By Curt Herron
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association’s 27th Annual Freshman/Sophomore State Championships was again a huge success as freshmen and sophomore boys representing 208 schools competed at the Bank of Springfield Center.
Over 2,300 boys participated in the event which covered three weekends and featured 16 regionals that fed into eight sectionals which then established the final field of state qualifiers that sought the eight medals which would be awarded at each of the 15 weight classes.
When the finals were complete, 14 schools had champions with only one having two title winners, Warren Township.
Winning titles for the Blue Devils were sophomores Justice Humphreys at 152 and Anthony Soto at 220. Warren Township, which is coached by Brad Janecek, made history this season by advancing to the IHSA Class 3A Dual Team Finals for the first time.
Other sophomores who won championships were Mount Carmel’s Kavel Moore at 106, Carl Sandburg’s Madden Parker at 113, Naperville North’s Tyler Sternstein at 120, Schaumburg’s Callen Kirchner at 126, Lincoln-Way East’s Brayden Mortell at 132, Glenbard North’s Rylan Kradle at 138, Hononegah’s Connor Diemel at 145, Plainfield South’s Colin Bickett at 160 and Lincoln-Way West’s Nathan Elstner at 182.
Freshmen who won championships were Normal Community’s Jackson Soney at 101, Joliet Catholic Academy’s Maximus Vela at 170, Marmion Academy’s Joseph Favia at 195 and Quincy Senior’s Todd Smith at 285.
Mortell led the way for Lincoln-Way East, which had the most medal winners with five, which was two more than any other team had. The Griffins qualified seven individuals for the championships. Beside Mortell, other medal winners for coach Kevin Rockett’s team were Jackson Zaeske (second at 160), Kaidge Richardson (fourth at 120), Ryan Stingily (fourth at 285) and Declan Dircks (sixth at 152).
Five teams finished with three medal winners, Crystal Lake Central (coached by Justen Lehr), Hononegah (coached by Tyler Demoss), Jacksonville (coached by Dustin Secrist), Lincoln-Way West (coached by Brian Glynn) and Marmion Academy (coached by Anthony Cirrincione). Jacksonville, which qualified for dual team state for the first time, and Marmion Academy, the runner-up to St. Charles East in Class 3A, both only had three qualifiers in the competition.
Individuals claiming second-place finishes were Washington’s Symon Woods at 101, Lockport Township’s Isaac Zimmerman at 106, Hersey’s Anthony Orozco at 113, Stevenson’s Shawn Kogan at 120, Grant’s Erik Rodriguez at 126, Belleville West’s Aiden Colbert at 132, Crystal Lake Central’s Dominic Vitale at 138 and St. Charles East’s Ryan McGovern at 145.
Others who took second place were Belleville East’s Terence Willis at 152, Lincoln-Way East’s Jackson Zaeske at 160, Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Eli Larson at 170, Springfield High’s Keyshaun Harris at 182, Highland’s Ashton Zobrist at 195, Crystal Lake Central’s Thomas McNeil at 220 and Jacksonville’s Aiden Surratt at 285.
Finishing in third place were Oswego East’s Nico Harris at 101, Lyons Township’s Griff Powell at 106, Tremont’s Dylan Eimer at 113, Prairie Ridge’s Mikey Meade at 120, Glenbard West’s Ulises Rosas at 126, Marmion Academy’s Ashton Hobson at 132, Wheaton North’s Thomas Fulton at 138 and Yorkville’s Caleb Viscogliosi at 145.
Others who claimed third-place finishes were Mount Carmel’s Kevin Kalchbrenner at 152, Lockport Township’s Durango Valles at 160, Belleville West’s Ethan Hofmeister at 170, Pittsfield’s Tucker Cook at 182, Marmion Academy’s Mateusz Nycz at 195, Oak Park and River Forest’s Eric Harris at 220 and East Peoria’s Jose Deltoro at 285.
Finishing in fourth place were Normal West’s Ruben Rivera at 101, Cary-Grove’s Hunter Lenz at 106, Sterling’s Zyan Westbrook at 113, Lincoln-Way East’s Kaidge Richardson at 120, Granite City’s Brenden Rayl at 126, Highland Park’s Nathan Ferrari at 132, Roxana’s Lyndon Thies at 138 and Quincy Senior’s Gunnar Derhake at 145.
Also claiming fourth-place finishes were Camp Point Central’s Konnor Bush at 152, Rockridge’s Ryan Lower at 160, Clinton’s Kristian Hibbard at 170, Edwardsville’s Simon Schulte at 182, Waukegan’s Lamero Caesar at 195, Neuqua Valley’s Magomed Nurudinov at 220 and Lincoln-Way East’s Ryan Stingily at 285.
