Hononegah shines at Clint Arlis Invite

By Chris Walker For the IWCOA

Hononegah has its sights set on getting back to state as a team this February.

The Indians already have been there several times before, but not since 2016. They last brought home a trophy 10 years ago when current coach Tyler DeMoss was the state runner-up at 170 and they returned with the fourth place team trophy in Class 3A.

On Saturday they got their work in and a lot of success while they were at it during the Clint Arlis Invitational at Batavia, sending seven wrestlers to the finals and winning six of those championship matches to capture the team title.

“As a whole, seven in the finals and six champs is great,” DeMoss said. “Our back half, the other seven, didn’t place so there’s plenty to work on with those guys. Our top half of the lineup did great. They’re starting to come together as a team, which is super important for the end of the year. We’re about to make our state run and team state run so they are coming together at the right time.

“Our top seven really blew kids out of the water today.”

The Indians (189.5) received their biggest competition from Washington (172.5), Marmion (168.5), Naperville North (147) and Maine South (138).

Rocco Cassioppi won the OWA for the lower weights (106-150) and teammate Brody Sendele was named outstanding wrestler in the upper weights (157-285).

The 14-team field included Perry High School from Gilbert, Ariz., which is where San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy played.

“They had a coach from Illinois and they had the opportunity to reach out late in the summer,” Batavia coach Ryan Farwell said. “Some probably saw snow for the first time. It was a really fun tournament and you get to see the different competition, 2A to 3A and it’s all really good. It’s a tournament we’re really proud of and we competed well today.”

Perry (129) was sixth and followed by Lemont (112.5), host Batavia (98) and Bolingbrook (95.5) and Andrew (95.5), which tied for ninth place.

Downers Grove North (74.5), Jacobs (73), West Chicago (48) and Harlem (20) also competed in an invitational whose start was delayed. It was pushed back two hours to an 11 a.m. start due to the wintry conditions and the challenges presented with a number of the teams having to travel lengthy distances to get to Batavia.

Hononegah junior Connor Diemel found himself in a tight championship battle with Washington senior Cael Miller at 165, but was able to prevail by a 3-2 decision.

Kurt Smith (175) also won by a decision in his title bout for the Indians while Bruno Cassioppi won by major decision, Brody Sendele (157) prevailed by tech fall and Rocco Cassioppi (106) and TJ Silva (132) won by fall.

Jackson Olson (120), Robert Darling (138), Max Aranki (144) and Isaak Smith (215) each collected single wins for Hononegah.

Washington also placed second a year ago while Marmion, which won it last year, took third.

“It was a great tournament,” DeMoss said. “We haven’t seen Marmion all year so it was great to see them and Washington is always a super tough 2A team. and there were a couple other teams in there and some really great individual match-ups today. I’m happy we could make it through the snow and get down here.”

Prior to the championship matches, Batavia assistant coach Tom Arlis thanked the wrestlers, coaches and the fans who had chosen to spend their Saturday with pretty much non-stop wrestling action in the cozy comfort of a packed gymnasium. 

Arlis, who is a member of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame, tragically lost his son Clint two years ago this month. Clint Arlis was a three-time state qualifier and two-time conference champion for the Bulldogs in the early oughts. He wrestled at the University of Illinois where he also was teammates with Mike Poeta who is now the head coach for the Illini. 

“I want to thank Dave Andrews, the athletic director here, and all of the Batavia family which is a close knit group, and the amount of love that was shared after Clint’s passing it was unbelievable from the community, and that goes for everyone that is here. We are all part of the wrestling community. You guys that are wresting now, (and) girls, you are like part of the fraternity now. There were so many wrestlers that had wrestled Clint, all his past coaches, everyone showed up at the wake. It was just unbelievable. He made an impact on a lot of people.

“And not just that, we’re all close. We all went to the same grueling practice. It is the greatest sport on earth if you ask me, I want to welcome everybody here I wish everyone luck and hope you all come back next year.”

After Arlis finished speaking a short pre-recorded message from Poeta was shared.

