Several of state’s best capture titles at Class 3A Barrington Sectional

By Mike Garofola – for the IWCOA

It is never fair to compare the four Class 3A sectional venues across the state. There’s so much talent to go around, that each year all of the sectionals are filled to the brim with talent.

However, it would be considered a massive upset if several from the Barrington Sectional are not involved in the Grand March on Saturday night with the chance of lifting the biggest prize of the 2023-2024 campaign.

When the IHSA Class 3A  tournament opens on Thursday in Champaign on the campus of the University of Illinois, the 3A Barrington Sectional will send 56 of the best from its area, which will include 15 who are in the top four of their respective weight divisions, who are all quite capable of finding themselves on or atop the podium.

The big two-day crowd was treated to several high-profile matches that had a profound impact on how each 16-man field eventually shook down. A sectional championship went to the 14 winners, earning each of them the highly-coveted top-four seed.

Let’s take a look now at each weight class and the many fine young men who passed through on their way to Champaign:

106 – Caleb Noble, Warren

The final session of the Barrington sectional created quite a stir when it opened with No. 1 Rocco Cassioppi (Hononegah, 40-3) and No. 2 Caleb Noble (Warren, 38-3) stepping out onto mat No.1 in the 106-pound final.

These two fantastic freshmen can already be found in the national rankings, where they have validated their lofty status in the country with their impressive results in and out of the state.

Noble, who earlier in the season lost to Cassioppi in the Ironman semifinals, would avenge that 4-2 defeat with a marvelous six-minute performance en route to a 7-4 victory to claim the first sectional title of the day.

“It was obviously a very good win for me today. I was a little cautious the first time we met at the Ironman but today I was much more aggressive right from the start to help me set the tone for the match,” said Noble, who would start down in the third period with a 4-3 advantage, make it 5-3 with an early escape, then extend his lead to 7-3 midway one minute from time.

“Rocco is a great wrestler, and to be honest, I hope we meet in the state final next weekend,” added Noble.

No. 8 Kaleb Pratt (Barrington, 33-11) is on his way to Champaign after his pin of James Hemmila (Loyola Academy) in the third place match between a pair of regional champions.

113 – Bruno Cassioppi, Hononegah

No. 4 Bruno Cassioppi spent countless hours inside the big gym here in Barrington during the days when his older brother Tony dominated the field at 285, before heading off to the University of Iowa where he became a four-time All-American.

On Saturday, the Hononegah freshman would add another big piece of sectional hardware to the Cassioppi family collection following his masterful effort during a 15-3 major decision victory over Warren junior Jonathan Marquez.

“I was running around this gym when I was just a little guy with my brother Rocco, so it’s kind of cool to actually come here to wrestle and win a sectional championship,” said Cassioppi after claiming his seventh major of the season, which includes a NIC-10 conference title.

“One of the most important things I learned from Tony is that hard work eventually pays off, and that’s what I will continue to do when we get back to training,” added Cassioppi.

The aforementioned Marquez is now 30-9, while third-place Anthony Orozco-Diaz (Hersey, 26-3) moves on after his 3-2 decision over Grant sophomore Vince Jasinski (33-13) who advanced on the same day his sister Ayane did from the Schaumburg girls’ sectional.

Ayane Jasinski was a girls state champion a year ago at 110 pounds.

120 – Alejandro Cordova, Round Lake

Alejandro Cordova (38-7) certainly earned his spot in the final with Libertyville rival Luke Berktold, but an injury Berktold (33-6) would suffer earlier would see Cordova claim victory due to a medical forfeit.

“I would have much rather wrestled Luke instead of winning because of his injury, I just hope he’s better and can wrestle at state next week,” said a classy Cordova, who is now a three-time state qualifier.

Cordova made history of sorts along with teammate William Smith and Grayson Kongkaeow when the trio became the first in the Panthers program to qualify three to the tournament.

Back in 2003, the Panthers the sextet of: Scott Pocasangre, AJ Charping, Calvin Reed, Ted Silvetti, Rob Walleck, and heavyweight Mark Beaton all were sectional qualifiers, with Walleck winning a sectional title here at Barrington at 189 to become the lone Panther to advance.

“I’m excited for going downstate, and hoping to make this last time there my best ever,” said Cordova, who leads his club in take-downs 92 and team points (331), and is now only the second in program history to be a three-time qualifier after Mike Kukla did so in 1992-1994.

