Washington tops Montini in 2A dual team championship match

By Patrick Z. McGavin

In a sport shaped by technique, form and style, the heavyweights exist in their own world. The life of the 285-pounder is often defined by math and science.

Force plus mass creates its own internal dynamic.

Washington sophomore Sean Thornton discovered his own rhythm and tempo, with his own peculiar sense of timing and opportunity.

“I knew if I took him the distance, he wasn’t going with me,” Thornton said. “I’m good with my underhooks, and I like being in that position. He happened to go there, and I don’t think he knew I was good there. I was very comfortable.”

His takedown with :38 seconds remaining gave him the 6-4 decision over Montini’s Mick Ranquist in the Panthers’ enthralling 30-28 comeback victory in the Class 2A team dual state championship at Grossinger Motor Arena Saturday night.

“I was just grateful for all of my teammates and coaches who believed in me,” Thornton said.

Thornton (42-15) won all three of his matches in the state finals, including two by fall in the preliminaries. He finished with 30 falls.

The heavyweight match mirrored the larger narrative of the state championship colored by sharp momentum swings and twists that yielded its own sense of great theater and showmanship.

Ranquist registered the first period takedown for the opening advantage. Thornton countered with a reversal.

“I knew that was coming,” Thornton said. “He’d been hitting that all day.”

Ranquist countered with his own reversal for the 4-2 leads. Thornton created the escape to pull within 4-3 at the end of the second period.

The defining action proved to be the second stalling call against Ranquist that forged the 4-4 deadlock. “I was looking for some more stall calls at the end,” Thornton said. “He was running a little bit. I still got it done in the end.”

On the edge of the mat, Ranquist went for the throw, and Thornton was quicker to the body and pulled off the takedown.

Ranquist nearly pulled off the reversal in the closing seconds. Time ran out.

The defending state champions captured four of the final five matches to stun the Broncos, who were seeking their state-record 17th state championship.

In the showdown between the two historically-great programs, they exchanged haymakers. The two teams each won seven matches. In the end, Washington had the slight advantage in bonus points, with its three falls overcoming the one fall and two technical falls of the Broncos.

The Panthers’ dynamic finish nullified the Broncos’ fast start. Montini won six of the first nine matches, and had leads of 15-3 and 25-15.

Washington captured its sixth state dual championship in the last eight years of competition.

The clash with Montini proved the opposite of their victory over favored Joliet Catholic last year as the Panthers built the early lead and then held off a late charge by the Hilltoppers.

“We also did this last year of taking them out to lunch just to get them away from the tournament, and enjoy each other a little bit, get away from wrestling and do the social things together,” Washington coach Nick Miller said.

“I told them in last year’s dual, we were climbing and got off to a great start, and won some big matches early and they had to weather that. This one is going to be up and down, and you guys have to figure out how to stay even-keeled, be right there at the same level.”

Jaxon Lane defeated Washington’s Wyatt Leman 4-1 at 215 pounds that put the Broncos up 28-27 leading into the heavyweight bout.

After winning eight state championships between 1999 and 2010 at Montini, Mike Bukovsky returned to direct the program. 

“You have to give credit to Washington,” Bukovsky said. “They’re a great program, and they really wrestled hard and very well.

“Our kids really wrestled hard, and they had a great attitude the whole season. There were times tonight where we needed to be more disciplined. Washington was the more disciplined team.”

Montini beat Rochelle 56-22 in the quarterfinal and then beat Glenwood 46-22 in the semifinal round.

The Broncos had 12 individual state qualifiers and two state champions with freshman Allen Woo at 106 pounds and senior David Mayora at 150 pounds.

Montini’s stacked lineup featured six all-state performers with Woo, Mayora, Mikey Malizzio (third at 113 pounds), Josh Vazquez (runner-up 126 pounds), Kameron Luif (third at 132 pounds) and Harrison Konder (third at 157 pounds).

Mayora (42-1) closed out his remarkable career with a technical fall victory over the Panthers’ Tyler Brown.

The individual state champion showed dazzling technique and explosive athleticism, and provided a jolt of high-end leadership, toughness and skill.

“I have nothing else to say except that I’m very proud of this team,” David Mayora said. “It’s a little bittersweet, and I’m tearing up right now because I just wish that I had one more year.

