By Curt Herron
For the IWCOA
The sign of a quality program is that when it experiences some disappointment it usually bounces right back and responds in a positive way to help ease some of the pain.
That’s just what Lockport did over the weekend when it fell just short of winning another conference title but instead came away with a strong tournament showing that should benefit it as it heads into the postseason.
Two days after seeing visiting Lincoln-Way East win its first-ever conference title when it prevailed on criteria for matches won with eight in a 33-33 SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division dual meet, the Porters responded with a quality effort in the Tom Lahey Tournament at Stagg in Palos Hills to capture their first tournament title.
Lockport won four championships and had four second-place finishes to score 251 points, which placed it well ahead of the runner-up Griffins, who finished with 206.5 points. Homewood-Flossmoor edged Lincoln-Way West 176-170 for third while Carl Sandburg took fifth place with 136 points and Lincoln-Way Central was next with 112 points.
Winning titles for coach Josh Oster’s Porters were Keegan Roberson (25-10 at 145), Logan Swaw (25-5 at 152), Brayden Thompson (35-0 at 170) and Andrew Blackburn-Forst (26-5 at 220) while Nore Turner (19-6 at 106), David Vukobratovich (25-8 at 113), Jad Alwawi (17-14 at 126) and Paul Kadlec (26-13 at 160) all placed second. Carlos Munoz-Flores (20-7 at 132) and Logan Kaminski (18-16 at 138) were fourth and Cody Silzer (13-12 at 285) finished sixth.
Thompson, who’s top-ranked at 170 in 3A, continues his impressive debut season with the Porters by remaining unbeaten through 35 matches and winning his fifth tournament title in five attempts, adding to firsts at the Gable Donnybrook, the Dvorak, the Powerade and the Cheesehead. Blackburn-Forst, top-ranked at 220, is in the groove following his standout football season and added to his trip to the finals at the Dvorak with his first title of the season. Roberson, ranked third at 145, also is beginning to perform well after his successful football season and he won his first title of the season and Swaw, who’s ranked eighth at 145, also captured his first title of the season.
“We had a tough one Thursday night so we had a talk afterwards and we discussed some of our shortcomings and we fixed some of those here,” Oster said. “They (East) came to wrestle Thursday and they wrestled hard and they did what they had to do to win. I’m not necessarily mad that we lost since those things happen sometimes. But there were definitely things that we could have done better and we did those better but it wasn’t perfect today.
“As we say every year, it’s about advancement now. The individual advancement from regionals to sectionals, then sectionals to state and team-wise, you have to win the regional to advance to the sectional. It’s how it’s always been, next man up if someone is out and twe he next guy steps in and we’re ready and we kind of build that into the program. And we’re just looking for improvement from everyone and what we do every year is start beating kids that beat us earlier in the year.”
While the Griffins won four-straight regional titles from 2004-07 and advanced to the dual team sectional final in 2004, they had not captured a conference title in the sport.
Only four schools had won SWSC titles with Carl Sandburg winning seven and Lockport five in the Blue Division and Lincoln-Way West winning nine and Lincoln-way Central three in the Red Division. Sandburg also won three combined titles and Lockport won the other since the conference’s initial season of 2005-06.
As a result of the week’s dual meets, there was a shakeup in Rob Sherrill’s IWCOA Class 3A rankings with DeKalb moving up a spot to first and Marist going from fifth to second following a 30-29 victory over Mount Carmel, which dropped from first to third place and Marmion Academy remained fourth.
Coach Kevin Rockett’s Griffins, who had a 20-0 record going into their final dual meet against Lemont, moved up from eighth place to fifth while the Porters dropped from third place to sixth. The rest of the top-10 in the Class 3A rankings show Naperville Central in seventh, St. Charles East in eighth, Yorkville in ninth and McHenry in tenth.
Lincoln-Way East got titles from Dominic Adamo (17-6 at 160) and Connor Lindaur (27-4 at 195), the first championships that each won this season. Tyson Zvonar (29-5 at 120) and Jack Marion (30-3 at 152) finished second while Connor Koehler (15-7 at 126), Ari Zaeske (24-6 at 170) and Gavin Jones (28-1 at 182) all took third place. Domanic Abeja (19-8 at 145) and Alex Knaperek (21-7 at 285) were fourth while Brayden Mortell (21-14 at 113) and Alex Lizak (19-8 at 138) finished fifth.
“We’re all excited about this and we know that this is the time of the year that we need to peak,” Rockett said. “And our schedule has gotten toward this end and that’s kind of how we like it. As a team I think we’re solid up and down in most weight classes and I think what makes us a pretty good dual team. At times, I think that we have to do a little bit better in a tournament setting to get more guys in championship matches and to get those points. Hopefully these two-day tournaments help us prepare for the postseason.”
