St. Charles East defeats Joliet Catholic Academy for Flavin title

By Patrick Z. McGavin – For the IWCOA

The worst part for Gavin Connolly was the anguish of thinking an entire year about what might have been. The ramifications only compounded and accentuated a profound unease.

“I knew we’d have a chance to go up against them in the Flavin,” said the 150-pounder from St. Charles East. “I’ve been looking forward to that match for a year.”

Connolly’s 1-0 decision over Joliet Catholic Academy’s Connor Cumbee brought closure and a symbolic lift in the Saints’ 42-23 dual team victory Saturday to complete a 6-0 tournament finish for the team championship of DeKalb’s Dan Flavin Invitational.

The Saints (17-0) and Hilltoppers were the only undefeated teams heading into the final round.

Connolly secured the match’s only point with his escape with 30 seconds remaining.

“I was confident the whole time, and I felt like I was in control,” said Connolly, who went 4-2 in the tournament. “I lost to the same kid in double-overtime here last year.”

The victory proved a turning point as St. Charles East captured eight of the final nine matches after the Hilltoppers jumped out to a 19-6 lead. 

“That match was a swing and we knew it was going to have a big impact on the final,” St. Charles East coach Jason Potter said.

JCA defeated the Saints 36-32 in preliminary action at last year’s tournament. That proved the only loss for the Saints, who defeated Marmion Academy in the IHSA Class 3A Dual Team championship.

“Their match last year changed the outcome of the dual, and we knew it was going to also come down to that today,” Potter said.

Connolly’s victory marked a streak of four consecutive wins, following falls by Ben Davino (132) and Tyler Guerra (138) and a 6-4 decision by Jayden Colon over Nolan Vogel at 144 pounds.

The Connolly win stretched the margin to 24-19.  The Hilltoppers managed only one more victory, Luke Hamiti’s 11-3 major decision over Ryan McGovern at 157 pounds.

“Gavin has really wrestled fantastically,” Potter said. “He has always been very talented, but I don’t know if he realized until now how much he really loved it. With him being a senior now, you see how much he is giving it everything he has. He got down to 150, which is way more of an ideal weight.”

He showed off his speed and quickness against the skilled and dynamic Cumbee, who nearly pulled away in the final seconds. Connolly exerted his own force to close out the victory.

“Before he was wrestling at 157 or 165 pounds, and he was just getting outmuscled,” Potter said. “With his style of wrestling, it is going to be a problem if he is not stronger.”

Connolly rode the momentum of the Saints’ three defending individual state champions Davino, Colon and Dom Munaretto (113). Guerra was a state-runner up at 138 pounds last season.

“I knew we had our guys in the middle weights, and they were going to do what they always do,” Connolly said.

Munaretto, Davino, Guerra, Colon, Anthony Gutierrez (165) and Brody Murray (175) went 6-0.

The Hilltoppers narrowly lost to Washington Community in the IHSA Class 2A Dual Team Finals last season. Coming off a Class 2A championship and runner-up finish the last two seasons, Joliet Catholic Academy has been bumped up to Class 3A.

Nico Ronchetti, a state runner-up at 182 pounds last season, was not able to wrestle against St. Charles East.

“At the end of the day, it’s good to see where we are,” said JCA’s Dillan Johnson, a two-time IHSA 2A champion at 285 who also won the IWCOA title at 285 in 2021, who went 5-0. “We basically have a month left in the regular season and now we know where we have to improve.

“I like it because it’s a chance to see what team, and you are also doing something for the whole team.”

Also for the Hilltoppers, Luke Hamiti (157) went 6-0, Luke Foster (106) and Max Corral (165) each finished 5-1, Vogel went 4-1, Nico Ronchetti went 3-0 and Jason Hampton, who was fourth at state last season, went 4-2.

St. Charles East, JCA, Marist and defending tournament champion Marmion Academy made up the championship bracket.

The Flavin marked a dazzling showcase of the state’s top 3A teams. Only Mount Carmel was absent from teams ranked in the top-five of the Class 3A state rankings of Illinois Matmen.

“It’s harder to go through this day than it is to win the state dual championship,” DeKalb coach Sam Hiatt said. “The championship pool is tougher than the state finals. Then you throw in some of the best 2A teams and some of the best teams from downstate.”