Individuals who took fifth place were Morris’ Owen Sater at 101, Crystal Lake Central’s Payton Ramsey at 106, Bolingbrook’s Jared Craig at 113, Moline’s Dominick Diaz at 120, Oswego’s Brayden Swanson at 126, Waubonsie Valley’s Elias Gonzalez at 132, Belvidere’s Dominick Girardin at 138 and Hononegah’s Maximus Haskins at 145.
Others who finished fifth were Wheaton North’s Julian Flores at 152, Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Oliver McPeek at 160, Lincoln-Way West’s Jimmy Talley at 170, Vandalia’s Kaden Tidwell at 182, Quincy Notre Dame’s Ryan Darnell at 195, Loyola Academy’s Joey Herbert at 220 and Granite City’s Demarco Clark at 285.
Claiming sixth-place finishes were Taft’s Bernardo Roque at 101, Normal West’s Dylan McGrew at 106, Glenbard East’s Ismael Chaidez at 113, Bremen’s Elijiah Wofford at 120, Stillman Valley’s Henry Hildreth at 126, Schaumburg’s Rocco Fontela at 132, Coal City’s Mason Garner at 138 and Belleville East’s Braden Kelly at 145.
Also finishing sixth were Lincoln-Way East’s Declan Dircks at 152, McHenry’s Aiden Fischler at 160, Bloomington’s Kenner Bye at 170, Plano’s Richie Amakiri at 182, Johnsburg’s CJ Ameachi at 195, St. Charles East’s Anthony Lobrillo at 220 and Oregon’s Briggs Sellers at 285.
Finishing in seventh place were Marist’s Joseph Bronske at 101, Grant’s Vince Jasinski at 106, Oswego’s Vincent Manfre at 113, Jacksonville’s Dashawn Armstrong at 120, Deerfield’s Jack Palzet at 126, West Chicago’s Donovan Avila at 132, DeKalb’s Michael Hodge III at 138 and Marist’s Kevin Tomkins at 145.
Also taking seventh place were Civic Memorial’s Luke McCoy at 152, Glenbrook North’s Shane Onixt at 160, Naperville Central’s Henry Rydwelski at 170, Coal City’s Cade Poyner at 182, Andrew’s Joe Zimmer at 195, Wheaton Warrenville South’s Ashton Kibbe at 220 and Evergreen Park’s Jeremy Gagnon at 285.
Claiming eighth place finishes were Lincoln-Way West’s Max Munn at 101, Hononegah’s Jackson Olson at 106, Lane Tech’s Alexander Valentin at 113, Oswego East’s Noah Snow at 120, DeKalb’s Ayden Shuey at 126, Edwardsville’s Logan Hiller at 132, Brother Rice’s Jack O’Connor at 138 and Washington’s Cruise Brolley at 145.
Others who took eighth place were Hampshire’s Michael Brannigan at 152, Yorkville’s Luke Chrisse at 160, Jacksonville’s Abram Davidson at 170, Mt. Zion’s Keller Stocks at 182, Zion-Benton’s Isaiah Tellado at 195, Dundee-Crown’s Teigen Moreno at 220 and Downers Grove North’s Peter Rodriguez at 285.
Here’s a breakdown of the champions of the IWCOA Freshman/Sophomore Championships and their weight classes:
101 – Jackson Soney, Normal Community
When you’re a freshman and you have a teammate at your weight class who finishes fifth in Class 3A and posts a 51-2 record, you’re not going to get much time on the mat, but practicing against Caden Correll, who won the Frosh/Soph title at 101 last season, provided Jackson Soney with plenty of confidence that he could do just as well at this Frosh/Soph Championships, and he certainly did that.
Normal Community’s Soney, who had to deal with a serious injury last summer, won the title at 101 with a fall in 1:33 over Washington’s Symon Woods. He had three other falls, pinning Taft’s Bernardo Roque in 2:56 in the semifinals, St. Rita’s Jack Hogan in 3:46 in the quarterfinals and Triad’s William Kelly.in 0:28 in his opener and he also captured a 6-2 decision over Morris’ Owen Sater.
“I was behind Caden Correll, who took fifth at state, so I wanted to come here and win and I ended up doing it,” Soney said. “Last year, I got second at state in IESA, so this has really been a journey to get back to the state title. In the summer after the state tournament, I fractured my lower back, it’s called Spondylosis. I just want people to know that if you break your arm or your leg or hurt yourself in any way that you can always come back and achieve your goals and do whatever you want. I was out for three months in the summer and I didn’t let that stop me from being where I am right now.”