“Clint was not only a teammate of mine but a great friend of mine, (and) a roommate,’ Poeta said. “And what he did at U of I was nothing short of amazing. He worked so incredibly hard. He was so dedicated and turned himself into a starter at U of I, and not just the guy in the weight class, but a guy to be feared at the weight class. He had a very successful senior year and the last guy I want to see on the other side of that line was Clint Arlis because I knew he was going to bring it. He was all heart and heart is what embodies Clint. And last year we started the Clint Arlis Heart Award and it goes to the hardest working guy on the team who I see in the future being a superstar, a guy that is a huge contributor to the program, and I get a goosebumps even thinking about who got it last year and who gets it this year because they’re such special kids and getting an award based on such a special guy.”

Clint Arlis Invitational champions:

106 – Rocco Cassioppi, Hononegah

Cassioppi wasted little time in his championship win against Jacobs freshman Kristian DeClercq, winning by fall in 1:01.

“It was really good,” he said. “But not everyone wrestled their best. The guys who wrestled good, wrestled very good. Cooper (Diemel at 165) wrestled amazing. He stayed calm through a kind of a bonus call. I thought he wrestled phenomenal.”

The Indians truly have their hearts set on team success.

“We just had some people that didn’t place and we need them to start placing to get more team points,” he said. “We’re going to try to make it to team state and if we’re going to do that we’re going to need everyone to contribute. We need everyone there.”

Perry senior Maximilian Garibay won by decision against Marmion freshman Logan Conniver to win the third place match at 106. Meanwhile, another Marmion freshman, Cole Waller, snuck past Andrew freshman Jerry Donnelly on the fifth-place mat.

113 – Bruno Cassioppi, Hononegah

While Bruno Cassioppi wasn’t able to duplicate what his twin Rocco did at 106 in pinning his opponent, he still won in convincing fashion, earning a 12-4 major decision against Andrew’s Nadeem Haleem.

“It’s been fantastic to come out here as freshmen and do as well as we’ve been doing,” he said. “I think I definitely could’ve done better. I kind of got into my own head in a couple of my matches. I just need to let my offense fly. I think I can do much better.”

Maine South sophomore Brett Harman won by a 4-3 decision over Downers Grove North senior Tyler Tiancgo to take third place. Perry junior Cash LaFlesch won by a 9-2 decision over Bolingbrook’s Isaac Harris for fifth place.

120 – Nicholas Garcia, Marmion

Garcia took down Teddy Flores from Maine South by a 2-1 decision to hand the senior his first loss this season after opening with 33 straight wins.

For Garcia, a sophomore who seriously despises losing, he was driven by personal reasons.

“I really just wanted a shot at him for a personal reason,” he said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I can beat anyone at 120. I want to beat everyone at 113. It hasn’t happened yet, but hopefully one day I can.”

It was a long day for everyone on Saturday with the meet pushed back until a late morning start and awards not ending until around eight o’clock in the evening. That was just adversity that athletes like Garcia really don’t waste their time thinking about, understanding that certain things are simply beyond their control. 

Plus, wrestlers are used to pressure and distractions. It’s how they respond to them that helps define who they are. For Garcia, he focused on his goals, didn’t let anything get in the way of them, and then proceeded to end Flores’ perfect season.

“I really wanted it,” he said. “I didn’t really feel anything. I’ve been under a lot of pressure before – blood rounds, Super 32, Ironman – and so it’s not that I get nervous and stress out. Losing is a fear of mine, I hate losing and you get a little scared but it’s nothing compared to some of the stuff I’ve been through.”

Batavia senior Ino Garcia bounced back after a 3-1 loss to Nicholas Garcia in the semifinals to take third place. Garcia defeated Washington’s Noah Woods by decision on the third-place mat after winning by fall in the consolation semis. In a battle pairing two juniors, Bolingbrook’s Jared Craig won by decision over West Chicago’s Ryan Alvarado to take fifth.

126 – Max Siegel, Andrew

Last year’s champ at 113, Siegel dominated once again this year in the senior’s final appearance at the Arlis Invite. Siegel fought for a major decision win over Naperville North’s Ben Messier for the title. Last year he won by fall against Batavia’s Ino Garcia for the title. Garcia finished in third place at 120 this year.

On the third-place mat, Perry’s Adis Wesson ensured he’d leave Illinois with a win in his final match at Batavia, scoring a win by fall over Maine South’s Jack Handley. In the battle for fifth place, Batavia sophomore Kyle Pasco slipped by West Chicago freshman Israel Milazzo by a 6-5 decision.

132 – Thomas (T.J.) Silva, Hononegah

Returning to action for the first time in a while after being sidelined with an injury, Silva (14-4) won by fall over Washington’s Timmy Smith (22-13) for the 132 title.

Marmion senior Donny Pigeon won by a 2-1 decision over Maine South junior Luke Morrison to take third place while Perry senior Ferrin Goldstein prevailed by disqualification against Lemont senior Carter Mikolajczak.

138 – Wyatt Medlin, Washington

Medlin (33-4) won by fall over Naperville North’s Tyler Sternstein for the 138 title. A tech fall victory over West Chicago’s Donovan Avila in the semis got him to the finals, while in his other match he also won by fall in less than a minute.

Avila was one of three West Chicago wrestlers to place. He was also the Wildcats most successful one, winning by decision against Lemont’s Cory Zator to take third place. Meanwhile, on the fifth-place mat, Downers Grove North’s Caden Chiarelli won by fall against Harlem’s Ethan Hagerman.

144 – Ashton Hobson, Marmion

Hobson (26-5) outlasted his opponents throughout the tournament. After opening with a win by tech fall against Andrew’s Luis Cabral, the sophomore won three straight matches by decision, including an 8-7 win against Batavia senior Aidan Huck.

“This doesn’t mean too much, it’s just another step,” Hobson said. “All my matches were pretty tough and I kind of fought through it and did the best I could.”

As for Huck, it was his second straight year of falling by a slim margin in the finals. Last year he dropped a 9-7 decision in the 126 final.

“Aidan Huck is wrestling wrestling really well,” Batavia coach Ryan Farwell said. “I know he wanted that match, but overall Aidan is again one of those guys that is going to compete to be on the podium this February.”

Sophomore Aaron Camacho’s loss to Hobson in the semifinals was just his second defeat of the season. He pushed it aside and bounced back, taking third place with a win by fall against Maine South’s Gavin Hoerr. For fifth place, Washington’s Jonathon Rokey won by fall against fellow senior Cameron Phipps of Perry.

150 – Noah O’Connor, Lemont

O’Connor was beginning to wonder if he and his team would even travel to Batavia and compete.

“We weren’t sure if we were even going to wrestle today with all the snow,” he said. “I was making weight yesterday and I wasn’t sure if they were just going to cut it off without doing it.”

While he couldn’t control the weather, he certainly could control how he wrestled and it was business as usual for the senior.

“In terms of the mental game, I just like to think of every match as the same,” he said. “I’m not thinking about the outcome, about winning or losing, I’m just thinking abut wrestling my hardest throughout the match. Whether it’s a kid who is unranked or a kid that is ranked higher than me, I want to warm up the same way, prepare myself before the match the same way and try to just go all out even if they’re way worse than me. If they’re way worse than me I’ll cut them and keep getting takedowns and either way try to use up my whole gas tank to make it better.”

He improved to 33-3 with a 6-2 decision over over Rockton Hononegah’s Max Haskins to capture the 150 title.

“I felt pretty dominant throughout the match,” O’Connor said,. “He had a takedown first period but it was like a takedown on the edge of the mat so it was debatable and nothing besides that. And in the first period at the end I was able to get a reversal which was pretty critical, because if it would’ve been close that tied it at the end of the first period. I was able to escape and ride him out second period and ride out for all the third period so I felt pretty dominant that match.”

O’Connor had placed at Hinsdale Central’s Rex Whitlatch Invitational about a month ago, but didn’t win it.

“That was a really tough tournament and I took fourth,” he said. “So it felt good to win this one.”

Bolingbrook’s Marcus Poe took care of his foe from downstate to win third place at 150. Poe, a junior, won by fall against Washington senior Tyler Brown. Over on the fifth-place mat, Downers Grove North senior Antonio Manzo scored a major win over Marmion freshman Grayson Garcia.

157 – Brody Sendele, Hononegah

Sendele (34-1) was one of three freshmen to go home with titles for the Indians after he won by tech fall against Perry’s Jayden Kimling.