Rather than diluting the strength, expanding the field has only made it deeper, stronger, and more extreme to great through.

“Every year we keep growing, and we have a bunch of teams on the waiting list and more and more teams that want to get in,” Hiatt said.

The atmosphere inside the fieldhouse rocked, with fans ringed around the different mat placement and the stands overflowing. The Flavin is one of the gold standards of Illinois’ dual team tournaments.

The format is at once unyielding and exhilarating, creating strategic actions and the freedom for coaches and elite wrestlers to leap around different weight classes.

“We’re wrestling all the good teams, and I like to see where I’m at,” said Yorkville’ Jack Ferguson, a returning state qualifier who went 5-1 at 150 pounds, earning the Foxes’ outstanding wrestler award. “You’re going up against the top wrestlers and there is no place to hide from.”

The 32-team field included five of the six state dual team finalists from last season, St. Charles East and runner-up Marmion Academy, defending 2A state champion Washington Community and runner-up Joliet Catholic Academy and defending 1A runner-up Yorkville Christian.

The teams are grouped into four eight-team brackets, with pool play results creating a hierarchical order for the championship rounds. The top four finishers of each bracket compose the four top pools, Championship, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Each bracket is determined by the round robin results of the team duals.

Defending tournament champion Marmion Academy is undergoing a transitional period. Two standouts from last season’s team went undefeated for their new schools. Collin Carrigan (175) went 6-0 for Glenbard West and Brody Kelly (157) finished 6-0 for IC Catholic Prep.

Defending 182 state champion Jack Lesher is continuing his rehabilitation from a torn ACL he  suffered during a football game in the fall. The Cadets have three elite sophomores in Nicholas Garcia (113), Zach Stewart (138) and Joey Favia (215), with Favia going 6-0 in the tournament.

Stewart finished 4-2, providing Davino his only significant challenge. Davino bumped up to 138 for the showdown and he prevailed 7-2, including a takedown in the final seconds.

In one of the most electronic matches of the day, Munaretto held on for the 5-3 victory over Garcia, who went 5-1 and nearly pulled out the tying takedown in the final seconds.

“When we wrestled at Ironman a couple of weeks ago, we were both off a bit,” Garcia said. “I like this tournament a lot because there’s a lot of strategy that goes into what you do, but you also wrestle the same way to win as you would during a regular tournament.”

If the top four teams monopolized the spotlight, other elite wrestlers stepped up and showed what they were capable of.

“I like being with my team, and all of us being together instead of always being part of an individual tournament,” said Sandburg’s Rocco Hayes, who went 6-0 wrestling primarily at 106 pounds. “We train all year for stuff like this. We have a lot of guys who push us in the room during training to get ready for something like this.”

Marist’s 150-pounder Will Denny powered the Redhawks’ third-place finish by going 6-0.

“Everybody on the team loves this tournament,”’ Denny said. “It’s just like the state tournament. We come here and get into some really tough dual meets.”

Also going 6-0 for Marist were Michael Esteban (126) and George Marinopoulos (120) while Donavon Allen (138), Conor Phelan (190) and Ethan Sonne (132) all went 5-1.

Here’s a list of all of the individuals from the 32 teams who won at least two-thirds of their matches in the tournament, with a minimum of three matches to be considered.

Champion’s Pool

1. St. Charles East

Jayden Colon (6-0 at 144/150), Ben Davino (6-0 at 132/138), Tyler Guerra (6-0 at 138/144), Anthony Gutierrez (6-0 at 165), Dom Munaretto (6-0 at 113), Brody Murray (6-0 at 175), Matt Medina (5-1 at 285), Gavin Connolly (4-2 at 150/157) and Brandon Swartz (4-2 at 215)

2. Joliet Catholic Academy

Luke Hamiti (6-0 at 157), Dillan Johnson (5-0 at 285), Nico Ronchetti (3-0 at 190), Max Corral (5-1 at 165), Luke Foster (5-1 at 106), Nolan Vogel (4-1 at 144), Jason Hampton (4-2 at 120) and Max Vela (2-1 at 175)

3. Marist

Will Denny (6-0 at 150/157), Michael Esteban (6-0 at 126/132), George Marinopoulos (6-0 at 120/126), Donavon Allen (5-1 at 138/144), Conor Phelan (5-1 at 190/215), Ethan Sonne (5-1 at 132/138) and Ricky Ericksen (4-2 at 175/190) 