Woods, a freshman for Class 2A champion Washington who went 36-16 this season, opened the competition with wins by technical fall over Stagg’s Javier Corral, Sterling’s Cael Lyons and Quincy Senior’s Hugh Sharrow before winning 8-4 in sudden victory over Normal West”s Ruben Rivera in the semifinals.
Oswego East’s Nico Harris won a 3-1 decision over Rivera to finish third, Sater was a 13-8 winner on a tiebreaker over Roque to finish fifth and Marist’s Joseph Bronske won a 7-2 decision over Lincoln-Way West’s Max Munn to claim seventh place.
106 – Kavel Moore, Mount Carmel
With state qualifier Lukas Tsirtsis at his weight class and 113 state champion Seth Mendoza and 132 state champion Sergio Lemley in the same room along with him at Mount Carmel, which captured the 2022 IHSA Class 3A title, Kavel Moore figured to be one of the contenders for top honors at the IWCOA Freshman/Sophomore Championships at 106 and he proved to be up the challenge.
Moore, a sophomore who was a member of the 2022 title team, won an 8-5 decision over Lockport Township’s Isaac Zimmerman in the 106 finals. He opened with three-straight falls, winning in 2:51 over Naperville Central’s Austin Aguinaldo, in 3:51 over Bolingbrook’s Isaac Harris and in 1:32 over Geneseo’s Tim Sebastian before winning 8-6 in sudden victory over Lyons Township’s Griff Powell.
“I’d like to thank my parents (Robert and Kyesha), because obviously without them I wouldn’t be here,” Moore said. “But especially everyone in that room, with wrestlers like Seth Mendoza and Sergio Lemley, and obviously coach Alex (Tsirtsis), who’s always pushing me to be better and getting me in shape so that I can do stuff like this.”
Zimmerman, who went 34-15 and fell one win shy of a trip to state after getting pinned in the late going at the 3A Normal Community Sectional, helped his team to a third-place finish in the Dual Team Finals. The Porters freshman opened with a 14-2 major decision over Hersey’s Riddick Variano, won by fall in 2:05 over Monmouth-Roseville’s Caleb Dillard, won by technical fall over Glenbard West’s Carson Prunty and got a pin in 2:42 over Cary-Grove’s Hunter Lenz.
Powell took third place with a 7-0 decision over Lenz. Crystal Lake Central’s Payton Ramsey claimed a 13-11 decision over Normal West’s Dylan McGrew to finish fifth and Grant’s Vince Jasinski took seventh place with a 7-6 decision over Hononegah’s Jackson Olson.
113 – Madden Parker, Carl Sandburg
After falling one win shy of a trip to state at the 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional, Madden Parker wanted to close out his season on a more positive note when he competed in the Frosh/Soph Championships and after claiming three decisions, a major decision and a win by fall, he accomplished his goal by capturing first place at 113.
Parker, a sophomore who finished with a 35-12 record and placed seventh at 106 in last year’s Frosh/Soph tournament, captured a 4-0 decision over Hersey’s Anthony Orozco in the 113 title match. After opening with a fall in 4:17 over Deerfield’s Noah Palzet, he won a 7-0 decision over Richwoods’ Gabe Robb, claimed a 4-1 decision over Glenbard East’s Ismael Chaidez and then won an 11-0 major decision in the semifinals over Sterling’s Zyan Westbrook.
“Madden wrestled a very good tournament in my opinion,” Carl Sandburg coach Clinton Polz said. “He cleaned up a lot of the areas he needed to focus on after the regular season, and it really paid off for him these last three weeks. Madden was pretty disappointed not qualifying for the IHSA state tournament this year and felt he should have been down there. I think this last weekend was a great step in the right direction for him to not only qualify next season, but hopefully be standing on the podium, as well. Madden is a great leader in our program by example, and this was just another great example of him doing that.”
Orozco, a sophomore who went 5-5 and was a member of a Huskies team that qualified for their first trip to the IHSA Dual Team Finals since 1997, won several close matches. He claimed a 2-1 win on an ultimate tiebreaker over Tremont’s Dylan Eimer in the semifinals after winning a 7-3 decision over Bolingbrook’s Jared Craig. He also claimed a 7-0 victory over Oregon’s Jackson Messenger and won a 2-0 decision over Quincy Senior’s Wyatt Boeing in his opener.
Eimer took third place after winning 16-1 by technical fall over Westbrook. In the fifth-place match, Craig prevailed 3-2 on a tiebreaker over Chaidez. And Oswego’s Vincent Manfre finished seventh with an 8-5 decision over Lane Tech’s Alexander Valentin.