Leading the way for Homewood-Flossmoor were champions Deion Johnson (30-6 at 106) and Vincent Robinson (24-2 at 132). Robinson, top-ranked at 126, added to his championship at the Ironman with a second title while Johnson, ranked third at 106, also won his second tournament, with the other at Joliet Central to kick off the season. Jermaine Butler (23-6 at 138), Jaydon Robinson (24-5 at 145) and Justin Thomas (26-7 at 220) all finished second for coach Jim Sokoloski’s Vikings.
Lincoln-Way West was led by champion Karter Guzman (26-8 at 126), who captured his first title of the season while Anthony Sherman (24-14 at 195) placed second. Carl Sandburg, the 2020 Lahey title winners, was led by champion Kevin Zimmer (10-0 at 285), who’s ranked third at 285 and added to a title at the Illini Classic one week earlier.
Lincoln-Way Central had two champions, Joey Malito (35-1 at 120) and Conor Smetana (32-4 at 138). It was the third title of the season for Malito, who’s third-ranked at 120 and previously took firsts at Glenbrook South and Lincoln, while Smetana won his first title of the season. Andrew got a title from Trevor Silzer (25-1 at 113), who’s ranked seventh at 113 and added to a first-place effort at Batavia. The other finalist from the SWSC was Bradley-Bourbonnais’ AJ Mancilla (30-4 at 170), who took second place.
The only champion that wasn’t from an SWSC team was Belleville East’s Dominic Thebeau (30-1 at 182). It’s the fourth title in four finals appearances for Thebeau, who’s ranked second in 3A at 182. His other titles were at Mascoutah, Granite City and Geneseo. The top performer for Glenwood was Alex Hamrick (40-2 at 285), who lost to unbeaten Zimmer in a clash of highly-ranked heavyweights. Hamrick, ranked second at 285 in 2A won two other titles this season.
Crystal Lake South’s Shane Moran (24-4 at 182) was edged 5-3 by Thebeau in the 182 finals in a clash between the second-ranked individuals in Class 3A and 2A. And
Hinsdale Central had one placewinner, Cody Tavoso (16-3 at 132), ranked seventh in 3A, who gave H-F’s Robinson a good battle before falling 8-7 in the 132 finals.
There were eight championship matches that were decided by two points or less, beginning with Johnson edging Turner 4-2 at 106 and Silzer claiming a 5-3 victory over Vukobratovich at 113. Guzman prevailed 2-0 over Alwawi at 126 and Vincent Robinson edged Tavoso 8-7 at 132. Then Smetana pulled out a 2-1 win over Butler at 138 and Roberson followed with a 7-6 thriller over Jaydon Robinson at 145. Later, Thebeau edged Moran 5-3 at 182 and Lindaur captured a 4-2 triumph over Sherman at 195.
Thompson (170) and Blackburn-Forst (220) both won their title matches by technical fall and Zimmer (285) recorded the lone fall in the final title match. Malito (120), Swaw (152) and Adamo (160) all won decisions by either five or six points to wrap up their titles.
Zimmer also won Lahey Tournament championships in 2019 and 2020 while Blackburn-Forst and Roberson both captured titles in 2020 and were placewinners in 2019. Adamo won a title in the event after placing second in 2020 and third in 2019. And Bolingbrook’s Joe McDermott claimed fifth place in the tournament for the third time.
Thompson and Blackburn-Forst tied for first in team points with 29.5 apiece while Zimmer had 29. Lindaur, Vincent Robinson, Silzer and Smetana all had 28 points with Thebeau and Roberson collecting 27.5 points with Malito rounding out the top 10 with 27 points. Lincoln-Way West’s Jase Salin (29-11), who finished third at 120, had the most match points with 42, which was one better than Vincent Robinson. Salin also had the two quickest falls, which both required just 18 seconds.
The Lahey Tournament featured the 10 members of the SWSC as well as five other schools, including three from downstate. The event is named for 2001 IWCOA hall of fame inductee Tom Lahey, who was coach at Andrew for 20 years where he won 270 duals and seven SICA titles and six regionals and coached 19 placewinners, including the first four-time Class AA champion, Joey Gilbert, Illinois’ second four-time title winner, with Providence Catholic’s Mark Ruettiger, a longtime Lincoln-Way coach, being the first.
The top three teams in the Lahey Tournament meet again on February 5 in the Class 3A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional, with Lincoln-Way Central and Andrew again in the field, and that event also includes Providence Catholic, Rich Township and Bloom Township, with the champion advancing to the IHSA dual team series.