4. Marmion Academy

Joey Favia (6-0 at 215), Nicholas Garcia (5-1 at 113/120), Donny Pigoni (5-1 at 126/132), Logan Conover (4-1 at 106/113), Vincenzo Testa (3-1 at 175), Zach Stewart (4-2 at 138) and Ashton Hobson (4-2 at 144/150)

Gold Pool

1. IC Catholic Prep

Foley Calcagno (6-0 at 190), Michael Calcagno (6-0 at 215/285), Joe Gliatta (6-0 at 165), Brody Kelly (6-0 at 157), Deven Casey (5-1 at 120/126), Pat Mullen (5-1 at 144/150), Dominic Pasquale (4-2 at 106) and Bryson Spaulding (4-2 at 138/144)

2. Carl Sandburg

Rocco Hayes (6-0 at 106/113), Ryan Hinger (5-1 at 138/144), Madden Parker (5-1 at 120/126) and Zac Ritter (5-1 at 150/157)

3. Yorkville

Ben Alvarez (6-0 at 215/285), Cameron Peach (4-0 at 157/165), Jack Ferguson (5-1 at 150), Luke Chrisse (5-1 at 190/215), Dominic Recchia (5-1 at 132), Luke Zook (5-1 at 175/190) and Dominick Coronado (4-1 at 144)

4. Washington Community

Peyton Cox (5-1 at 144/150), Cael Miller (5-1 at 165), Sean Thornton (5-1 at 285), Eli Gonzalez (4-2 at 126/132), Josh Hoffer (4-2 at 215) and Zane Hulet (4-2 at 175)

Silver Pool

1. Lincoln-Way West

Chris Yirsa (3-0 at 175), Nick Kavooras (5-1 at 285), Jase Salin (5-1 at 150), Carter Dibenedetto (4-2 at 120) and Elijah Zepeda (4-2 at 157)

2. Hersey

Anthony Orozco-Diaz (6-0 at 113), Elijah Garza (3-0 at 120/126), Gus Dammann (5-1 at 285), Esteban Delgado (5-1 at 120/126), Danny Lehman (5-1 at 106), Maksim Mukhamedaliyev (5-1 at 132/138), Abdullokh Khakimov (4-1 at 126/132), Rodrigo Arceo (3-1 at 138/144/150), Anthony Cambria (4-2 at 190), Leo Delgado (4-2 at 175) and Jake Hanson (4-2 at 144/150).

3. DeKalb

Lamar Bradley (6-0 at 215/285), Mekhi Cave (6-0 at 144), Jacob Luce (6-0 at 165/175), Sean Kolkebeck (5-1 at 165/175), Jeremiah Pineira (3-1 at 285), Eduardo Castro (4-2 at 113/120) and Cam Matthews (4-2 at 157)

4. York

Zach Parisi (5-1 at 132), Austin Bagdasarian (4-2 at 215), Mondo Martinelli (4-2 at 126) and Frank Nitti (4-2 at 138/144)

Bronze Pool 

1. Lockport Township

Liam Zimmerman (5-0 at 132), Jake Kratz (3-0 at 285), Justin Wardlow (5-1 at 138), Isaac Zimmerman (4-1 at 120/126), Cyrus Czyz (4-2 at 215) and Timothy O’Connor (2-1 at 113)

2. Glenwood

Drew Davis (6-0 at 126), Maximus Wiezorek (6-0 at 190), Justin Hay (5-1 at 165), Tyler Clarke (4-2 at 106) and John Ben Maduena (4-2 at 138)

3. Barrington

Augusto Rhenzo (6-0 at 150), Silas Oberholtzer (5-0 at 157) and Kaleb Pratt (4-2 at 106/113)

4. Naperville Central

William Erbeck (6-0 at 285), Mitchell Kaszuba (3-0 at 126), Henry Rydwelski (3-1 at 175), Jacob Cochran (4-2 at 113) and Ty Martin (4-2 at 120/126) 

Pool A

1. Minooka

Kaden Meyer (5-0 at 150), Robbie Murphy (5-0 at 285), Cale Stonitsch (5-0 at 132), Noah Avina (4-0 at 120), AJ Frescura (4-1 at 157), Mason Vogt (4-1 at 106) and Lucas Shipla (4-1 at 190)