120 – Tyler Sternstein, Naperville North
Tyler Sternstein was understandably disappointed after seeing a 31-11 season end one win shy of a trip to the IHSA Finals at the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional. Like many others who wanted to end on a high mark, he followed several big wins with two close decisions to capture first place at 120 at the Frosh/Soph Championships.
Sternstein, a Naperville North sophomore who was at 126 in the IHSA postseason, won 6-4 in the 120 title match over Stevenson’s Shawn Kogan after winning a 3-1 decision over Prairie Ridge’s Mikey Meade in the semifinals. He opened with a fall in 0:43 over Farmington’s Caleb Showalter, won 17-2 by technical fall over Morris’ Carter Skoff and then recorded a fall in 2:26 over Moline’s Dominick Diaz.
“I came up real short in the blood round,” Sternstein said. “So I was just trying to avenge that. Winning this championship is cool but I still want to go to the IHSA and be a champion. In my freshman year, I went 0-2, this year was the blood round, so next year the goal is to make it down and hopefully place. Our program is good and our coaches are good and they always push everyone at practice to make us all better and to keep us in shape, and I couldn’t have done it without them. Every day when we do warmups, running past their records on the wall, I want to get my name up there some day. Hopefully this boosts me for next year.”
Kogan, a freshman who won 25 matches this season, only had one match that wasn’t a decision, his opener, which he won 18-8 over Normal Community’s Carter Mayes. He followed that with a 7-3 victory over Bremen’s Elijiah Wofford, a 5-2 quarterfinals victory over Oswego East’s Noah Snow and a 3-1 win by sudden victory over Lincoln-Way East’s Kaidge Richardson in the semifinals.
Meade won a 3-0 decision over Richardson to claim third place. Diaz won by medical forfeit over Wofford to finish fifth and Jacksonville’s Dashawn Armstrong claimed a 1-0 decision over Snow for seventh.
126 – Callen Kirchner, Schaumburg
After not being to accompany his brother Caden to the IHSA Finals from the Class 3A Conant Sectional due in part to troubles that he experienced to his weight, Callen Kirchner had to settle for the next best thing, which was seeing if he could close on a good note with a title at 126 at the Freshman/Sophomore Championships.
And thanks to three falls, a win by technical fall and a decision in the finals, the Schaumburg sophomore, who went 34-7 this season, did just that, capturing a 10-5 victory over Grant’s Erik Rodriguez in the 126 title match. Kirchner advanced to the finals with a fall in 4:22 over Glenbard West’s Ulises Rosas, which followed a 17-2 victory by technical fall over DeKalb’s Ayden Shuey. After opening the event with a pin in 1:31 over Lockport Township’s Anthony Diorio, Kirchner recorded a fall in 4:35 over Granite City’s Brenden Rayl.
“I decided to go 120 at the beginning of the year and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to,” Kirchner said. “But throughout the season, I just kept gaining weight and it was getting higher and higher and it was just getting tougher to make it and at sectionals, I just couldn’t perform like myself. I didn’t get what I set out for at the beginning of the season but it’s nice to be able to come here and get a title. It’s great to one of the better guys on a team that could have made it down to team state. Me, my brother Caden and Brady Phelps have all been pushing all of our teammates to work harder and to get better. And coach (Mike) LeVanti has put in a lot of work.”
Rodriguez, a freshman who finished 36-12, earned his spot on the title mat with a 9-3 decision over Stillman Valley’s Henry Hildreth. After opening with a fall in 4:06 over Maine East’s Dulguun Nyamdavaa and then a pin in 2:13 over Naperville Central’s Vincent Bern, Rodriguez won 5-2 over Lincoln-Way West’s Jakob Siwinski.
Rosas defeated Rayl 5-2 to claim third place, Oswego’s Brayden Swanson won by fall in 3:32 over Hildreth to take fifth and Deerfield’s Jack Palzet won a 5-0 decision over Shuey to finish seventh.
132 – Brayden Mortell, Lincoln-Way East
After seeing his hopes for a trip to the IHSA Finals dashed in the Class 3A Normal Community Sectional, Brayden Mortell joined four of his teammates on the awards stand as Lincoln-Way East led all schools with five medal winners at the Frosh/Soph Championships.
The Griffins sophomore, who went 23-17 this season, captured a 5-2 decision over Belleville West’s Aiden Colbert in the 132 title match. All of his five matches were decisions, including a 5-2 win over Highland Park’s Nathan Ferrari in the semifinals and a 4-2 victory just before that over Hersey’s Rodrigo Arceo. Mortell opened with a 6-1 win over Wheaton North’s Ryan Rosch before capturing an 8-4 triumph over Hononegah’s Max Aranki.
