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Celtic Elite edges St. Charles
North for bantam championship

Host Bolingbrook takes 3rd, Gomez 4th, Harvey 5th

 

By Kevin McGavin

 

BOLINGBROOK -- More than 700 seven- and eight-year-old boys from across Illinois descended upon Bolingbrook High School on Sunday.
 
The youngsters competed for individual titles of the Illinois Bantam Championship, a feeder program for the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation (IKWF).
 
Elias Medina, the director of the Bolingbrook Junior Raiders, resurrected the tournament last year.
 
“The tournament itself has been around for about 10 years,” Medina said. “A couple of years ago, the tournament kind of fell apart. I was approached by a neighboring club (and was asked), ‘Hey, do you want to put it together?'”
 
The Junior Raiders’ coach readily accepted the challenge.
 
For the second-straight year, the team standings were decided by a half point.
 
Last year, the Gomez Wrestling Club, based in Carol Stream, ended the 10-year championship run of the Harvey Twisters last year.
 
On Sunday, Celtic Elite turned back the St. Charles North Wrestling Club, 218-217.5, to win the team title.
 
The runner-up had one more champion than Celtic Elite, but the victor prevailed with 14 winners in the consolation bracket.
 
“I told the kids that’s where you win the tournament—in the wrestlebacks,” Celtic Elite coach Brian Swaw said. “The guys who come back after losing in the semifinals—in the third-fourth-fifth-(place matches)—those are the guys who make the difference. Those guys who came back to wrestle for third were the difference.”
 
Host Bolingbrook was third with 208.5 points, followed by Gomez (191), Harvey (186.5) and Crystal Lake (166.5).
 
The coaches expressed a near-universal reason for participating in the tournament, which attracted teams from the farthest reaches of both northern and southern Illinois.
 
“The primary aim is to give as many kids as we can some experience,” St. Charles North coach Jeff Chumbley said. “This is the youngest we have. Watching the kids grow (is the most pleasing aspect to the tournament).”
 
Added Medina: “This is basically a stepping stone to get them ready for the next level.” 
 
That's a prevailing theme.
 
“We want to get (the kids) ready for high school, get them ready for the next level—and then let high school get them ready for college,” said Crystal Lake Wizards coach Tony Fontanetta, who speaks from experience.
 
“Eighteen of our former wrestlers are moving on to the (IHSA) state championships (in Champaign this weekend),” Fontanetta said. “I like this tournament for the competition and seeing what the little guys can do.”
 
There was a bit of high school flavor at the tournament.
 
Claudio Torres, the head wrestling coach at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, was on hand.
 
So was Ryan Ferguson, who held a same position at Wheaton Warrenville South before becoming an administrator.
 
Torres was the acting coach for the famed Martinez Wrestling Club on Sunday, and Ferguson directs one of two programs based out of Yorkville.
 
Each coaches had sons who competed at the tournament.
 
Torres was deeply impressed with how well-organized the tournament was conducted.
 
“(The tournament organizers) do a great job,” Torres said. “The officials do a great job, almost all of them are IHSA officials.”
 
Added Ferguson: “We want (our kids) to enjoy the sport of wrestling. "We want to create an atmosphere to show the kids the future of the sport.”
 
Introducing young boys to the sport in a competitive environment is a central mission for Medina.
 
“To me, it’s important to put something like this on for the little guys,” Medina said. “It is the future of the IKWF. It’s important for us to make them feel like they’re a champion when they walk out these doors today.”
 
Medina hopes to expand the size of the tournament in coming years.
 
“Just from hearing from the other people of the other clubs, they appreciate what we put on,” Medina said.
 
The Harvey Twisters were intent on reclaiming the championship after Gomez ended their long tenure as titleists.
 
But first place trophies are far from the central concern for Twisters coach Rodney Johnson.
 
“I am trying to instill discipline and the fundamental techniques (of wrestling),” Johnson said. “What I like best about this tournament is the kids know the season is not over yet.”
 
For the host Junior Raiders, who finished third overall, the following wrestlers made it to the championship finals: Colin Kacena, 52 pounds; Michael Major, 55 ‘A’; Ryan Kresstel, 55 ‘B’; Jean-Luc Guerra, 55 ‘C’; and Gonzalo Comancho, 66.
 
Santana English, a member of the Rockford-based Warrior Monks, was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament for recording four falls in a combined total of less than three minutes.
 
For the older area boys in the IKWF, the state series, which culminates with the individual finals March 12-14 in Rockford, begins this weekend with regionals.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule