By Patrick Z. McGavin
For the IWCOA
Caleb Drousias had every reason to feel energized and motivated.
The Mount Carmel wrestler is a backup on the Caravan’s powerhouse program.
He is very much connected to its success. His older brother Colton Drousias, now at West Virginia, was a state champion in 2019.
The Drousias name has value and Caleb Drousias proved he could get the job done, when called into service Tuesday night at the Class 3A sectional dual against Catholic League rival Marmion.
Drousias turned the tide and helped punch the Caravan’s ticket downstate. when he reversed a near fall in the first period to stun Marmion’s Tyler Aters at 120 pounds for his own fall at 2:46.
“Basically, in my head, I knew that I had to do something big to get the win secured,” Drousias said.
That nine to 12 point swing from a seemingly comfortable Marmion lead to a five-point spread for Mt. Carmel altered the dynamics.
The Caravan never looked back.
“I’d say that was the match of the night,” Mt. Carmel coach Alex Tsirtsis said.
In a showdown of two top-4 ranked programs, Mt. Carmel captured the sectional title with the 42-27 victory as the Caravan (17-4), ranked No. 3, advanced to the Friday quarterfinals against Libertyville.
Marist, ranked No. 2, jumped out to a commanding lead in defeating Downers Grove South 45-33 in the other sectional bracket.
The Redhawks, who beat Mt. Carmel 31-30 during the season, will face Lockport in the first quarterfinal on Friday at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. Glenbard West faces top-ranked DeKalb in the top bracket opposite Marist and Lockport.
Mt. Carmel and Libertyville are in the lower bracket. Moline and Prospect are the other quarterfinals.
Mt. Carmel defeated No. 4 Marmion 44-28 during Catholic League competition. The two programs had a combined five state champions and seven finalists Saturday at State Farm Center at the University of Illinois.
The Caravan’s four individual state champions matched a school record from 2004 for the most in a single year.
“After what happened Saturday, we came in with our heads held high,” Drousias said.
“We were practicing hard all week, especially with our defense. We used the individual state to get us up today and keep pushing toward a team state title.”
Mt. Carmel was also cognizant of its recent history.
In 2019 at Marist, the Cadets stunned a higher-rated Mt. Carmel team in the dual sectional final.
“We definitely had a lot of confidence after we had five guys in the finals,” two-time Illinois state champion Sergio Lemley said.
“At the same time, we were a little anxious. We have wrestled Marmion in the sectional in the past. Tonight we were ready to wrestle.”
The meet began, in traditional order, at 106 pounds. Marmion knew going in if they were going to spring the upset, they had to build a sizable lead.
Mt. Carmel’s fearsome Ryan Boersma was not just the state champion at 285 pounds.
The Cadets had nobody to face him after their own elite heavyweight, Jerred Durian, suffered an arm injury before the individual sectional.
Marmion had 10 individual state qualifiers, and Mt. Carmel had nine.
The match was closer than the final score. Mt. Carmel won eight of the 14 matches, and those victories proved more substantial with three falls, three technical falls and the forfeit.
The start went more or less according to form, with one significant exception that underscored the importance of the 120 pound match.
Freshman star Seth Mendoza (40-2), who captured the state championship at 106 pounds, flashed another dazzling exhibition of his quickness, power and supreme technique in his technical fall over Donny Pigoni (35-13).
The stunner came in the state title rematch at 113 pounds.
Marmion senior Jameson Garcia (33-4) beat Damian Resendez 11-4 Saturday night, and his first period pin Tuesday provided the Cadets’ only lead at 6-5.
That surprise gave Marmion a jolt. At 120 pounds, Aters seemed to ride that momentum when he caught Drousias with a takedown and cradle for the 6-2 lead.
At the start of the second period, Drousias elected to go on top.
“I knew that would be my best option to seal the deal,” he said. “I just worked and pushed the pace for those two minutes. I kept working on him, and I finally got him on his back and held on as hard as I could.”
His victory started a swing of four consecutive victories by Mt. Carmel.
“That was crazy,” Lemley said. “Our backup at 120 really put the team on the mat.
“The other match didn’t go Damian’s way, but the rest of the team had his back.”
Jairo Acuna, (24-17), a state qualifier at 120 pounds, jumped up a weight class and after a scoreless first period, Acuna utilized an escape and takedown for the 3-0 victory over Christian Favia.
At 132 pounds, Eddie Enright (27-12) posted the second period fall over John Conover.
Lemley (41-1), who avenged his only loss by defeating Homewood-Flossmoor’s Vincent Robinson in the 126-pound state final, jumped up to 138.
The 26-6 lead proved a gulf Marmion’s very talented middle and upper weight classes could not overcome.
Mt. Carmel even got an unexpected boost.