“We’re a young team,” Mortell said. ‘We just go hard every day in practice and we have great practice partners, and we just go at it every day. And we all have the same mindset on this team.”
Colbert, a sophomore who went 27-10 and fell 2-1 to Mortell in both individuals’ first match at the Normal Community Sectional, also won all of his matches by decisions. The closest was 1-0 in the semifinals over Waubonsie Valley’s Elias Gonzalez which followed a 6-0 victory over West Chicago’s Donovan Avila. After opening with a 6-0 decision over Glenbrook North’s Ebin Fladeland, Colbert claimed a 7-1 victory over Schaumburg’s Rocco Fontela.
Marmion Academy’s Ashton Hobson claimed third place after capturing an 8-7 decision over Ferrari. Gonzales took fifth place following a 2-1 win in a tiebreaker over Fontela while Avila finished seventh after claiming a 4-3 decision over Edwardsville’s Logan Hiller.
138 – Rylan Kradle, Glenbard North
After coming up one victory shy of advancing to the IHSA Class 3A Finals from the Conant Sectional at 145, Rylan Kradle was able to conclude his season in a more positive fashion after he captured the title at 138 at the Freshman/Sophomore Championships, one year after he finished in third place at 126 in the same competition.
The Glenbard North sophomore, who went 32-17 this season, defeated Crystal Lake Central’s Dominic Vitale 5-0 in the 138 title match. He advanced to the finals with a fall in 5:19 over Roxana’s Lyndon Thies after capturing a 6-2 decision in the quarterfinals over Brother Rice’s Jack O’Connor. Kradle opened with a fall in 0:58 over Glenbrook North’s Henry Hafner and followed that victory with a 10-0 major decision over Lincoln-Way East’s Rory Moran.
Vitale, a sophomore who had a 21-14 record, opened with a fall in 2:33 over Normal West’s Logan Alvarez before winning three decisions. Those were 5-1 over Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s John Mensendike, 3-0 over Plainfield Central’s Aiden Rudman and 5-3
over Wheaton North’s Thomas Fulton in the semifinals.
Fulton took third place with a 22-6 win by technical fall over Thies, Belvidere’s Dominick Girardin won a 9-3 decision over Coal City’s Mason Garner to take fifth place and DeKalb’s Michael Hodge III was a 4-2 victor by tiebreaker over O’Connor to claim seventh place.
145 – Connor Diemel, Hononegah
After seeing his dreams of an appearance in the IHSA Finals get dashed following a narrow loss in the consolation semifinals of the Class 3A Barrington Sectional, Connor Diemel sought a better conclusion to his season at the Frosh/Soph Championships.
The Hononegah sophomore, who went 32-15, took first at 145 with a 7-0 decision over St. Charles East’s Ryan McGovern. He won a 9-1 major decision over Yorkville’s Caleb Viscogliosi in the semifinals after getting a 5-1 victory over Marist’s Kevin Tomkins. Diemel opened with two falls, winning in 2:33 over Fenton’s Omar Diaz and in 1:33 over Quincy Senior’s Gunnar Derhake.
McGovern, a sophomore who was on the Saints’ 22-1 team that made their first dual team finals trip since 2001 and won their first state title with a 28-24 victory over Marmion Academy in the Class 3A championship, won 8-3 in the semifinals over Maximus Haskins to deny an all-Hononegah title match. After winning by fall in 2:40 in his opener over McHenry’s Avian Roman and claiming a 17-1 win by technical fall over Bishop McNamara’s Ethan Pfieffer, McGovern was a 10-8 winner by sudden victory over Belleville East’s Braden Kelly.
Viscogliosi edged Derhake 5-3 to claim third place, Haskins got past Kelly 4-3 to capture fifth place and Tomkins won a 9-2 decision over Washington’s Cruise Brolley to finish in seventh place.
152 – Justice Humphreys, Warren Township
After falling one win shy of a trip to the IHSA Finals at the Class 3A Barrington Sectional, Justice Humphreys was fortunate to be able to help his team advance to the Dual Team Finals for the first time, which provided plenty of motivation for him to close out with a big effort when he competed at the Frosh/Soph Championships.
Humphreys, a sophomore who went 32-17 to help Warren Township reach the quarterfinals, where it fell to eventual third-place finisher Lockport, took first place at 152 with a 3-2 win on a tiebreaker over Belleville East’s Terence Willis to become one of the Blue Devils’ two champions, with Anthony Soto later first at 220. Humphreys won a 5-3 decision over Wheaton North’s Julian Flores in the semifinals after capturing a 14-3 major decision over Civic Memorial’s Luke McCoy. He opened the tournament with two decisions, winning 7-0 over Moline’s Deanthony Simpson and 5-3 over Oswego’s Ethan Essick.