Sophomores squared off for third place at 157 with Bolingbrook’s Tommy McDermott winning by fall against Washington’s Cruise Trolley. In the fifth-place match, Naperville North junior Nick Oblazny won by a tiebreaker against Marmion senior Christian Favia.

165 – Connor Diemel, Hononegah

Diemel was thrilled to see six of his teammates also join him in title bouts. Afterwards the junior was impressed with their dominance in the finals as they won six of seven title matches.

“Once I heard we were starting (the finals) at 150, we were all pumped up because we were ready to go four champions in a row,” he said. “Max Haskins (150) wrestled a great tournament but didn’t quite get it done (in the title match) but wrestled good. It was really cool when we were doing the walkouts and we had a whole line of guys on the left side of the first place match.”

Diemel (32-4) earned a 3-2 decision to defeat Washington senior Cael Miller (26-9).

“I wish I would’ve put up a few more points in the match and make it not quite as close,” Diemel said. “I feel like I could’ve opened up my offense a bit more.”

Naperville North senior Matas Budreika won by decision against Jacobs seniors Daniel Mendez for third place at 165 while Lemont’s Nico LoCoco won by fall over Maine South’s Aidan Swenson for fifth.

175 – Kurt Smith, Hononegah

Smith (27-8) earned a 9-3 decision over Naperville North senior Kyle Gatlin (17-7) to win at 175.

Marmion sophomore Vincenzo Testa was one of three Cadets to win a third-place match, defeating Washington senior Zane Hulet by fall, while Jacobs sophomore Johnathan Strauss won by decision against Andrew junior Jordan Wandick.

190 – Ben Brown, Batavia

Brown lost early in last year’s tournament to Downers Grove North’s Griff Keown before rebounding to place fifth at 195.

He didn’t forget it.

“There was a sour taste last year,” Brown said. “I didn’t come out right and this year I made sure I did.”

Brown left the Arlis as its lone undefeated wrestler on the season, improving to 24-0 after a 9-2 decision against Naperville North’s Matt Murphy.

“He’s turning himself into a very solid wrestler and he keeps putting these competitions, these tough competitions, together,” Bulldogs coach Ryan Farwell said. “He’s showing he’s one of the top guys in the state.”

Brown watched Murphy’s previous match and used that brief bit of scouting to help him earn yet another win.

“He was almost getting majored and then threw his kid,” Brown said. “I knew I wanted to stay away from there and at the end of the match he tried to throw me and I kind just slipped him, sagged my hips. I knew I had to stay away from that stuff and just get to what works for me and get to my attacks and just wear hm down.”

Good wins along the way have only fed into his confidence which is growing by the day.

“I had some good wins in a Granite City tournament down in Southern Illinois,” he said. “So I’ve had good competition and I feel like I’ve gotten into good situations and good matches that have prepared me. I’m just looking to build and see how far this can take me.”

Over on the third-place mat, Lemont’s Daniel Taylor outscored Perry’s Ethan Austin for a win by decision while Austin’s teammate, Aidan Goodman won by fall over Maine South’s Tommy Behzad for fifth place.

215 – Joseph Favia, Marmion

A year after winning at 195 by a 2-1 decision, Favia moved up to 215 this year where he also won by a single point, surviving fellow sophomore Josh Hoffer from Washington, 3-2.

Coincidentally, by the same 3-2 score as Favia’s win over Hoffer, Naperville North sophomore Tariq Ibragimov beat Andrew junior Joseph Zimmer for third place while Perry senior Bo Hall prevailed by forfeit over Batavia junior Asher Sheldon.

285 – Alex Pasquale, Lemont

Pasquale and Maine South’s Tyler Fortis have run into each other at football camps and since they both play defensive tackle and also wrestle, they’ve had the opportunity to form a friendship of sorts despite their respective schools being 30 miles away

“You can be friends off the mat but as soon as that whistle blows, that’s their enemy in front of you,” Pasquale said. “You’ve got to take them down.”

Pasquale took the heavyweight title with a 2-1 win. Last year Pasquale placed third.

“That was a tough match and Tyler is always a great competitor,” Pasquale said. “I’ve been to football camp with him. We play the same position and I’ve wrestled him the two past years so we know each other quite well. It’s always a good time wrestling him, he’s a tough competitor.”

Pasquale said the victory starts by the work in the room.

