fall in 1:30 over Argo’s Joe Nieto. In the third-place match, Streamwood junior Gabe Inorio (7-2) recorded a fall in 4:43 over Glenbard East’s Orlando Hoye.
190 – Alec Miller, Hinsdale South
Alec Miller joined his brother Ben (157) as a champion at Lisle’ Steve Melichar Tournament after edging Evergreen Park’s Genesis Ward 1-0 in the 190 finals. But the family missed out on having three brothers win titles when Andrew Miller fell at 215. Despite that, Alec Miller (23-6) had a lot to be excited about after his Hornets won four titles and had eight finalists to easily win the team title. The Hinsdale South senior, who advanced to the 190 title mat with a fall in 1:59 over Streamwood’s Jace Woods, went 27-11 last year and qualified for the IHSA Class 2A Finals. He not only hopes to challenge for a state medal, but also will do his best to try to help the Hornets’ program earn a trip to the IHSA Dual Team Finals for the first time in its history.
“I’m a twin and he’s a triplet,” Alec Miller said of brothers Andrew and Ben. “So having three of us in the finals was really cool. We’re hoping that there’s a lot to look forward to. We want to win regionals, and we have a good shot at winning regionals. Ninety percent of our team comes from the same middle school, Eisenhower. It’s amazing and it’s really good to know your guys before high school. All three of our team captains won titles.”
Like Alec Miller, Genesis Ward (27-4) is very excited about how things are going for his team, Evergreen Park. He earned his spot as one of the Mustangs’ six finalists after getting a fall in 4:37 in the semifinals over Argo’s Jacob Fries. Ward, a junior, came up a bit short of qualifying from the Class 2A Hinsdale South Sectional last season, so he’d naturally like to not only get to Champaign but also help his team to earn a spot to the IHSA Dual Team Finals, something that Evergreen Park has only done once before, in 1993. In the third-place match, Streamwood junior Jace Wolf (19-5) won by fall in 4:57 over Argo senior Jacob Fries (16-12).
215 – Eduardo Antunez, Evergreen Park
Eduardo Antunez hopes that the third time’s the charm for him as far as IHSA Class 2A Finals appearances are concerned. The two-time state qualifier from Evergreen Park looks to cap his senior season with some victories in Champaign after winning once in first two trips. Antunez went 33-11 last year and is now 28-1, with his lone loss coming when he had bronchitis, after his fall in 3:13 over Hinsdale South’s Andrew Miller in the 215 finals. He advanced to that match with a 13-4 win over Glenbard East’s Gus Winkler. This was his second title with the other at Pontiac. Beside hoping to become his school’s first IHSA medalist since 1996, he’d like to see the Mustangs make their first IHSA Dual Team Finals appearance since their lone trip in 1993.
‘Since I was a sophomore, I’ve been starting on varsity and each year it’s just progressively gotten better and I can say confidently that this is our best year,” Antunez said. “We’re 22-1 right now in duals. Definitely it’s been conditioning and offseason wrestling. This year I went ahead and did Beat the Streets in the spring. It put me into wrestling shape, and I feel that’s one thing I feel I’ve gotten out of due to track and field. I like our chemistry. We’re very honest with each other. We can tell each other to improve upon and to not to do next time. That helps a lot to hear from peers on how to improve.”
Andrew Miller (13-8) was hoping to join his brothers Alec (at 190) and Ben (at 157) as title winners but he’ll settle for being one of Hinsdale South’s eight finalists who helped their team to easily capture the championship of the Melichar Tournament, adding to an early season title at their own Matozzi Invite. He earned his trip to the 215 finals by recording a fall in 3:53 over Westmont sophomore Rafael Castrejon-Tello, who later would get pinned in 2:21 by Glenbard East’s Gus Winkler (20-12) in the third-place match.