Lincoln-Way East has finished third or better in all four of its tournaments, winning titles at Wheaton Warrenville South and Niles West and placing third at the Illini Classic behind Marist and No. 8 St. Charles East. This was the Porters’ first title of the season, with their previous best finishes being fourths at more-challenging competitions, the Dvorak and the Cheeshead, and they took fifth at DeKalb’s Flavin duals despite missing four top performers who were at the Powerade in Pennsylvania.
The Porters hope that they have what it takes to advance to team state for the seventh time since Oster succeeded Joe Williams as coach in 2011-12. In the last six years of the dual team series, Lockport has advanced five times, winning three-straight trophies from 2015-17, with that run was capped by a state championship.
While the Homewood-Flossmoor Regional figures to be one of the most competitive in Class 3A, several other teams in the Lahey field also will be in tough regionals in 3A.
Lincoln-Way West, ranked 23rd in 3A, joins Bradley-Bourbonnais and honorable mention teams Joliet West, Minooka and Moline in the Joliet West Regional. Carl Sandburg, Stagg and Bolingbrook will be at the Marist Regional. And Belleville East and Granite City join No. 25 Edwardsville at Quincy. Some of the Lahey matchups may be renewed on February 11-12 since competitors from the H-F, Joliet West and Quincy regionals will meet the qualifiers from Plainfield Central at the Granite City Sectional.
Here’s a look at the champions of the Tom Lahey Tournament, as well as a breakdown of their weight classes:
106 – Deion Johnson, Homewood-Flossmoor
Deion Johnson was happy to be back on top of the awards stand for the first time since his tournament debut for the season on December 4, when he captured a title at Joliet Central’s McLaughlin Classic.
But it’s not like the Homewood-Flossmoor junior hasn’t accomplished anything special since then, as evidenced by his 30-6 record and number three ranking in 3A at 106 that includes seventh-place finishes at two quality competitions, the Ironman and the Powerade, as well as a third at Crown Point’s Carnahan. Johnson followed a fall with a 10-9 semifinals victory over Bradley-Bourbonnais junior Ethan Spacht before capturing the Lahey Tournament title at 106 with a 4-2 victory over Lockport junior Nore Turner.
“I’m very excited, but those losses that I took at the Ironman and Powerade are still on my mind and I’m trying to work better,” Johnson said. “There were real tough people, people ranked across the nation and all of that, so it was good but I don’t really like how I lost there. I love my team. If you see how we work in the room, this wouldn’t be a surprise to you. It’s like a family, everybody clicks, and that’s what I love about this team.”
Turner (19-6, tenth in 3A), whose best tournament showing had been a sixth-place finish at the Cheesehead, earned his spot as one of Lockport’s eight finalists after recording a fall in his opener and then capturing an 11-7 semifinals victory over Andrew sophomore Max Siegel (19-2, second in 3A), who entered the tournament with a 17-0 record, but also lost his next match 4-3 to Sandburg freshman Rocco Hayes (21-11) and then had to injury default in the fifth-place match to Lincoln-Way West senior Matt Soltis.
Spacht (22-2, sixth in 3A), bounced back from his tough semifinals defeat to capture a 6-0 victory over Hayes to take third place. Soltis (26-12) responded to his quarterfinals loss to Turner with a major decision and a win by technical fall in the consolation bracket before falling 6-0 to Spacht, who like Soltis had won two previous tournaments.
113 – Trevor Silzer, Andrew
A competitor has to be feeling pretty good about how things have been going when they reach this point of the season with two tournament titles to their credit and just one overtime loss, and that’s just what Trevor Silzer has accomplished thus far .
The Andrew junior, who’s ranked seventh in Class 3A, added to a title at Batavia with a championship of a tournament named after an IWCOA hall of fame coach at his school. Silzer improved to 25-1 after claiming a 5-3 title victory at 113 over Lockport senior David Vukobratovich. The Thunderbolts’ champion earned his spot in the finals with two first-period falls, including one in 1:47 over Granite City freshman Brenden Rayl in the semifinals. His lone loss is to Lincoln-Way Central’s Joey Malito, who won the title at 120.
“It does feel pretty good today,” Silzer said. “Knowing that I had tough competition and I still came out in first place, that feels good. I only have one loss to Joey Malito when I bumped up to face him in a dual. I’m just wrestling hard in the practice room and I had an ego-booster at Batavia by winning that. I have my buddy Max (Siegel), which is tough and I have Casey Griffin also, who’s a good practice partner. And I have my brother Kyle also in the room wrestling with me.”
Vukobratovich (25-8), ranked second in 3A with a runner-up finish in the Dvorak this season, advanced to the title mat with a pair of falls, including one in 3:05 in the semifinals over Sandburg freshman Ryan Hinger (25-8, fifth in 3A), who was coming off of a tournament title a week ago at the Illini Classic. Hinger responded to his loss in the semifinals by capturing a win by technical fall in 1:51 over Rayl (21-8) in the third-place match.