”My little brother Isaac, and the other freshmen, sophomores and juniors are going to be able to hold themselves up. I’ll come back as a spectator, even when I’m in college, no matter, and I want to see each and every one of them get their hands raised.”

The most remarkable story of the Broncos’ path downstate came at the conclusion of their sectional final against IC Catholic Prep.

The match was tied heading into the final bout at 126 pounds.

Josh Vazquez saw a familiar face, his best friend and former high school teammate, the 120-pound state champion Deven Casey. The two wrestled together the previous two seasons at Aurora Christian.

Casey had back-to-back third-place state finishes at Aurora Christian. Vazquez lost the 120-pound state championship match. The top wrestlers at Aurora Christian like Casey followed coach Danny Alcocer after he took over the program at IC Catholic Prep.

Vazquez (48-5) elected to start over at Montini. His older brother, Nain Vazquez, was a former standout for the Broncos.

Casey defeated two-time defending state champion Drew Davis of Glenwood in the 120-pound state championship. 

“I found out at the weigh-in that he was bumping up,” Vazquez said. “That felt very bittersweet and strange to beat my teammate and former coach.”

Vazquez’s 3-2 decision was the difference in the 32-29 Montini dual victory. His 1-0 victory over Drew Davis was a highlight of the Montini semifinal victory.

In the fluid and constantly changing landscape, Montini was a force of nature.

“Whether there’s a better program out there or not, I think we’re one of the best,” Mayora said. “Maybe we lost tonight, but we still have one of the best rooms in Illinois. There’s nothing like it.

“We’re a family, and we love each other, and I don’t think anybody could have come into this room, and not love it.”

The state championship started at the top with the 106 pound match, where Woo (25-3) pushed the Broncos out to the fast start with the 0:54 fall of Zed Hulet.

Malizzio’s 10-3 decision over Logan Makiney provided the 9-0 advantage. 

The most controversial and significant development came at 120 pounds, where Isaac Mayora built the 3-1 advantage late in the second period with a takedown over Noah Woods.

Down 3-2 in the closing moments, Woods staged a furious rally and was able to get tight on Isaac Mayora in the closing seconds. As the time ran out, he caught the younger Mayora.

After conferring with the second official, they ruled in Woods’ favor for the dramatic 4-3 decision. Bukovsky disagreed with the call.

Washington earned a reprieve, and a change in fortunes.

Woods finished the season 44-16. His final win was the most consequential.

“I obviously couldn’t believe that myself,” Woods said. “I just dug deep. I did whatever I could to score there.My mentality going into that match was doing whatever I could to win, and fight for my family.

“We knew we’d find a way to get back in.”

Nick Miller immediately recognized the consequences.

“We snagged a big win late in the match,” he said. “I saw him swing around and catch the ankle, but I don’t know if it was enough. It was a close call that went our way.”

Vazquez’s 3-1 overtime victory over Eli Gonzalez was followed by Luif’s 7-4 decision over Timmy Smith for the 15-3 Montini lead.

Washington knew the heart of its order was waiting on deck. The Panthers featured eight state qualifiers, and six all-state wrestlers, marked at the top by sophomore state champion Wyatt Medlin at 138 pounds, and state runner-up Peyton Cox at 144 pounds.

Medlin (49-4) and Cox (29-2) offset the Broncos’ fast start with back to back falls that knotted the team score at 15-15.

Everything was starting over again.

“Peyton Cox and I played a huge role, but everybody really played a huge role tonight,” Medlin said. “It’s a team tournament. There are not two people on one team who are going to change it, and make a team win.

“Washington, Illinois beat this team. Wyatt Medlin and Peyton Cox did not beat this team. I had a great individual year, but I was our only state champion. It felt great winning an individual title, but seeing all of my brothers not reach their goal was tough and disappointing, so it’s great that we could all win this together and be a team again.”

Cox suffered his third consecutive state championship loss against St. Rita’s Sean Larkin. Just like last season, he got his redemption with a crucial victory that helped sway the team title.

“We trained all season for this moment,” Cox said. “We made our schedule as hard as possible to get ready for this. We’re battle tested.

We compete in some of the hardest tournaments in the country, dual and individual. 

“I had faith in us, and I knew we were ready for it. Losing three times in the state championship is really tough, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’d rather win two team titles than any individual championships.”