285 – Cooper Conliss, Glenbard East
While early title wins by Waleed Binmahfooz and Ismael Chaidez might not have come as much of a surprise to Glenbard East supporters, Cooper Conliss’ championship in the late stages of the medal round may have caught some off guard since he entered the tournament with a 15-15 record. But it’s not how you start but how you finish and Conliss (18-15) is obviously feeling good about being one of the Rams’ three champions and helping his team to a third-place finish after getting a fall in 4:48 over Hinsdale South’s Gavin Slaughter in the 285 finals. He opened with a fall and then won 3-2 on an ultimate tiebreaker over Evergreen Park’s Gerald O’Hare.
“It’s extremely exciting seeing the hard work that I’ve had this season pay off, especially since I’m undersized and only 225 pounds,” Conliss said. “I think that’s what my biggest strength is, my athleticism and my speed. It’s a testament to my coaches, the work that we do with conditioning, it’s a tough practice but I think that gets me ready for tournaments. I think I’ve really improved this year. Toward the beginning of the year, I wasn’t as sound or as conditioned as I am now. And it’s a lot of fun to come out and compete and I like winning more than losing. I like our chemistry, it’s a lot of fun. No one is dreading coming to practice and we like each other and that makes it easier to come and be excited and get ready to work and I think that’s our biggest strength as a team.”
Gavin Slaughter (12-10) typified the true team effort by the champion Hornets, who claimed top honors in Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Memorial Tournament by a 205.5-169.5 margin over Evergreen Park. The Hinsdale South junior, who reached the 285 title mat with a fall in 1:42 over Lisle Senior junior Ramon Ortega, was one of eight finalists and 11 individuals who finished fourth or better for coach Steve Matozzi’s Hornets, which should give them plenty of confidence as they prepare for the Class 2A Lemont Regional and its own Class 2A sectional in Darien. For third, Evergreen Park senior Gerald O’Hare (21-4) won by fall in 2:28 over Ortega.
Title matches for Lisle Senior’s Steve Melichar Memorial Tournament
106 – Vince Hefke (Aurora Central Catholic) MD 11-0 Lorenz Rios Loud (Glenbard East)
113 – Waleed Binmahfooz (Glenbard East) F 3:19 Johan Bonilla (Evergreen Park)
120 – Ismael Chaidez (Glenbard East) D 10-6 Alexander Ferari (Lisle Senior)
126 – Chance Woods (Evergreen Park) F 2:54 Caleb Peterson (Walther Christian Academy)
132 – Uli Rojas (Streamwood) D 11-8 Carlos Gutierrez (Argo)
138 – Ashton Gray (Evergreen Park) D 3-2 Al Amir Almannai (Hinsdale South)
144 – David Johnson (Evergreen Park) D 7-5 Juan Cortez (Streamwood)
150 – Andrew Musil (Hinsdale South) F 3:05 Ben Lukes (Nazareth Academy)
157 – Ben Miller (Hinsdale South) F 2:59 David Skonieczny (Lisle Senior)
165 – Jon Suter (Northridge Prep) F 3:31 Darrion Glover (Hinsdale South)
175 – Jovani Piazza (Hinsdale South) F 5:38 Adam Haddad (Northridge Prep)
190 – Alec Miller (Hinsdale South) D 1-0 Genesis Ward (Evergreen Park)
215 – Eduardo Antunez (Evergreen Park) F 3:13 Andrew Miller (Hinsdale South)
285 – Cooper Conliss (Glenbard East) F 4:48 Gavin Slaughter (Hinsdale South)
Team scores for Lisle Senior’s Steve Melicar Memorial Tournament
1. Hinsdale South 205.5, 2. Evergreen Park 169.5, 3. Glenbard East 164, 4. Streamwood 76, 5. Argo 60, 6. Lisle Senior 52, 7. Northridge Prep 51, 8. Westmont 45, 9. Aurora Central Catholic 38, 10. Nazareth Academy 31, 11. Walther Christian Academy 23, 12. Mooseheart 8