“We had a new team and we had a couple of new freshmen,” Humphreys said. “We made school history this year and I’m just excited to see what we do next year. and in years to come. The coaches pushed everybody in the room as hard as possible and I feel like that’s something that was a key factor of our success this year, it was the coaches. I’m excited for next year because the new freshmen that’s going to come up is going to see what the program is about.”
Willis, a sophomore who finished 31-11, also lost a close match in the consolation semifinals at the Class 3A Normal Community Sectional. He earned his spot in the 152 title match with a 4-2 semifinals victory over Mount Carmel’s Kevin Kalchbrenner after capturing a 13-4 win by major decision over Olympia’s Kelton Graden. Willis opened with two major decisions, winning 18-7 over St. Charles East’s Cooper Murray and 20-6 over Crystal Lake Central’s Tommy Tomasello.
Kalchbrenner won by fall in 2:27 over Camp Point Central’s Konnor Bush to claim third place, Flores was a 6-3 winner over Lincoln-Way East’s Declan Dircks in the fifth-place match and McCoy won by fall in 3:12 over Hampshire’s Michael Brannigan to finish in seventh place.
160 – Colin Bickett, Plainfield South
While Plainfield South was able to get a state qualifier, junior Matthew Janiak, who ended up placing sixth at 195, three other individuals who had 25 or more victories couldn’t advance from the Class 3A Normal Community Sectional, with one of those being Colin Bickett.
With Rudy and Rocco Silva also being juniors, Bickett, a sophomore who went 27-13, was the only Cougar who was able to compete in the Freshman/Sophomore Championships and he made the most of the opportunity by capturing the title at 160 with a 14-7 decision over Lincoln-Way East’s Jackson Zaeske. Bickett recorded falls in his first three matches, winning in 2:11 over Maine South’s Jack Staunton, in 0:56 over Curie’s Mylan William and in 4:56 over Rockridge’s Ryan Lower. He earned his spot in the title match with a 6-4 decision over Lockport Township’s Durango Valles in the semifinals.
“The reason I wanted to compete in the Frosh/Soph tournament was I believed I could’ve accomplished more in my season and I still had more to prove to myself,” Bickett said. “Therefore, I was motivated to keep going. Winning the title felt amazing not just for me but the best part about it was having my family there cheering me on and my dad right by me coaching. From my performance it motivates me to stay on top and keep going with what I am doing. With the way I wrestled I believe I did great but there are always minor adjustments I can change to achieve perfection and I will strive for the best of my potential. My favorite part about Plainfield South wrestling is that it doesn’t feel like a chore to come to practice every day. We have fun in the practice room but we all get a lot out of it.”
Zaeske, a sophomore who finished with a 21-7 record, was unable to advance out of the Normal Community Sectional at 182. But he was able to be one of five Griffins who earned medals, which was the highest total for any team in the competition. Zaeske opened with a fall over Bartlett’s James Smrha in 2:15 and then won a 5-0 decision over Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Oliver McPeek. After getting a win by fall in 1:21 over Glenbrook North’s Shane Onixt, he earned his spot in the finals with an 11-3 major decision over McHenry’s Aiden Fischler.
Valles won a 6-3 decision over Lower to claim third place, McPeek was a 10-4 victor over Fischler in the fifth-place match and Onixt got a fall in 4:24 over Yorkville’s Luke Chrisse to take seventh place.
170 – Maximus Vela, Joliet Catholic Academy
While his team had a banner day at the Class 2A Hinsdale South Sectional by qualifying 13 individuals for the IHSA Finals, Maximus Vela fell one victory shy of joining his Joliet Catholic Academy teammates at state but the consolation was that the freshman got to help his team contend for a state title for the second year in a row, but they fell 28-27 to Washington in the title dual meet in Bloomington.
Boosted by being on a team with seven All-Staters who placed fourth or better, which included 160 state champion Mason Alessio and 182 runner-up Nico Ronchetti, who coached him in the finals, Vela felt that he could perform well at the Frosh/Soph Championships, and he did, by taking first at 170 after capturing a 6-4 win by sudden victory over Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Eli Larson. His largest win was a 10-2 major decision over Clinton’s Kristian Hibbard in the semifinals. Vela opened with a 6-2 win over Richwoods’ Gabriel Martinez, captured a 7-0 victory over St. Charles North’s Matthew Plumb and claimed a 9-2 decision over Rolling Meadows’ John Rappa in the quarterfinals.