Senior Michael Kelly, who missed the entire season due to complications of a shoulder injury, dominated Kenny Siwicki with the 16-0 technical fall at 170 pounds.
Sophomore Colin Kelly, the 160-pound state champion, also recorded a technical fall.
Colin Kelly (38-4) posted the 16-1 victory over Michael Phillips.
“It feels great knowing that we have some really heavy hammers like that, getting as many place finishers as we did at state,” Colin Kelly said.
With Mendoza, Lemley and Boersma, Colin Kelly has the chance to pull off the rare “double,” the individual and team state title in the same season.
“That would be awesome,” he said. “We have worked really hard the whole year. Ultimately that is our team goal. If we could pull that off, it would be really nice.”
Tsirtsis has a deep and versatile lineup.
“Getting Michael Kelly back was just incredible,” Tsirtsis said.
“We have a lot of flexibility now, and we have to take a better look to see what we are going to do with him, and some of the others
It was a cruel end for Marmion, hoping to qualify for the state finals for the first time since 2019.
By any objective measures, the Cadets’ season was an extraordinary one.
Marmion (13-3) captured tournament titles at Barrington, Downers Grove South, Granite City and the regional.
They were top-5 at the Donnybrook and Crown Point. They were runner-up in the Catholic League tournament.
Garcia followed up his IWCOA state title with his superb senior season. Senior Tyler Perry (40-4) also reached a state final at 170 pounds, where lost to Lockport’s unbeaten Brayden Thompson.
Like Garcia, Perry ended his career on a high note with a sharp and controlled performance, beating Rylan Breen 5-3 at 182 pounds.
Breen (28-16) was sixth at 182 pounds.
In another marquee showdown featuring two state finishers, sophomore Jack Lesher earned the Cadets’ most dramatic victory with a takedown in the final three seconds for the 5-4 comeback win over Elliott Lewis.
Lesher (41-6) finished fourth at 182 pounds; Lewis (27-13) finished fourth at 195 pounds.
Sean Scheck (36-12) had a first period fall over John McKeon at 220 pounds.
Marmion also secured wins at 145 pounds with Santino Scolaro’s 6-3 decision over Carlos Perez.
Sophomore Collin Carrigan, who was fifth at 152 pounds, was up big in the second period over Marcus Milianti when he was forced to concede due to an injury.
Scolaro finished the year 27-10. Carrigan was 28-5.
Tsirtsis qualified for the second consecutive team duals final. (Due to the pandemic, the state dual series was not conducted last year.)
Mt. Carmel finished second against Montini two years ago.
Marist also continued its dream season. After qualifying a program record 11 state qualifiers, Marist is looking for its team finals appearance since the 2014 squad finished second in the state.
Marist posted four consecutive falls in winning the first six matches against Downers South.
George Marinopoulos (32-12, 106 pounds) recorded a technical fall. Michael Esteban (37-13, 113 pounds) moved up to 120 pounds in his 13-5 major decision.
Marist collected falls from Will Denny (31-11, 126 pounds), Jesse Herrera (24-14, 132 pounds), Matthew Cornfield (138 pounds), Ricky Ericksen (38-11, 145 pounds) and Tommy Boland (38-8, 160 pounds).
Marist coach Brendan Heffernan had the luxury of resting his stars and best athletes to prepare for its showdown against No. 5 Lockport.
State finalists Peter Marinopoulos (39-1, 195 pounds) and Ghee Rachal (32-3, 220 pounds) were rested, with Owen Dunlap (17-4, 138), Jake Liberatore (21-4, 170) and Conor Phelan (28-12).
Logan Mishka also received a forfeit at 113 pounds.
Downers Grove South’s Jimmy Nugent (40-7), who finished third at 138 pounds, jumped up two weight classes and ended the Marist run with the 9-6 decision over Andrew Dado at 152 pounds.
The Mustangs won the final five matches, with falls posted by Matt Lapacek (170 pounds) and Will Schuessler (182 pounds). Noah Rapinchuk (195 pounds), Jayden Conteras (220 pounds) and Semaj Croswell (285) won by forfeit.
“The team is definitely very confident,” Heffernan said. “With every step you take in this process, you have to be able to gear up for the next challenge.
“This is definitely not going to be a cakewalk. Lockport is a very talented and dangerous team.”
Lockport defeated Yorkville 39-24 in what is believed to be the first time in state history two head coaches who are brothers faced each other in the dual sectional.
Lockport coach Josh Oster also qualified for his second consecutive state finals. Coached by Jake Oster, Yorkville suffered its first loss.
“The kids were very excited about their record during the season,” Heffernan said. “With the individual tournament, I think there are different factors, with some not being completely satisfied and others now having themotivation to redeem themselves.
“With everybody else, the dual state finals are the fuel for riding the momentum of this great tournament.”
By Patrick Z. McGavin