Lincoln-Way East freshman Brayden Mortell (21-14), who got pinned in the quarterfinals by Rayl, went 2-1 in the consolation and claimed a 17-5 major decision in the fifth-place match over Stagg sophomore Anas Ahmed (14-12), who also responded to a quarterfinal pin by Vukobratovich with a pair of wins.
120 – Joey Malito, Lincoln-Way Central
A week after suffering his first loss of the season to Bloomington’s Carson Nishida in the semifinals of the Illini Classic, Joey Malito was focused on not only getting back to the finals in his next tournament, but also winning his third title of the season.
And that’s just what the 35-1 Lincoln-Way Central senior who placed third at the IWCOA finals did when he followed a win by technical fall with a pin in 1:42 in the semifinals over Andrew sophomore Casey Griffin and went on to capture the Lahey title at 120 with a 9-3 win over Lincoln-Way East freshman Tyson Zvonar, adding to title wins at Glenbrook South and Lincoln. Malito also advanced to the finals of the Lahey Tournament in 2020 but took second, losing 3-0 to the eventual state runner-up, Sandburg’s Sammie Hayes.
“I’m super excited right now and I’m looking forward to regionals and the state tournament,” Malito said. “And getting down there is my big goal right now. It’s been fun since this is my last year so I’m just going out and laying it all out there and just trying to have fun and get to the podium. And we have a really good team. I just have to keep working hard at practice and giving it my all. In these type of matches, the tough one, you have to go in with the mentality that I should be there with these kids and I know I can beat them.”
Zvonar (29-5), who advanced to his third tournament finals and was hoping to add to a title win at Wheaton Warrenville South, earned his spot on the title mat with a pair of major decisions, including a 10-2 triumph over Belleville East junior Nick Fetters (12-5) in the semifinals. Lincoln-Way West sophomore Jase Salin (29-11) took an interesting route to the third-place match, where he avenged a quarterfinal loss to Fetters by winning 7-5 in sudden victory. Salin had the two quickest falls at 0:18 and won his final four matches.
After suffering a loss by technical fall to Malito in the quarterfinals, Bolingbrook senior Josh Cruz (17-14) won two of his final three matches to claim fifth place after recording a fall in 4:37 over Griffin (12-7).
126 – Karter Guzman, Lincoln-Way West
Karter Guzman was focused on not only improving on his best showing of the season, a third at Hinsdale Central’s Whitlatch, by advancing to the 126 finals at the Lahey Tournament but he also wanted to collect his first title of the season.
And that’s just what the Lincoln-Way West junior was able to achieve and he certainly also did so in a dramatic fashion as he improved to 26-8 after getting a takedown right before regulation time expired to capture a 2-0 victory over Lockport junior Jad Alwawi in the championship match. Guzman was the only title winner for the Warriors and one of two finalists and advanced to the title mat with a 4-0 semifinals win over Sandburg senior Kasey Kolke.
“I knew that he couldn’t stay with me,” Guzman said. “I just kept going, kept pushing forward and got a shot and scored and that’s how it works. I saw that he was tired and I’m not tired, I don’t get tired, I keep pushing and I got it, and that’s what matters. It’s awesome here and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. Coming in as a freshman, I wasn’t the best but look where I am now, I can go places. I’m going to keep pushing forward and I want to place downstate, and that’s what matters.”
Alwawi (17-14), one of eight Porters to advance to the finals, earned his spot there with a first-period fall in the quarterfinals and then claimed a 6-1 victory over Lincoln-Way East junior Connor Koehler (15-7) in the semifinals. Koehler responded to his loss to Alwawi by recording a fall in the next match and then beating Kolke (15-14) 8-2 to finish third.
Homewood-Flossmoor senior Carter Maclin claimed fifth place at 126 with a 16-3 major decision over Andrew junior Keeghan Oreilly.
132 – Vincent Robinson, Homewood-Flossmoor
It had been awhile since Vincent Robinson had been on top of the awards stand. And even though winning a title at the Lahey Tournament is a big deal for most individuals, when you get the first place medal at the Ironman and finish just ahead of some of Illinois’ best there, then the bar has been set very high.
For the first time since December 11, when the Homewood-Flossmoor junior placed first at 126 with Washington’s Kannon Webster and Mount Carmel’s Sergio Lemley getting the next two medals, Robinson has been focused on not only doing what he achieved in 2020, which was competing in an IHSA title match, but he intends to be on top of the awards stand this year in Champaign. The top-ranked individual in 3A at 126 improved to 24-2 after claiming the Lahey Tournament title at 132 by prevailing 8-7 in a struggle with Hinsdale Central junior Cody Tavoso to cap a day where he recorded falls in his other three matches, including a pin in 2:55 in the semifinals over Granite City junior Dylan Boyd.