Regional champions Gavin Pardilla (Loyola Academy, 26-11) and Barrington freshman Ryan Dorn (24-17) finished third and fourth respectively to advance.

126 – Abdullokh Khakimov, Hersey

No. 4 Addullokh Khakimov was all business during these two days in Barrington to earn his second consecutive appearance in Champaign, following his 8-2 decision over No. 7 Drew Fifield (19-10) from Fremd.

The Hersey senior, who also collected his second regional title of his career last weekend, opened with a pin and then an impressive six minutes against Round Lake senior Grayson Kongkaeow (36-13), which ended with a 13-2 major decision.

“Addullokh is getting better and better each time out, and when he opens things up like he did this weekend, anything is possible for this young man,” said Hersey head coach Joe Rupslauk.

“His style is kind of funky and right now his attack is just flowing really well,” added Huskies assistant, Tom Vezzetti.

Kongkaeow, who won his second regional title a week ago, now becomes a first-time state qualifier, as does Barrington sophomore Jimmy Whitaker (31-17) who majored Kongkaeow in their third place contest.

132 – TJ Silva, Hononegah

As this tournament would continue to heat up, so did Hononegah junior TJ Silva. Silva was never threatened on his way to a third trip downstate, where he looks to claim his second- straight state championship trophy.

Silva (25-4), who won a 1A title for Dakota at 126 last season after taking second at 132 in 2022, pressed over his three rivals, including No. 4 Maksim Mukhamedaliyev (Hersey, 32-3) who was unable to slow the No. 2 man in the state in what ended with a fall at 5:08.

“I know some people thought winning a state title at 1A last year wasn’t a big deal because it was a small school class, but I can tell you 1A is a very competitive class down at state. So I am out to make a statement this year in 3A,” said Silva.

“We have a great room, with a great coaching staff, and I feel like a lot of us are going to do great things at state, then dual team state.”

No. 6 Erik Rodriguez (Mundelein, 34-13) is in the field of 16, as is fellow NSC sophomore, Shawn Kogan (24-8) whose exciting 6-5 victory over top-four seed Max Brown (Glenbrook South) in his quarterfinal kept the Patriots star alive in the front draw.

138 – Robert Darling, Honenegah

There is always a sleeper among the 14 weight divisions that will surprise to stay alive for yet another day.

Hononegah sophomore Robert Darling (29-16) is one such young man, who could only smile when asked who was Robert Darling, and why is he now a first-time state qualifier for head coach Tyler DeMoss.

“I’m a hard worker in a room full of great teammates, who push me everyday, and I’ve been able to reach my goal of going downstate after a pretty good year that had me medal in just about every tournament we went to,” said Darling, who came in unrated but left with the big prize.

Darling would defeat a pair of quality opponents en route to his hard fought 1-0 victory over Stevenson senior Andrew Chamkin, who joins three of his teammates as first-time qualifiers.

Darling, second at the NIC-10 and giant Sycamore Invite, beat regional champ Giorgio DiFalco (Prospect, 35-9) in his quarterfinal (10-7) after turning in a strong effort in his sectional-opening 7-0 decision.

Next up would be Hersey junior, No. 10 Rodrigo Arceo (21-12) who was a freestyle and Greco Fargo qualifier, coming off a regional title last weekend at Stevenson.

Darling would edge Arceo 4-3, then use a third period escape against Chamkin (28-13) to claim his sectional crown.

DiFalco would defeat Arceo 5-1 for third place.

144 – Evan Gosz, Fremd

Evan Gosz would produce a world-class effort during his two days here at host Barrington High School, ending his tournament with a third-straight technical fall to make it three consecutive sectional championships.

The number three has an interesting attachment to the Fremd junior, who entered this weekend as the No. 3 man in the state behind Carson Weber (Joliet West) and two-time state champion Jaydon Colon from St. Charles.

Twice Gosz (34-0) has finished third at state, last year after entering the final weekend of the season ranked No. 3.

“(Obviously) I am looking to change all of that No. 3 stuff next weekend at state,” began Gosz with a wry smile.

“I’ve put more work in during the offseason than ever before. I am bigger and stronger, spent a lot of time lifting to gain ten pounds, and I really feel like I’ve opened my game up much more than last year.”

After collecting his three tech-fall victories here, Gosz now has 11 on the year to go along with 16 pins, plus going well over his previous 126 takedowns prior to the boat load more he earned over the two days.

