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State championship match previews

By Ed Muniz

Photos courtesy of Akayna Calkins

The wrestling was non-stop Friday evening (Feb. 21)  at the IHSA wrestling championships in Champaign. The second night of wrestling determined the finalists in the 14 weight classes and 42 finals of the three-class tournament.

The 84 finalists will next step on the mats Saturday night with the hopes of claiming the title of state champion.

The top-ranked wrestlers in Class A held their own with the exception of Sage Friese, of Seneca, who was upended 8-3 by Garrett Branchbill, of Shelbyville, in quarterfinal action.

Much of the focus moving forward will be on Dakota coop senior Josh Alber (43-0) who will try to cap an undefeated IHSA career with his fourth title.

His powerhouse team has six finalists, the most in the small-school division.

Class AA has some interesting match-ups starting with the top two wrestlers at 106. Rich Central's Jaberi Moody (36-0)) will square off against second-ranked Francis Edelen (41-3), of Oak Forest. Moody previously defeated Edelen 9-5 this season.

The 113- and 120-pound championship bouts will feature a pair of returning state champions. At 113, Jack Swan (41-1), of Oak Forest, looks to capture his second state title after winning the 106-pound crown last season. Swan will face sophomore Ethan Reel (43-5), of Washington. At 120, junior Kyle Akins (45-0), of Sycamore, looks to grab the top spot after the jump from 113. He will need to get by sophomore Dylan Duncan (35-11), of Montini.

Montini senior Kegan Calkins (right) clinches with Hunter Grau, of Geneseo. Calkins shut out the sophomore 7-0 in the semifinals.

After a rough beginning to the season, Kegan Calkins (33-15), of Montini, will rematch sectional foe and top-ranked Grant Sutton (38-1), of Richmond-Burton, at 126. The two previously battled to a 1-0 conclusion with Calkins handing Sutton his only loss of the season. In Calkins corner will be his grandfather Paul Faris, who was part of the very first Grand March 40 years ago as a coach at Hinsdale South.

For 132-pound finalist Kenny Baldridge (40-1), of Morris, the championship bout will be an opportunity for redemption when he faces the only wrestler to defeat him this year -- top-ranked Alex Butler (40-3), of Boylan. Butler upended Baldridge 7-4 last weekend at the Pontiac sectional.

The top 138-pound, AA-ranked wrestler is Vince Turk (42-6), of Montini, who will battle undefeated Randle Taborn (37-0), of Springfield. Taborn will look to add his second state title after the 132-pound crown last year.

For Chris Garcia (37-5), his whole season has been about a return to Champaign to prove to everyone that he is deserving of a state championship. The returning state champion was not well received when he won his first title after being injured during the championship bout. The Montini senior will get his chance to fulfill his quest when he faces his 145-pound foe, second-ranked senior finalist SirRomeo Howard (34-2), of East St. Louis.

Montini junior Luke Fortuna (39-9) takes his top ranking into the final bout at 152 against Washington sophomore Randy Meneweather (44-3). Both wrestlers make their finals debut Saturday. Fortuna advanced after a tough 5-3 overtime semifinal win; Meneweather escaped with a 1-0 decision in his semifinal.

Simeon senior Antoine Cobb (top) holds on tight as Washington's Jacob Warner looks to escape in their semifinal bout. Schultz, a freshman, advanced to the championship round at 160 by fall.

When Washington freshman Jacob Warner (43-4) faces senior and returning state champion Garrett Sutton (43-0), of Richmond-Burton, at 160, the two will face each other undefeated against state wrestlers. Warner’s four losses came against out-of-state foes, and Sutton sports an 81-match win streak. Sutton won his first title last year at 152 and feels obligated to record another title win this year.

The 170-pound championship features returning titleist Xavier Montalvo (41-4), the winner at 160 last season. Maltavo decided prior to the start of the state series to wrestle at 170 after being top ranked at 160 and has proven that he is formidable at either weight -- he pinned his thee opponents to reach the finals this year.

Tinley Park sophomore Eric Schultz (right) mixes it up with senior Javier Montalvo, of Lincoln-Way West . Schultz advanced to the 170-pound final after a 5-3 overtime decision.

Sophomore Eric Schultz (42-2), from Tinley Park, will give the Montini star a challenge after advancing from a tough 5-3 OT semi win.

Many will look for the fireworks in the 182-pound final. Top-ranked Colin Carr (46-1), of Washington, has been the focus for second-ranked Michael Zelasco (42-3), of Crystal Lake Central. The two previously battled with Carr winning by a point, but Zelasco was upset at the effort or the lack there of by Carr, who he felt did nothing but back away and stall. Zelasco was vocal and let it be known he is looking forward to the rematch.

A rematch of the Lakes sectional final will take place in Champaign at 195. Senior Anthony Ferraro (21-8), of Montini and Andrew Marsden (42-2), of Crystal Lake Central, will meet again as the top two ranked in the weight class. Ferarro previously defeated Marsden 3-2.

The same is true at 220 where senior Nate Magiera (47-1), of Wauconda, looks to avenge his only loss on the season when he battles Montini’s Edgar Ruano (35-4). Last week Ruano ended Magiera’s perfect campaign.

The heavyweights will see top ranked Michael Johnson (40-1) of Montini clash with Highlands unbeaten senior Tanner Farmer (35-0). Johnson has shown the ability to use “little man” skills in his bouts. He feels its an advantage you don’t see in the 285 weight class. Farmer advanced after a tough 1-0 decision in his previous bout.

The 3A action will also feature expected final match-ups but also some surprises. Oak Park-River Forest leads all schools with five finalists. No other school has more than two (Glenbard North and Lockport).

Austin O'Connor (top) looks to the clock as he controls Glenbard North junior Kirk Johansen. The nationally ranked St. Rita freshman earned a berth in the106 final with a 13-3 win.

Starting the OPRF efforts will be 106 finalist Jason Renteria (41-1). The freshman Huskie will match his skills against another freshman in Austin O’Connor (42-3), of St. Rita. The 106 final will be a rematch of a bout previously won by Renteria 6-5. It also features the top two wrestlers at the weight.

Senior Miguel Silva (right), of Plainfield South, fights off the attack of returning state champion Rudy Yates, of Brother Rice. Silva posted the 2-1 upset to advance.

Top-ranked Brian Rossi (47-1), of Lockport, will take on Miguel Silva (45-3), of Plainfield South, in the 113 final. The seniors will face off again. During the season, Rossi defeated Silva 3-2 by tie breaker. To reach the championship bout, Silva defeated defending state champion Rudy Yates, of Brother Rice, 2-1 in a mild upset.

Two-time state champion Kris Williams (30-0), of Thornwood, looks to continue his winning streak both in bouts and state titles when he matches skills against the power of Libertyville’s Steve Polakowski (42-1). The senior Wildcat, who has committed to wrestle at Minnesota next season, looks to vault to his college career with an Illinois state title in his last high school match.

Johnny Jimenez has had a stellar high school career. The Marmion Cadet has accomplished what so few have done before him on the mats in Champaign.  Jimenez (41-3) will attempt to win his fourth state championship. Feisty and determined Jon Marmolejo (44-1), of Glenbard North, will do all he can for that coveted individual title and looks forward to the rematch. Jimenez handed him his lone loss.

Two seniors will battle for the 132-pound title this year. For Jered Cortez (43-2), of Glenbard North, his last high school match could put in in elite company should he win his fourth state title. Cortez will be back in Champaign next season for the Illini. For Joey Nelson (43-5), reaching the finals was the result of his hard work all season. The Lincoln-Way Central star pinned his way into the finals.

OPRF sophomore Isaiah White (left) gains the advantage over senior Jimmy Davis, of Waubonsie Valley, in their 138-pound semifinal bout. White went on to win 5-3.

Last year Isaiah White (37-4) finished third at 126 as a freshman. His sophomore season sees him with an opportunity to capture a state championship at 138.

The top-ranked White will face off against Mario Leveille (31-7), of Marist. Leveille earned his way through the tournament winning his previous three bouts with close decisions.

Larry Early (34-7) makes a return appearance to the championship bouts in hopes of grabbing the title that eluded him last year. The Oak Park junior carries with him the top ranking at the weight. Also looking to grab the title at 145 is Hononegah sophomore Fernie Silva (44-4). Silva held on to advance to the finals with a 6-4 semifinal decision.

Mt. Carmel’s Bryce Brill will attempt to capture his third title before heading off to Northwestern. Brill (44-0) has cruised through the tournament and will face senior Nate Higgins (47-3), of Belleville West. Higgins looks to make the most of this opportunity after winning his previous two bouts by one point.

For Emery Parker (39-2), of Warren,  his clash in the 160 final will have him again tested when he faces top-ranked Kamal Bey (38-6,) of OPRF. Parker advanced to the championship bout after upsetting second-ranked Peter Andreotti 6-4 in overtime. For Bey, this return trip has already been a success from last year where he finished fifth, but he doesn’t want to settle for second best this year.

The last of the five finalists to represent OPRF in the finals will battle at 170 when top-ranked Davonte Mahomes (42-2) grapples junior Tyler Demoss (42-5), of Hononegah.  Mahomes finished third last year at 160.

At 182, after upsetting the top-ranked wrestler in the semifinals, Dundee-Crown sophomore Christian Brunner (43-4) now will face senior and second-ranked Colton Emmerich (46-1), of Deerfield.

A battle of unbeatens takes place at 195. The two combatants between them have 91 victories on the year. For junior and top-ranked Tyler Johnson, of Lockport, 51 times he has come off the mat the victor. Regis Durbin, of Lake Forest, has 40 wins.

The 220 final will have two surprises vying for the title. Sage Hecox (39-2), of Harlem, finished fourth last year at 195. Senior Luis Hernandez (37-1), of McHenry, hopes to add another big win to his season’s total.  

Brian Allen (45-1) looks to defend his heavyweight title at 285. The Hinsdale Central senior will see the aggressive style of Moline’s Adarios Jones (39-3). Both seniors feature that hard-nosed style of wrestling, so this could be a 285 match to remember.

Today's Schedule: Season Schedule