“We’ve just started locking in since we already know that the state series is coming up,” Robinson said. “So we just go harder at practice and pushing ourselves more knowing what we need to do to get ready for state. Every time we go up against somebody that’s stronger competition, we just get better because we learn from that. Every match that we wrestle is a learning experience, win or lose. Today in my finals match I was disappointed because it was too close for me. He gave me a little bit of trouble and he was bigger than me, so I’m like, it’s cool, since I’m going back down to 126 for state, so we’re going to get our state title there.”
Tavaso (16-3, seventh at 132), who placed third in the IWCOA and was sixth in 2020 in the IHSA, had a title win at his own Whitlatch and took third at Batavia. He opened with a fall and won a major decision before recording a fall in 2:51 in the semifinals over Glenwood sophomore John Ben Maduena. In the third-place match, Boyd (24-6) won by injury default over Lockport junior Carlos Munoz-Flores (20-6, third at 132), a runner-up at the Gable Donnybrook, lost to Boyd in the quarterfinals and then had three-straight falls.
Bolingbrook senior Joe McDermott (22-9), who won titles at Hinsdale South and Berwyn/Cicero Morton, claimed fifth place for the third time in the tournament after capturing a 6-0 decision over Maduena (25-14, tenth in 2A), who has won a title and been in three finals this season.
138 – Conor Smetana, Lincoln-Way Central
Conor Smetana seemed to be hobbling around a bit after walking off of the championship mat at 138 in the Lahey Invitational, which didn’t seem to bother him a whole lot after what he had just accomplished.
And that was the Lincoln-Way Central senior not only winning his first title of the season in his fourth trip to the finals but also doing so in an event that he competed in the finals as a freshman. Smetana (32-4, eighth at 132) won a 2-1 decision over Homewood-Flossmoor junior Jermaine Butler in the 138 finals that was set up by three-straight first period falls, which included one in 1:58 in the semifinals over Lockport junior Logan Kaminski. Smetana placed second at Glenbrook South, Lincoln and the Illini Classic this season.
“I’ve had a few tough matches and I’ve been working on it in the practice room and I’m just getting better every day,” Smetana said. “It’s just great to have the energy in the room with the coaches always pushing you and your teammates always getting on you to get better every day. I was 0-3 in finals and I used that as motivation. I haven’t wrestled since freshman year so getting back in the room just messed with my head so I knew that I had to work 10 times harder than everyone in the room to get here.”
Butler (23-6), who was appearing in his first tournament finals since early December at Joliet Central and was seeking his initial title, won his first two matches by technical fall and then captured a 5-3 semifinals victory over Belleville East junior Warren Zeisset (19-7). In the third-place match between the two individuals who fell in the semifinals, Zeisset recorded a fall in 4:25 to give him his best tournament finish of the season, something that Kaminski also achieved.
After falling 3-2 in the quarterfinals to Kaminski, Lincoln-Way East freshman Alex Lizak (19-8) recorded three falls in four consolation matches to claim fifth place with a pin in 1:43 over Granite City freshman Braden Kelly (19-16), who responded to a quarterfinal loss to Butler with a fall and major decision before dropping his last two matches.
145 – Keegan Roberson, Lockport
Keegan Roberson admitted that it took him a while to bounce back from an extended football season in which he was a starting receiver for a Porters squad that went 13-1 and captured the Class 8A title for the school’s third championship in the sport and its first since 2003.
After facing quality competition at the Gable Donnybrook, Powerade and Cheesehead, where he placed between fifth and seventh, the senior who was second in the IWCOA hopes to make a deep run in two more state series, the individual finals and dual team state. Roberson (25-10, third at 145) got falls in his first two matches and won by technical fall in the semifinals over Lincoln-Way East sophomore Domanic Abeja. Then in the 145 finals, he captured a 7-6 win over Homewood-Flossmoor sophomore Jaydon Robinson.
“Coming out of football and missing the first couple of weeks, I was definitely not where I needed to be with my gas tank,” Roberson said. “So we’ve been working a lot harder in the room. In the first couple weeks of practice we were slacking off and messing around the whole entire time, kind of like knowing that we were going to win. But we got smacked in the mouth and we needed that. Now we’re working harder and harder and the coaches are definitely getting on us now. At first I was going to quit football, but then they were like do it since you’re not going to get worse at wrestling. So I took the shot and we won and I’m definitely glad I did since I had some good catches in the state game.”
Robinson (24-5, fourth at 145) advanced to his second final but wasn’t able to add to his early-season title win at Joliet Central. After recording a fall in the quarterfinals, Robinson claimed an 11-3 major decision in the semifinals over Glenwood junior Aden Byal (33-6). The two individuals who fell in the semifinals met up for third place with Byal capturing a 9-2 win to give him his fourth-straight tournament where he finished third or better while Abeja has placed fourth or better in all four of his tournaments.