“I know that a lot of guys have done really well here have also done really well in the IHSA,” Vela said. “I’m just super happy and excited that I won here and this is only one of the accomplishments that I’ll have in my career. I think personally, that we’ve barely scratched the surface as to what Joliet Catholic is going to do. We got put on the radar and now more kids that want to come and join the program. I love competing for all of them (his coaches) and they all believe in me and help out a lot. After tournaments, the coaches help each individual on what they need to work on. All of our coaches are the best. Coach (Ryan) Cumbee, coach Luke (Pascale), coach Ben Gerdes and coach (James) Lancaster, they’re all great coaches.”
Larson, a freshman who had a 38-15 record and helped the 34-6 PantherHawks to a third-place finish in Class 1A, opened with falls of 2:14 over Wheaton Academy’s Caden Smith, 0;56 over Lincoln-Way West’s Chris Yirsa and 2:12 over Trico’s Colin Hughey before winning a 9-0 major decision over Belleville West’s Ethan Hofmeister.
Hofmeister won a 16-10 decision over Hibbard to take third place, Lincoln-Way West’s Jimmy Talley won 7-3 over Bloomington’s Kenner Bye for fifth place and Naperville Central’s Henry Rydwelski won a 5-2 decision over Jacksonville’s Abram Davidson to finish seventh.
182 – Nathan Elstner, Lincoln-Way West
Despite winning close to 30 matches and helping his team to a high ranking throughout the season, Nathan Elstner fell a bit short of his goal of reaching the IHSA Finals in individual and team competitions. But the Lincoln-Way West sophomore who went 29-20 and helped the Warriors to a regional title and the opportunity to host Lockport to determine who would go to team state decided to continue his season a little longer and that paid off in the Frosh/Soph Championships.
Elstner won by fall in 0:57 over Springfield High’s Keyshaun Harris to win the title at 182. Other than a 7-0 decision in the second round over Edwardsville’s Simon Schulte, his other three victories also came by way of falls. After opening with a pin in 1:53 over Geneseo’s Aaron Betcher, he recorded a fall in 2:13 over Mt. Zion’s Keller Stocks before pinning Pittsfield’s Tucker Cook in 0:46 in the semifinals.
“We have a young team and I’m excited for these next couple of years,” Elstner said. “We have big goals for next season about getting to team state. And for individual goals, I think that we’re going to have a lot more placers. We’re starting to come up now.”
Harris, a sophomore who went 32-13 but was unable to advance from the Class 2A Highland Sectional at 170, was the lone Senator to advance to the Frosh/Soph Championships. After opening with a 6-4 decision over Dunlap’s Joe Weeks and following that with an 8-3 victory over Joliet West’s Tai’Vaughn Johnson, Harris won by fall in 4:40 over Plano’s Richie Amakiri before winning an 11-2 major decision over Vandalia’s Kaden Tidwell in the semifinals.
Cook won an 11-3 major decision over Schulte to claim third place, Tidwell edged Amakiri 8-7 for fifth place and Coal City’s Cade Poyner took seventh place after recording a fall in 1:14 over Stocks.
195 – Joseph Favia, Marmion Academy
All in all, it was a very successful freshman season for Marmion Academy’s Joseph Favia, who not only was able to go 22-11 while training with Class 3A 182-pound champion Jack Lesher but he also got to help the 18-2 Cadets advance to the Dual Team Finals where his team battled to the end before falling 28-24 to St. Charles East.
But one thing he wasn’t able to accomplish was to qualify for the IHSA Finals along with 12 of his teammates so Favia took part in the Frosh/Soph Championships and it definitely paid off as he claimed top honors at 195 after edging Highland’s Ashton Zobrist 1-0 in the title match. After opening with a fall in 1:11 over Curie’s Eduardo Seija and getting a pin in 0:31 over Oak Park and River Forest’s Carey Robinson, Favia won 3-0 over Edwardsville’s Roman Janek and then
claimed a 9-1 major decision over Waukegan’s Lamero Caesar.
“We just have the best coaching staff and the best upperclassmen,” Favia said. “And I have to give a shout out to someone that I look up to on our team, Jack Lesher, he’s a good practice partner. We’ll be back, for sure. We’re all pretty hyped and ready to get back at it. offseason wrestling and getting back into the room with our teammates. It’s going to be good.”
Zobrist, a sophomore who went 40-10 but still fell one win shy of qualifying from the Class 2A Sectional that his school hosted, earned his spot on the Frosh/Soph title mat at 195 after claiming a 4-1 decision over Marmion Academy’s Mateusz Nycz to deny an all-Cadets finals. Zobrist opened with a fall in 2:57 over Curie’s Mark Anthony Nieto, followed with a 9-1 win over Johnsburg’s CJ Ameachi and then claimed a 9-3 decision over Limestone’s Ethan Dixon.
