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Montini's glad Grant Goebel took one for the team


By Gary Larsen


When you wrestle for a marquee program and you’re surrounded by top-shelf wrestlers, getting lost in the shuffle is a fairly easy thing to do. Especially when your older brother’s name is the brightest one on the bill.


“Lets face it, last year he was only known by a lot of people as Garrett’s younger brother,” Montini coach Mike Bukovsky said of Grant Goebel. “But what he did for us was inspirational."


On a Class AA state champion team that featured now-graduated heavyweight state champion Garrett Goebel, who set Illinois state records in career wins (201) and pins (137), and state place-winners Carl Foreside, Jake Gregerson, Dan Stelter, Isaiah Gonzalez, and Dan Grimes, Grant Goebel more or less toiled in the shadows last year.


With Foreside locked in at 171 pounds and Grimes locked in at 189, Goebel started last season as a wrestler without a varsity weight class. One day before an early-season practice, Bukovsky let Goebel know that he had a choice to make. He could wrestle on j.v. at 171 or 189, or fill a hole at 215 on the varsity.


Goebel took on the challenge despite the fact he weighed 175 pounds soaking wet.


“At first I thought maybe he was kidding,” Goebel said of the offer. “I was kind of shocked. It took me about a half hour into practice after he told me, before I had my mind made up.”


Bukovsky remembers Goebel’s answer.


“He looked me in the eye and said he’d give the team everything he had,” Bukovsky said. “I would have hated to see him sit on the sideline.”


With the strength of Montini’s schedule, there was a real prospect that Goebel would struggle against the 215-pounders from some of the state’s top programs. He’d see no shortage of ranked wrestlers at prestigious tournaments like the Dvorak, and Minnesota’s national tournament, The Clash. The Dvorak was the litmus test.  


“Before that, I hadn’t wrestled anyone bigger than 189,” Goebel said. “I kind of surprised myself there.”


Goebel finished 8th at the 32-team Dvorak tourney, and his role for Montini was settled.


“My goal going into every match at the Dvorak was just to get through the first period," he said. "I tried not to let them get on top of me, tried to use my quickness, hand-fighting, and tried to outwork them and get them tired.".


Goebel went on to post a record of 35-9 last year by staying in good position, not conceding points, and doing most of his scoring in the third period.


“He’s a very good top position wrestler, and he basically wore guys down, physically and mentally,” Bukovsky said. “It’s not rocket science and it’s not pretty, but a lot of kids just don’t have the mental resolve to do it.”


Line Goebel up with 50 others in a 100-meter race, or have him do as many chin-ups as he can, or put him through a football combine, and he’ll probably finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.


“But when it’s time to play, he’s the kid you want out there first,” Bukovsky said. “And he has brought that out of himself.”


The staff at Montini tried to get Goebel to add weight on his frame all year, but he struggled to rise much above 175 pounds.


“I was waking up early and lifting. I was eating everything in front of me,” Goebel said. “But it’s hard to gain weight once the season starts and you’re working out all the time.”


There’s a good chance Goebel will wrestle at 215 for the Broncos again this year, and this time around he’s a better fit and more prepared.


“I weigh about 200 now,” Goebel said. “I worked hard in the off-season, and I feel a lot better. This year, the plan won’t be to just survive the first period. I think I can move guys around a little now.”


The capper of Goebel’s improbable season last year came at the dual team state finals in Moline. Goebel pinned Glenbard North’s Jordan Brooks at 189, won a 5-0 decision over Libertyville’s Jake Hogan at 215, and won a 3-2 decision at 215 over Providence Catholic’s Dave Togher in Montini’s state title win. Togher beat Goebel earlier in the year.


“I took him down with a few seconds remaining,” Goebel said. “The first time we wrestled, I wasn’t ready for his quickness, but I handled it better in the second match.”


This year’s Broncos will wrestle the same brutal schedule as last year, but will participate in the Class 2A post-season playoffs of the new three-class system.


“We’ve got some holes, but I’m sure people will step up like they always do,” Goebel said.


If any of the Broncos need an example on how to step up, all they have to do is remember what Goebel did for them last year.


“I just had to dig deep, every match, and try to get the most points I could for the team,” Goebel said.


Bukovsky knows that on last season's team of superstars, Goebel’s unsung effort all season was a key in helping Montini win its first 2A state title.


“He inspired the whole team last year," Bukovsky said. "They saw what he was up against, and they all benefited from watching how he handled it. Just to be able to do what he did last year takes a special kind of kid.”



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