Two juniors named Tyler met up in the fifth place match with Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Tyler Starr (26-12) getting the better of Lincoln-Way West’s Tyler Mansker (16-20) by an 8-1 score. Starr bounced back from a 4-3 quarterfinal loss to Byal with a pin and a win by technical fall while Mansker responded to a quarterfinal loss to Abeja with two falls.
152 – Logan Swaw, Lockport
After turning in a fourth-place showing at the Dvorak, people started to take notice of Logan Swaw and now following a good finals win at 152 over a quality opponent in the Lahey Tournament, the Lockport junior looks to build on his first tournament championship.
Swaw, who’s ranked eighth at 145, improved to 25-5 after claiming a 7-0 victory on the 152 title mat over Lincoln-Way East senior Jack Marion (30-3), who’s ranked fifth at 152 with title wins at Niles West and Wheaton Warrenville South to go with a second at the Illini Classic. Swaw earned his spot in the finals with a fall in the quarterfinals and a 7-0 victory in the semifinals over Stagg sophomore Luke Barham.
“I’ve got some of the best training partners in the state and we’re working hard every day,” Swaw said. “Keegan (Roberson) is the weight below me and I’m with him every day. Our coaches told us that we needed to pick it up and we responded and won this tournament by a lot. We have goals, we want to win the state duals and we have to achieve those. So we’re going to turn it up this week and see where we’re at at the end of the year.”
Marion, whose only previous losses were to Shepard’s Damari Reed (No. 1 at 152) and H-F’s Jaydon Robinson (No. 4 at 145) advanced to his fourth-straight tournament finals after getting a first-minute fall in the quarterfinals and then claiming a 12-2 major decision in the semifinals over Lincoln-Way West senior Cameron Knepper. The two individuals who fell in the semifinals scored decisive wins in their next matches to earn a spot on the third-place mat, where Knepper (28-13) claimed a 5-0 victory over Barham (15-12).
In the fifth-place match, a pair of sophomores met up with Lincoln-Way Central’s Tim Key (23-16) recording a fall in 4:38 over Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Zach Anderson (17-17). After Key fell 5-2 to Barham in the quarterfinals, he got a win by sudden victory and a fall while Anderson advanced with two falls before the pair fell to the third-place competitors.
160 – Dominic Adamo, Lincoln-Way East
By most standards, Dominic Adamo has been having a successful season, advancing to two tournament finals before taking fourth place in a tough bracket the previous week at the Illini Classic.
But everything finally came together for the Lincoln-Way East senior when he improved on second-place finishes at Niles West and Wheaton Warrenville South by winning his first-ever title, finishing first at 160 at the Lahey Tournament after capturing a 6-0 win over Lockport senior Paul Kadlec. Adamo (17-6) followed a fall and 5-0 decision with a win by technical fall in the semifinals over Stagg’s Ibrahim Hamideh. This is also the third-straight time that Adamo has placed in the event, taking third in 2019 and second in 2020.
“This should be like regionals so I’m expecting to see all of these guys again,” Adamo said. “This is my first title of the year and I had a couple of close calls. Actually, this is the first title of my high school career, since I’ve always come in second or third. This was really unexpected that all of the freshmen would be stepping up big this year. All of our heavier weights were lighter when I was younger and now we’re all there. Being a younger guy and then growing up and then seeing the younger guys come in, it’s awesome.”
Kadlec (26-13, tenth at 160), who was sixth at the IWCOA meet and took fourth at the Dvorak, reached the finals of a tournament for the first time this season after recording falls in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, getting a pin in 3:05 over Carl Sandburg junior John Thompson to advance to the 160 title mat.
Bolingbrook junior Chris Lozano (13-11), who lost by fall in the quarterfinals to Kadlec, recorded three-straight falls before winning 7-1 in the third place match over Lincoln-Way West freshman Chris Yirsa (10-7), who was pinned by Hamideh in the quarterfinals but bounced back with two falls and a decision. Yirsa was seeded 13th but improved nine spots to finish fourth. In the fifth-place match that featured the two individuals who lost in the semifinals, Thompson (3-2) won 10-8 by sudden victory over Hamideh.
170 – Brayden Thompson, Lockport
It’s safe to say that Brayden Thompson wasn’t wasting any time on the mat as he used three falls and a win by technical to capture the Lahey Tournament title at 170, which was his fifth championship of the season.
Thompson, who’s top-ranked ranked at 170 and improved to 35-0, defeated Bradley-Bourbonnais sophomore AJ Mancilla in the finals by technical fall to add to championships that he’s won at the Gable Donnybrook, the Dvorak, the Powerade and the Cheesehead. The junior, who’s competing in his first season for Lockport after placing third in the IHSA while at Montini Catholic in 2020, earned his fifth trip to the finals when he recorded a fall in 1:28 over Lincoln-Way East junior Ari Zaeske in the semifinals.