Stevenson sophomore Vlad Maluhin is on his way to Champaign for the first time as is Glenbrook South junior Andrew Haritos (24-7) who was a regional champion a week ago on his home mats.

150 – Rhenzo Augusto, Barrington

No. 3 Rhenzo Augusto cut his teeth in the sport of ju-jitsu, where his father was a world champion in Brazil, so the die had been cast for the Barrington senior, who Saturday afternoon won the biggest prize of his career thus far.

The 2023 state qualifier held off three-time state qualifier Pedro Jimenez (McHenry, 37-3) by using a third-period reversal to be the difference in a 2-0 victory, much to the delight of a large Broncos contingency and head coach Dan Keller.

“Just a great, hard-fought victory by Rhenzo who needed a dynamic and strong six-minute effort to help get him ready for state,” said a proud Keller, who in his first year after coming over from league rival Prospect would guide his men to a MSL title, and later send four into the state tournament.

“These are the type of 2-0, 2-1, 3-2 matches that I need, and expect at state, so to beat a really great opponent like Jimenez will help me prepare for what’s ahead,” said Augusto, now 38-5.

“Ju-jitsu helped me get ready for high school wrestling, and our great room, and all of the time spent wrestling at Izzy has been really important to my success thus far,” added Augusto.

New Trier junior Tagg Miller (33-7) whose hopes to advance were dashed in a blood round loss here last year, heads into the state tournament with the wind in his sails after a major decision victory for third place over Max Haskins (34-8) of Hononegah.

157- Aaron Stewart, Warren

In the second of two powerhouse finals between Warren and Hononegah, Warren’s No. 1 Aaron Stewart held firm over Hononegah’s No. 3 Brody Sendele in this key final when Stewart (39-2) used a late throw for a takedown near the edge to defeat freshman Sendele 3-1.

The two could meet for the state title inside State Farm Center, although Mount Carmel’s No. 2 Edmund Enright will have plenty to say of that outcome as he will likely be on the same side of the bracket as Sendele.

“I always felt in control, just waiting for the opportunity to get (in) for a takedown,” said Stewart, who wrestled a smart, yet cautious six minutes, which still made for an exciting final that saw two super-quick and talented young men whose constant movement and superb defense kept the big crowd on the edge.

Stewart, third a year ago as a freshman, drew back level with Sendele at 1-1 with an escape 16 seconds into the third period, thrilling the audience with his takedown with just 10 seconds from time.

Stewart, a three-sport star (football, track) won here last season and is currently No. 12 in the nation. His only defeats on the season are to No. 2 Charlie Millard from Wisconsin, who;s on his way to the University of Minnesota next fall, and No. 11 Landyn Sommer from Oklahoma, who will stay in his home state to attend the University of Oklahoma in the fall.

No. 7 Ryan Muslimovic (42-6) has enjoyed an outstanding senior campaign at Fremd which includes three majors, and a 5-3 win over sectional champion Thomas Fulton from Wheaton North. The Vikings senior won 9-5 over Huntley freshmen Radic Dvorak (36-14) in the third place contest.

165 – Royce Lopez, Warren

The road to glory for No. 7 Royce Lopez (28-7) was paved in gold for the Warren sophomore who is now a two-time state qualifier, and his top-four seed at state was assured following his marvelous three match performance which ended with his impressive 10-3 decision over Prospect’s No. 9 Connor Munn (38-8), who is now a three-time qualifier.

Warren head coach Brad Janesek said after Lopez raced past the competition en route to his regional title that his young star is “never satisfied” and “always looking for more each time he goes out”, and the Blue Devils’ 165-pounder could not agree more with his Janecek.

“There’s always something that I can do better, whether in the room, or when I compete, but what is most important is for me to always look to score, and to add points to help keep the pressure on my opponents,” said Lopez, who did just that against Munn.

Holding a narrow 2-0 lead after two periods, Lopez executed a sweet reversal to double his advantage at the start of the third period, then slowly pulled away from the Prospect senior who is also a two-time MSL and regional champion.

“I feel like I’m ready for what is ahead of me at state, the really tough six minute matches as I go deeper into the tournament,” added Lopez, who beat Hononegah’s No. 6 Connor Diemel to move into the final.