Nycz won by fall in 4:53 over Caesar to give Marmion two of the top three medalists at the weight class. Quincy Notre Dame’s Ryan Darnell recorded a fall in 3:37 over Ameachi to claim fifth place and Andrew’s Joe Zimmer took seventh place after capturing a 4-1 decision over Zion-Benton’s Isaiah Tellado.
220 – Anthony Soto, Warren Township
Anthony Soto put the final touches on a history-making season for Warren Township when he took first place at 220 in the IWCOA Freshman/Sophomore Championships to join teammate Justice Humphreys, who took first at 152, giving their program the most champions of any of the teams in the tournament with two.
Soto, a sophomore who finished 33-12, lost by two points in the consolation semifinals at the Barrington Sectional to miss out on a trip to state. But he was able to help the 15-5 Blue Devils qualify for the first time to Dual Team State, where they fell to Lockport, who took third place. Soto captured the title at 220 with a 5-1 decision over Crystal Lake Central’s Thomas McNeil. Three of his other wins were by fall, winning in 0:44 over Oak Forest’s Andrius Vasilevskas and in 2:52 over Granite City’s Enrique Morales before adding a fall in 1:15 in the semifinals over St. Charles East’s Anthony Lobrillo. Soto, who claimed third place at 220 in the same competition last season, also had an 8-0 victory over Wheaton Warrenville South’s Ashton Kibbe.
“This was a very amazing year,” Soto said. “I didn’t expect it to go the way that it did. Going all the way to team state for the first time in our school was pretty amazing. At regional when we got the plaque, I was so happy for this team. There were a lot more kids this year in our lineup this year that were pretty good. No one really expected what we did this year. I’m very grateful to be here at the Frosh/Soph state tournament since there were a lot of good wrestlers here, especially at 220, but every weight class was good. And there were a lot more people here this year. I can’t wait to see what we do next year.”
McNeil, a sophomore who had a 19-8 record, was one of two finalists for the Tigers, joining Dominic Vitale, who took second at 138. After getting falls in 0:34 over Joliet West’s Andre De Leon and in 4:49 over Belleville West’s Shamontae Matthews, he won a 10-3 decision over The High School of Saint Thomas More’s James Schmidt before recording a fall in 0:30 over Oak Park and River Forest’s Eric Harris.
Harris edged Neuqua Valley’s Magomed Nurudinov 5-4 to claim third place. Loyola Academy’s Joey Herbert won by fall in 1:29 over Lobrillo to take fifth place. And Kibbe claimed a 4-1 decision over Dundee-Crown’s Teigen Moreno to take seventh place.
285 – Todd Smith, Quincy Senior
After being an IESA champion, Todd Smith was hoping to qualify for the IHSA Finals in his first attempt, but the Quincy Senior freshman fell a bit short in his quest to qualify from the Class 3A Normal Community Sectional and thus wanted to end his debut campaign on a high note at the Freshman/Sophomore Championships.
Smith, who went 37-13 this season, became the fourth freshman to win a title in this year’s tournament when he captured an 8-3 decision over Jacksonville’s Aiden Surratt to claim top honors at 285. After opening with a 17-2 win by technical fall over Lockport Township’s
Jake Kratz, Smith won a 6-2 decision over Niles West’s Alex Hernandez and followed with an 11-0 major decision over Downers Grove North’s Peter Rodriguez and earned his spot in the finals with a fall in 3:15 over Oregon’s Briggs Sellers.
“This is important because the Frosh/Soph Tournament kind of determines by the time you’re a junior or senior, that this might be the outcome in the IHSA,” said Smith, whose mother got to hand out the medals at 285. “We had two state qualifiers, Owen Uppinghouse and Bryor Newbold, and a ton of kids went to sectionals and we also performed great in regionals and all our tournaments were good.”
Surratt, a sophomore who went 36-14 this season but didn’t qualify for the Class 2A Highland Sectional, certainly made amends for his early postseason exit by becoming the highest of the three medal winners for the Crimsons, who finished 33-4 and advanced to the Dual Team Finals for the first time in the program’s history. He won close decisions to open the Frosh/Soph competition, winning 6-3 over Metamora’s Ty Dyekes and 1-0 over Niles Notre Dame’s Scott Cook before getting a fall in 4:36 over Waukegan’s Ivan Rogel Martinez and then won a 9-1 major decision over Lincoln-Way East’s Ryan Stingily.
East Peoria’s Jose Deltoro edged Stingily 1-0 to claim third place, Granite City’s Demarco Clark finished fifth after winning an 11-5 decision over Sellers and Evergreen Park’s Jeremy Gagnon took seventh place after recording a fall in 1:48 over Rodriguez.