“It always starts in the room,” he said. “Every day you’ve got to be able to practice. You’ve got to be able to put the time in and grind. If it’s hard, put your head down and just lick your lips and say, ‘I want this,’ and keep going after it.”

Marmion junior Mateusz Nycz won by fall over Bolingbrook’s Isaac Amos for third place while Washington sophomore Sean Thornton won by fall over Perry junior Braidi Glascock for fifth place.

Top individual statistics:

Most pins, least time – 4 in 15:55 by Perry’s Aidan Goodman

Most tech falls, least time – 2 in 7:42 by Marmion’s Donny Pignoni

Most pins/tech falls, least time – 4 in 11:34 by Marmion’s Vincenzo Testa

Fastest tech fall – 2:40 by Hononegah’s Bruno Cassioppi

Most team points – (tie) 28 by Hononegah’s Rocco Cassioppi and Hononegah’s Thomas Silva

Most single-match points – 26 by Andrew’s Max Siegel

Most total match points – 68 by Andrew’s Max Siegel

Championship matches for the Clint Arlis Invitational at Batavia (Jan 13, 2024):

106 – Rocco Cassioppi (Hononegah) F 1:01 Kristian DeClercq (Jacobs)

113 – Bruno Cassioppi (Hononegah) MD 12-4 Nadeem Halem (Andrew)

120 – Nicholas Garcia (Marmion) D 2-1 Teddy Flores (Maine South)

126 – Max Siegel (Andrew) MD 17-8 Ben Messier (Naperville North)

132 – Thomas Silva (Hononegah) F 3:12 Timmy Smith (Washington)

138 – Wyatt Medlin (Washington) F 0:48 Tyler Sternstein (Naperville North)

144 – Ashton Hobson (Marmion) D 8-7 Aidan Huck (Batavia)

150 – Noah O’Connor (Lemont) D 6-2 Max Haskins (Hononegah)

157 – Brody Sendele (Hononegah) TF-1.5 4:18 (20-5) Jayden Kimling (Perry)

165 – Connor Diemel (Hononegah) D 3-2 Cael Miller (Washington)

175 – Kurt Smith (Hononegah) D 9-3 Kyle Gatlin (Naperville North)

190 – Ben Brown (Batavia ) D 9-2 Matt Murphy (Naperville North)

215 – Joseph Favia (Marmion) D 3-2 Josh Hoffer (Washington)

285 – Alex Pasquale (Lemont D 2-1 Tyler Forrest (Maine South) 

Third-place matches:

106 – Max Garibay (Perry) D 11-8 Logan Conover (Marmion)

113 – Brett Harman (Maine South) D 4-3 Tyler Tiancgo (DG North)

120 – Ino Garcia (Batavia) D 5-2 Noah Woods (Washington)

126 – Adis Wesson (Perry) F 3:56 Jack Handley (Maine South)

132 – Donny Pignoni (Marmion) D 2-1 Luke Morrison (Maine South)

138 – Donovan Avila (West Chicago) D 10-6 Cory Zator (Lemont)

144 – Aaron Camacho (Bolingbrook) F 0:56 Gavin Hoerr (Maine South)

150 – Marcus Poe (Bolingbrook) F 3:46 Tyler Brown (Washington)

157 – Tommy McDermott (Bolingbrook) F 3:53 Cruise Brolley (Washington)

165 – Matas Budreika (Naperville N) D 9-4 Daniel Mendez (Jacobs)

175 – Vincenzo Testa (Marmion) F 3:44 Zane Hulet (Washington)

190 – Daniel Taylor (Lemont) D 8-6 Ethan Austin (Perry)

215 – Tafiq Ibragimov (Naperville N) D 3-2 Joseph Zimmer (Andrew)

285 – Mateusz Nycz (Marmion) F 3:34 Isaac Amoh (Bolingbrook)

Final team scores: 1. Hononegah (189.5) 2. Washington (172.5) 3. Marmion Academy (168.5) 4. Naperville North (147) 5. Maine South (138) 6. Perry, AZ (129) 7. Lemont (112.5) 8. Batavia (98) 9. Bolingbrook (95.5) 9. Andrew (95.5) 11. Downers Grove North (74.5) 12. Jacobs (73) 13. West Chicago (48) 14. Harlem (20)

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