Diemel (43-5), who leaves here with the most wins on the season with along with teammate Brody Sendele, recently won at Batavia, NIC-10, and regionals before finishing third ahead of Highland Park senior Dmitry Derbedyenyev (32-3) who earned his second-straight state appearance.

175 – Matt Kubas, Libertyville

This weight class at the state tournament is separated by just inches within the top four, all arriving in Champaign from different sectionals with a ridiculous 158-16 overall record, and seven state medals among them, including the state championship Mount Carmel’s Colin Kelly won in 2022.

Libertyville’s No. 2 Matt Kubas (36-3), just behind Kelly, and in front of St. Charles East’s No. 3 Brody Murray and Yorkville’s No. 4 Luke Zook, with Kelly, Zook and Kubas, in that order, finishing behind 2023 170-pound state champ Chris Moore of McHenry, who’s now at the University of Illinois.

If all comes to fruition, this quartet will meet in the semifinals on Friday night with the chance of earning a spot in the Grand March one day later.

“At this point it’s all about taking it one match at a time, not looking ahead, and just respecting your next opponent you face,” said Kubas moments after a magnificent six minutes in which he defeated NSC rival, Stevenson’s Themba Sitshela (35-16), with a 11-2 major decision.

“Cole (Matulenko) just took off from here last year, and he was so good at that same approach of a match at a time and not caring at all about who your opponent is, and where they’re at in the state rankings (so) it worked for him, and that’s my plan from here on out,” continued Kubas, who watched Matulenko crush his opponents on his way to the 195-pound state title last season.

Sitshela used a narrow 1-0 victory in his semifinal contest with Prospect’s Michael Matuszak (28-14) to go through to the final. Hononegah’s No. 7 Kurt Smith (38-9) won 3-1 over Matuszak for third place.

190 – Jaxon Penovich, Prospect

Add Prospect sophomore Jaxon Penovich to the list of favorites to bring home a state title after the No. 1 man at 190-pounds made his statement of intent following a brilliant two days in which he continued his dominant ways over his rivals.

Penovich (42-3) wasted little time on his way to his first sectional title of his young career when he opened with his 22nd pin of the year, then followed up with a pair of wins by technical fall to run his season total to 17.

Penovich needed 4:58 to record a 22-6 technical fall over Loyola Academy’s No. 7 Quinn Herbert (29-8) to give his club its lone sectional title on the day.

“I’d like to believe that I can, and will win a state title next weekend, which is obviously one of my goals, but being an eventual world champion is right up there also,” admits Penovich, fifth a year ago at 195 with a 45-7 overall record.

“I think (me) being a little immature as a freshman may have led to my loss in my state  opener to the state runner-up Pete Marinopoulos (Marist, now at Illinois), and after that, I struggled some to get back on track,” continued Penovich.

“This year is different in that I am mentally stronger and have a better idea of what is needed at this level, and especially with my technique.”

Penovich has either pinned, or tech’d all of his opponents from Illinois and has conceded just one takedown on the season.

Herbert held off a hard-charging Caleb Baczek (34-8) to defeat the No. 8 Libertyville junior in the quarterfinals.

Baczek later suffered a stunning 5-4 loss in his state qualifying match with his conference rival, Warren’s Jeremija Hixson (24-10) who fell in the third place bout against Hersey senior Anthony Cambria (30-11), who is now a two-time state qualifier.

215 – Kai Calcutt, Loyola Academy

There would have been quite an amazing list to choose from should there have been an O.W. (Outstanding Wrestler) named at the end of the two days, perhaps beginning with Loyola Academy sophomore Kai Calcutt, who overwhelmed all three of his opponents to collect his second-consecutive sectional title.

The No. 1 man at 215 pounds left little doubt as to who will be the favorite in Champaign in his weight class after spending just 90 seconds on the mats during his first two bouts, before forcing Libertyville’s No. 3 Owen McGrory (41-3) to play defensive wrestling for six minutes en route to a 12-7 victory.

“My hand fighting is so much better than a year ago, I really feel like it has helped bring my game together to where it needs to be,” said Calcutt, now 27-4.

The affable Loyola Academy star was state runner-up at 220 to Yorkville’s Ben Alvarez after a heart-breaking 3-2 ultimate tie-breaker contest which ended at 6:57.

“To be honest (that) loss didn’t really stay with me at all during the offseason, it was over, and my work to be better and get back in the final was much more important to me,” said Calcutt.