2. Stevenson

Ayush Bajaj (6-0 at 113), Evan Mishels (6-0 at 106), Themba Sitshela (6-0 at 165/175) and Shawn Kogan (4-2 at 132)

3. Moline

Jack Sibley (4-1 at 150), James Soliz (4-1 at 190), Zander Ealy (3-1 at 157) and Hassan Ndiaye (3-1 at 138)

4. Rochelle

Grant Gensler (6-0 at 165), Thomas Tourdot (6-0 at 120/126), Xavier Villalobos (5-0 at 126/132), Kaiden Morris (5-1 at 215/285), Brenden Voight (5-1 at 144) and Roman Villalobos (4-2 at 175)

Pool B

1. Mukwonago, WI

Grant Stromberg (6-0 at 285), Adam Whittier (6-0 at 144/150), Hayden Chitwood (5-1 at 175), Gavin Meinecke (5-1 at 106), Brian Whipple (4-1 at 120), Wade Kippers (4-2 at 215), Chace Nehls (4-2 at 113) and Austin Schulist (4-2 at 165)

2. Glenbard West

Collin Carrigan (6-0 at 175), Elliot Torres (6-0 at 150), Alejandro Aranda (5-1 at 126), Sasha Boulton (5-1 at 190/215), Aidan Ortega (4-2 at 106), Carson Prunty (4-2 at 120) and Tony Shadid (4-2 at 157/165)

3. Prospect

Jaxon Penovich (6-0 at 190/215), Giorgio DiFalco (5-0 at 138), Connor Munn (4-2 at 165/175), Joseph Quirk (4-2 at 150) and Bennett Westfallen (4-2 at 144)

4. West Aurora

Dayne Serio (6-0 at 157), Evan Matkovich (5-1 at 132), Dominic Serio (4-1 at 150) and Noah Chacon (4-2 at 285)

Pool C

1. Deerfield

Jayden Palzet (3-0 at 132/138), Adrian Cohen (5-1 at 120), Max Drumke (5-1 at 215), Chris Mauer (5-1 at 175/190), Jordan Rasof (5-1 at 138/144), Luke Reddy (5-1 at 132/138), Jorey Becker (4-1 at 106), Jackson Palzet (4-1 at 126/132) and Charlie Cross (4-2 at 150)

2. Yorkville Christian

Jackson Allen (6-0 at 175), Ty Edwards (6-0 at 132/138), Aiden Larsen (6-0 at 113) and Robby Nelson (5-1 at 157/165)

3. Oswego

Ethan Essick (5-1 at 150/157), Joseph Griffin (5-1 at 165/175), Vincent Manfre (5-1 at 126), Colin O’Grady (5-1 at 157/165) and Jonathan Theodor (4-2 at 113)

4. Glenbard East

Ismael Chaidez (6-0 at 120/126), Blake Salvino (5-1 at 190) and Waleed Binmahfooz (4-2 at 106/113)

Pool D

1. Lemont

Noah O’Connor (5-0 at 157), Daniel Taylor (5-0 at 190), Cory Zator (5-1 at 138), Carter Mikolajczak (4-2 at 132) and Alex Pasquale (4-2 at 285)

2. Pewaukee, WI

Caleb Cady (6-0 at 165/175), Dylan Boel (4-2 at 120/126) and Peyton Bruner (4-2 at 157/165)

3. Sycamore

Tyler Lockhart (6-0 at 120), Gable Carrick (4-2 at 190), Jayden Dohogne (4-2 at 138) and Charlie Olson (4-2 at 106)

4. Hinsdale Central

Marko Ivanisevic (6-0 at 285), Zach Kruse (6-0 at 175), Sammy Murante (6-0 at 113) and Aiden Galeckas (4-2 at 190)

Champion’s Pool Title dual meet – St. Charles East 42, Joliet Catholic Academy 23

285 – Dillan Johnson (Joliet Catholic Academy) F 0:12 Matt Medina (St. Charles East)

106 – Luke Foster (Joliet Catholic Academy) F 0:37 Kaden Potter (St. Charles East)

113 – Dom Munaretto (St. Charles East) F 1:26 Max Cumbee (Joliet Catholic Academy) 