David Mayora and Konder (20-3) answered with consecutive technical falls that pushed Montini to its largest lead at 25-15.

The Panthers’ skilled upper weights showcase three elite high-end talents in Cael Miller (fifth at 165 pounds), Zane Hulet (third at 175 pounds), and Josh Hoffer (fourth at 190 pounds).

In one of the best matches, Miller (44-12) secured the 3-1 overtime victory over Santino Tenuta (35-10). Zane Hulet’s second period fall of Alexander Tack and Hoffer’s 7-2 decision over Alex Marre gave the Panthers their first lead at 27-25.

“Our coaches are amazing,” Cox said. “They push us, and they know how to work us. They make us better, and we’re about as tight as a team can get. We have each other’s backs.”

Like Montini, Washington cruised into the championship with one-sided victories over Wauconda and Brother Rice. 

This was a true white-knuckler with an impossible to predict outcome.

With all the other matches having finished, wrestlers from the other classes and teams stood about four abreast in watching the dramatic conclusion.

An instant classic had a tie and three lead changes. 

“You have to think that last year’s experience really helped,” Nick Miller said.

Glenwood (25-6) also earned a historic moment with its first state trophy in program history. 

The Titans lost all three of its previous state appearances in the quarterfinal round, including in consecutive seasons in 2018 and 2019. Glenwood broke through with a dominant 58-12 victory over Riverside-Brookfield in the quarterfinals.

The Titans punctuated their 57-17 third-place dual victory over Brother Rice with five falls.

Glenwood featured eight state qualifiers, and three place winners with Davis, John Ben Maduena (fourth at 138 pounds) and Maximus Wiezorek (fifth at 175 pounds).

John Ben Madeuna won all three of his state matches to finish 41-9. Wiezorek (56-9) pushed up to 190 pounds and posted the third period fall of state qualifier James Crane.

“Our team has had a bunch of really good people come through, and we never had a placement before today,” Madeira said. “It was just a really good thing. We came together as a team, and worked really hard in the room.

“We showed everyone what we were made of. We showed how much work we’ve been doing in the wrestling room.”

Brother Rice (22-7) also made history with its first state trophy. The Crusaders overcame a hard series of injuries, including an ACL knee injury that knocked out defending state champion Bobby Conway.

Falls by Dan Costello and Crane powered a stunning 12-0 final run in the breakthrough 36-27 victory over Mahomet-Seymour in the quarterfinal round.

Despite the horrible luck with injuries, the Crusaders had eight qualifiers, led by the sixth-place finish by Costello (39-9) at 175 pounds.

“This means a lot,” said senior 132-pounder James Bennett. “When I was a sophomore, we lost to Mahomet-Seymour and my older brother was on that team. It was his last match, and we ended it in a rough way. 

“Even with those injuries, this makes it even better. When you get over the hard stuff, that makes it even easier.”

The weight class results of the Class 2A team dual state championship

Washington 30, Montini 28

2A dual team state title match results:

106 – Allen Woo (Montini) F ) 0:54 Zed Hulet (Washington) 

113 – Mikey Malizzio (Montini) D 10-3 Logan Makiney (Washington)

120 – Noah Woods (Washington) D 4-3 Isaac Mayora (Montini)

126 – Josh Vazquez (Montini) SV-1 3-1 Eli Gonzalez (Washington)

132 – Kameron Luif (Montini) D 7-4 Timmy Smith (Washington)

138 – Wyatt Medlin (Washington) F 2:55 David Hernandez (Montini)

144 – Peyton Cox (Washington) F 1:37 Jeremy Huf (Montini)

150 – David Mayora (Montini) TF 26-11 Tyler Brown (Washington)

157 – Harrison Konder (Montini) TF 15-0 Cruise Brolley (Washington)

165 – Cael Miller (Washington) SV-1 3-1 Santino Tenuta (Montini)

175 – Zane Hulet (Washington) F 3:04 Alexander Tack (Montini)

190 – Josh Hoffer (Washington) D 7-2 Alex Marre (Montini)

215 – Jaxon Lane (Montini) D 4-1 Wyatt Leman (Washington)

285 – Sean Thornton (Washington) D 6-4 Michael Ranquist (Montini) 

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