Calcutt says he was inspired by his former teammate, and 2023 120 state champion, Massey Odiotti (Northwestern), who he remains close to, even training with Odiotti family members at the gym.

Despite the loss to Calcutt, McGrory is on his way to Champaign for the second consecutive season, and will challenge for a top three spot on the podium.

Buffalo Grove senior Cadon Watson (39-8) will be on his maiden voyage after his pin over Warren’s No. 6 Anthony Soto (30-8), who is also now a first-time state qualifier, for third place.

Watson won at the Rex Lewis at 190 pounds, but bumped up to 215 for the state series before claiming a regional title.

285 – William Cole, Round Lake

William Cole continues to be in total command of his rivals at 285 after the Round Lake senior squashed the competition here on his way to his first sectional title and sixth major of the season.

The Round Lake junior defeated Huntley senior Markos Mihalopoulos (39-9) 6-1 as each earned their second visit to Champaign to give the Panthers their first sectional crown since Rob Walleck did so in 2003.

“It’s all about getting better each time out there to help me get back downstate where the goal is to get on the podium, and even win a state title,” said Smith, No. 5 in the polls, and just behind Wyatt Schmitt (Joliet West) whom his only loss is to in the Dvorak final in overtime.

“My movement is so much better than last year, I was kind of too stiff but this year my feet are quicker which has helped me set up my attacks,” added Cole, now 41-1 overall.

Mundelein junior Abisai Hernandez (38-7) is back for a second trip downstate after his pin of Loyola Academy junior Joey Herbert (20-11).

Barrington Sectional Championship match results

106- Kaleb Noble (Warren) D 7-4 Rocco Cassioppi (Hononegah)

113- Bruno Cassioppi (Hononegah) MD 15-3 Jonathan Marquez (Warren)

120- Alejandro Cordova (Round Lake) M FFT Luke Berktold (Libertyville)

126- Abdullokh Khakimov (Hersey) D 8-2 Drew Fifield (Fremd)

132- TJ Silva (Hononegah) F 5:08 Maksim Mukhamedaliyev (Hersey)

138- Robert Darling (Hononegah) D 1-0 Andrew Chamkin (Stevenson)

144- Evan Gosz (Fremd) TF 4:45 (19-4) Jake Hanson (Hersey)

150- Rhenzo Augusto (Barrington) D 2-0 Pedro Jimenez (McHenry)

157- Aaron Stewart (Warren) D 3-1 Brody Sendele (Hononegah)

165- Royce Lopez (Warren) D 10-3 Connor Munn (Prospect)

175- Matt Kubas (Libertyville) MD 11-2 Themba Sitshela (Stevenson)

190- Jaxon Penovich (Prospect) TF 4:58 (22-6) Quinn Herbert (Loyola Academy)

215- Kai Calcutt (Loyola Academy) D 12-7 Owen McGrory (Libertyville)

285- William Cole (Round Lake) D 6-1 Markos Mihalopoulos (Huntley)

Barrington Sectional Third Place match results

106- Kaleb Pratt (Barrington) F 1:50 James Hemmila (Loyola Academy)

113- Anthony Orozco-Diaz (Hersey) D 3-2 Vince Jasinski (Grant)

120- Gavin Pardilla (Loyola Academy) D 5-0 Ryan Dorn (Barrington)

126- Jimmy Whitaker (Barrington) MD 15-6 Grayson Kongkaeow (Round Lake)

132- Erik Rodriguez (Mundelein) D 8-4 Shawn Kogan (Stevenson)

138- Giorgio DiFalco (Prospect) D 5-1 Rodrigo Arceo (Hersey)

144- Val Vihrov (Stevenson) MD 12-2 Andrew Haritos (Glenbrook South)

150- Tagg Miller (New Trier) MD 16-6 Max Haskins (Hononegah)

157- Ryan Muslimovic (Fremd) D 9-5 Radic Dvorak (Huntley)

165- Connor Diemel (Hononegah) D 5-1 Dmitry Derbedyenyev (Highland Park)

175- Kurt Smith (Hononegah) D 3-1 Michael Matuszak (Prospect)

190- Anthony Cambria (Hersey) MD 12-3 Jeremija Hixson (Warren)

215- Cadon Watson (Buffalo Grove) F 3:32 Anthony Soto (Warren)

285- Abisai Hernandez (Mundelein) F 5:28 Joey Herbert (Loyola Academy)

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