120 – Jason Hampton (Joliet Catholic Academy) MD 15-5 Liam Aye (St. Charles East)

126 – Aurelio Munoz (Joliet Catholic Academy) D 5-1 Gavin Woodmancy (St. Charles East)

132 – Ben Davino (St. Charles East) F 1:14 Damian Flores (Joliet Catholic Academy)

138 – Tyler Guerra (St. Charles East) F 0:53 Elias Gonzalez (Joliet Catholic Academy)

144 – Jayden Colon (St. Charles East) D 6-4 Nolan Vogel (Joliet Catholic Academy) 

150 – Gavin Connolly (St. Charles East) D 1-0 Connor Cumbee (Joliet Catholic Academy) 

157 – Luke Hamiti (Joliet Catholic Academy) MD 11-3 Ryan McGovern (St. Charles East) 

165 – Anthony Gutierrez (St. Charles East) D 6-4 Max Corral (Joliet Catholic Academy)

175 – Brody Murray (St. Charles East) F 2:34 Max Vela (Joliet Catholic Academy) 

190 – Cooper Murray (St. Charles East) D 5-2 Derrick Pomatto (Joliet Catholic Academy)

215 – Brandon Swartz (St. Charles East) F 0:30 Max Hrvatin (Joliet Catholic Academy)

Champion’s Pool standings and results

1st – St. Charles East, 2nd – Joliet Catholic Academy, 3rd – Marist, 4th – Marmion Academy

Round 1: St. Charles East 44, Marist 19; Joliet Catholic Academy 52, Marmion Academy 18

Round 2:St. Charles East 50, Marmion Academy 10; Joliet Catholic Academy 32, Marist 27

Round 3: St. Charles East 42, Joliet Catholic Academy 23; Marist 45, Marmion Academy 29

Gold Pool standings and results

1st – IC Catholic Prep, 2nd – Carl Sandburg, 3rd – Yorkville, 4th – Washington Community

Round 1: Yorkville 42, Washington Community 17; Carl Sandburg 39, IC Catholic Prep 28

Round 2: IC Catholic Prep 41, Yorkville 22; Carl Sandburg 37, Washington Community 30

Round 3: Yorkville 33, Carl Sandburg 28; IC Catholic Prep 40, Washington Community 24

Silver Pool standings and results

1st – Lincoln-Way West, 2nd – Hersey, 3rd – DeKalb, 4th – York

Round 1: DeKalb 56, York 10; Hersey 32, Lincoln-Way West 24

Round 2: Lincoln-Way West 40, York 27; DeKalb 34, Hersey 33

Round 3: Hersey 50, York 15; Lincoln-Way West 47, DeKalb 21

Bronze Pool standings and results 

1st – Lockport Township, 2nd – Glenwood, 3rd – Barrington, 4th – Naperville Central

Round 1: Lockport Township 43, Naperville Central 27; Glenwood 37, Barrington 22

Round 2:Glenwood 47, Naperville Central 26; Lockport Township 41, Barrington 30

Round 3: Barrington 31, Naperville Central 30; Lockport Township 47, Glenwood 23

Pools A through D standings

Pool A 

1st – Minooka, 2nd – Stevenson, 3rd – Moline, 4th – Rochelle

Pool B

1st – Mukwonago, WI, 2nd – Glenbard West, 3rd – Prospect, 4th – West Aurora

Pool C

1st – Deerfield, 2nd – Yorkville Christian; 3rd – Oswego, 4th – Glenbard East

Pool D

1st – Lemont, 2nd – Pewaukee, WI, 3rd – Sycamore, 4th – Hinsdale Central

Here are the top four teams in each bracket

Wayne Miller Bracket standings

1st – St. Charles East, 2nd – Yorkville, 3rd – York, 4th – Naperville Central

Dan Cliffe Bracket standings

1st – Joliet Catholic Academy, 2nd – Carl Sandburg, 3rd – Hersey, 4th – Barrington

Terry McCoy Bracket standings

1st – Marmion Academy, 2nd – IC Catholic Prep, 3rd – Lincoln-Way West, 4th – Glenwood

Rich Harvey Bracket standings

1st – Marist, 2nd – Washington Community, 3rd – DeKalb, 4th – Lockport Township

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