“I’m on the hunt for that first state title, that’s the goal right now,” Thompson said. “It’s not only about just pushing myself but it’s also about pushing everyone else on this team and picking them up when they’re down, maybe after a loss. It’s great here, they’re very welcoming. I’ve gotten to know them very well and they’re almost like brothers to me now. So anything that I can give them advice on, they really take it in and they listen to me. It’s just about getting better and having fun.”
Mancilla (30-4), ranked ninth in 3A, entered with good credentials after finishing third or better in all three of his tournaments and advanced to his third finals this season. After winning a 6-4 decision over Lincoln-Way West freshman Nate Elsner in the quarterfinals, he earned a spot opposite of Thompson on the title mat following an 8-1 semifinals victory over Homewood-Flossmoor senior Romeo Williams.
After the losers in the semifinals both recorded falls in the consolation bracket, they advanced to the third-place mat where Zaeske (24-6) recorded a fall in 2:37 over Williams (21-6). It was the third third-place finish for Zaeske this season. In the fifth-place match, Elsner (10-6) captured a 7-3 decision over Andrew junior Mike Barberi (18-9), who was seeded 15th but improved nine spots to finish sixth.
182 – Dominic Thebeau, Belleville East
While Dominic Thebeau realized that he faced a big challenge in the the 182 title match at the Lahey Tournament, the junior demonstrated why he’s won titles in all four of his tournaments and been beaten just once this season, a one-point decision in his initial match.
The Belleville East junior beat Crystal Lake South senior Shane Moran 5-3 in the finals in a clash of the second-ranked individuals in Class 3A and 2A. Thebeau (30-1) added to title wins at Mascoutah, Granite City and Geneseo while Moran (24-4), who was fourth at the IWCOA and sixth at the IHSA in 2020, had his best tournament showing of the season. Thebeau followed a fall with a win by technical fall in the semifinals over Lincoln-Way East senior Gavin Jones, who suffered his first loss of the season.
“I just stuck to the game plan because I knew that I had the ability to win,” Thebeau said. “So it was really just about following through on what my coach teaches me and stuff like that. I knew that if I had good cardio that no one would be able to stop me from taking them down and no one in the state can ride me so I feel pretty confident in my abilities. At the end of the day, this is an individual sport so if you want to be great, you have to put it on yourself. I feel like a champion right now so as long as I stick to my game plan, I should be fine. My eyes are on a state championship and it doesn’t matter how I get there, as long as I do my best, and I know that I will.”
Moran followed up on two falls with a 7-1 semifinals victory over Homewood-Flossmoor senior Haku Watson-Castro. The semifinals losers advanced to the third-place mat with Jones (28-1, sixth at 182) winning by major decision and Watson-Castro (23-8) by sudden victory and then Jones, who took first at Niles West and the Illini Classic, won a 7-6 decision to finish third.
The competitors who faced off for fifth place actually met one another in the opening round. Carl Sandburg junior Max Pitura (18-13) pinned Stagg senior Mark Jones (15-11) in 3:09 in the opening round of the competition. But after Mark Jones lost to Gavin Jones and Pitura was edged in sudden victory by Watson-Castro, the two met again for fifth with Pitura again winning by fall, this time in 2:35.
195 – Connor Lindaur, Lincoln-Way East
After placing third at Niles West early in the season and then fifth just one week earlier at the Illini Classic, Connor Lindaur was hopeful that he could not only earn his first finals appearance of the season but also end up with a title at 195 at the Lahey Tournament.
And that’s just what the Lincoln-Way East senior accomplished when he claimed a 4-2 triumph over Lincoln-Way West junior Anthony Sherman in the championship match. Lindaur, who improved to 27-4, joined classmate Dominic Adamo as one of the Griffins’ two champions as he earned his spot on the title mat with a pair of falls, including one in the semifinals in 3:05 over Homewood-Flossmoor senior Rahmal Graham.
“Honestly, this makes me feel great,” Lindaur said. “I had three matches and three wins and the last one did kind of make me realize that I need to put in a little more work. I’ve wrestled that kid a few times and he came closer to beating me. We were able to beat Lockport and that felt incredible and there was a lot of celebration. Having a really strong team motivates each of us to do better. We want to match with them and we don’t want to disappoint our team. I like how our season is looking and how our regionals are looking, so I’m excited.”
Sherman (24-14), whose best previous tournament showing was a sixth-place effort at Hinsdale Central, won his first two matches by fall and then claimed an 8-2 decision in the semifinals over Andrew senior Jack Cronin. Lincoln-Way Central senior Nathan Jarres (21-15) got pinned in the quarterfinals by Graham (19-12) but after recording a pair of falls in the consolation bracket, Jarres met up with Graham again, this time for third place, and Jarres recorded another fall, in 3:40 to finish third.
In the fifth-place match, Cronin (18-7) and Crystal Lake South’s KC Brichta Bachar (11-11) met for the second time. In the quarterfinals, Cronin claimed an 8-0 major decision but in the pair’s next meeting for fifth, Cronin prevailed again, but this time only by a 4-3 score.
220 – Andrew Blackburn-Forst, Lockport
After being one of the top players on a state championship football team in the fall, Andrew Blackburn-Forst wouldn’t mind seeing a similar scenario play out in the current season with the bonus being that he could receive a different type of honor for once again being one of the best at his sport in Illinois.
The Lockport senior had accomplished a lot thus far with a second at the Dvorak, fifth at the Powerade and third at the Cheesehead and a No. 1 ranking in 3A after going unbeaten against Illinois competitors. He reached the top of the awards stand for the first time this season at the Lahey Tournament, a feat that he’d like to repeat in upcoming weeks. The IWCOA champion and fifth-place finisher in the IHSA in 2020 improved to 26-5 after recording two falls and getting a win by technical fall in 5:36 over Homewood-Flossmoor senior Justin Thomas in the 220 finals. It was the third time that Blackburn-Forst placed in the tournament and was his second title, with the other in 2020.
“I think we improved a lot since Thursday when we had a few guys out, but those things happen,” Blackburn-Forst said. “From last year to now, East has made a lot of progress with a lot of the freshmen and sophomores coming in and H-F is much-improved from other years. I feel like as we get deeper into the season and going into regionals now, that everyone is starting to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. We’re making our technique perfect and getting stronger every day and the extra week of practice is going to make us better.”
Thomas (26-7), ranked fifth in 3A with two titles and three finals to his credit, won two matches by fall and claimed a 7-3 semifinals victory over Lincoln-Way Central senior Braeden Barrett (34-6), who had reached two tournament finals. The third-place match featured the losers of the two semifinals as Lincoln-Way West senior Michael Sneed (25-8), who fell in 0:46 to Blackburn-Forst, responded with two decisions, including a 4-2 victory over Barrett to claim third place, which was his best tournament finish of the season.
Glenwood junior Jaidyn Lee (23-8) was pinned by Sneed in the quarterfinals and Carl Sandburg senior Yazan Arafeh (19-15) lost by fall to Barrett in the same round but the pair responded with falls in their first consolation match before Barrett and Sneed sent them to the fifth-place match, where Lee recorded a fall in 2:42 to finish fifth.
285 – Kevin Zimmer, Carl Sandburg
Not many individuals get the opportunity to win a tournament three times, and even fewer pull off that feat when they only get three opportunities to win championships, but that’s just what Kevin Zimmer accomplished on Saturday at the Lahey Tournament.
The Carl Sandburg senior, a 2020 IHSA runner-up who is ranked third in 3A, followed up on a tournament title at the Illini Classic with a second championship a week later and improved to 10-0 since returning from injury after recording a fall in his first match, following that with a 13-3 major decision over Lincoln-Way East senior Alex Knaperek in the semifinals and then recording a fall in 1:46 over Glenwood junior Alex Hamrick in the 285 title match to capture his third Lahey Tournament championship.
“I’m excited for what the future holds,” Zimmer said. “I’m stoked for it, especially with state coming up. That’s the main goal, it’s not this bracket board, it’s the big one when you get to stand on the podium down at Champaign. That’s the goal at the end of the tunnel.”
Hamrick (40-2), who took third in the IWCOA and is ranked second in 2A with titles at Glenwood and Mahomet-Seymour and just one other loss early in the season to Glenbard North’s No. 2 Paulie Robertson at Conant, earned his third trip to a tournament finals with a fall and a 6-3 semifinals victory over Lincoln-Way West senior Jake Ziemniarski. The two individuals who lost in the semifinals bounced back with consolation wins and Ziemniarski (26-11, eighth in 3A) won a 3-2 decision over Knaperek (21-7) to place third.
Crystal Lake South sophomore Andy Burburija (24-8, seventh in 2A) fell 6-0 to Knaperek in the quarterfinals and Lockport junior Cody Silzer (13-12) lost 3-2 on a tiebreaker to Ziemniarski in the same round. After both recorded pins, they fell in the next round and met for fifth with Burburija prevailing 4-2 by sudden victory to claim his best finish.
FROM THE IWCOA: If you are enjoying these articles, please consider a small donation to the IWCOA so that we can continue funding feature stories for our website and social media. The IWCOA is non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. Click this link to make a donation. Thank you!