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Interstate Eight set for another impact season


By Jason Kerr

Defending state champion Wilmington is favored to repeat in the Interstate Eight. Lisle and Sandwich will chase in close pursuit in the competitive league. The I-8 boasted six individual small school state champions from a season ago. Four return to make their mark again this season.

Wilmington returns two state titleists: 125-pounder John VanDuyne (44-1); and 145-pounder Jake Murphy (40-6). The Wildcats will look to their six
other returning state qualifiers, headed up by Steve Heino (41-4, state runner-up), to absorb the loss of the graduated Tom Fritz, who won a state title at 171 lbs and was named IWCOA’s outstanding wrestler for Class A last season.

Lisle hopes to build on last season’s success as they welcome back eight starters from last year’s dual squad that placed fourth at state. The Lions posted a record of 21-3, and finished second to Wilmington in the I-8. They return four state qualifiers led by all-conference senior David Pawlowicz (36-5) who will compete at either 160 or 171 this season.

Sandwich coach Josh McCarty will face an uphill battle as he prepares his young team (three seniors, three juniors and a host of sophomores) for conference matches and Class AA regionals. Sandwich recorded a third-place conference finish last season. Senior Blake Tirevold (29-6), a returning conference champion
and state qualifier will anchor the squad this season.

Manteno will be led by all-conference senior Brian Anderson (30-14). The team will compete to finish in the top half of the conference. Coal City, which had three individual state champions last season, and Reed-Custer will make the conference
battle interesting.

Seneca’s nationally-ranked female wrestler, senior Brooke Webb, hopes to add to her resume on the mat this season against the boys.

Coal City Coalers
Coach: Mark Masters
Last season’s record: 8-10 (fourth-place conference finish, second-place regional finish, three individual state champions).

Top returnees
103--Lance Evans (34-4, state champion); 125--David Hanley (20-8, all-conference); 130--Bobby Kroeger (20-18, regional champion); 152--Chase
Odeen (32-3, state champion).

Top wrestlers lost
135--Noah Roseland (36-3, state champion).

“We return five state qualifiers, including three state placers,” Masters said.


Dwight Trojans
Did not respond

Herscher Tigers
Did not respond.

Lisle Lions
Coach: John Davis
Last season’s record: 21-3 (second in conference, team placed fourth at state).

Top returnees
130/135--Adam Gleason, jr.; 145/152--Jake Kretman, jr.; 160/171--David Pawlowicz, sr.; 119/125--Brian Reese, sr.

Top wrestlers lost
Josh Andrzejewski (all-conference, state qualifier); Gio Esposito (all-conference); Matt Rafacz (all-conference).

“The Interstate 8 Conference is a tough wrestling conference and all of the Interstate 8 schools have tough teams and individual wrestlers with Wilmington leading the way,” said Davis.  “Hopefully the tough schedule will prepare our team for the post season. I am looking forward to the upcoming season and seeing all of our wrestlers develop over the course of the year.” 

Manteno Panthers
Coach: Cory Blanchette
Last season’s record: 13-8

Top returnees
145--Brian Anderson, Sr. (30-14, all-conference, fourth-place sectional finish); 119--Josh Hoerler, sr. (26-14, fourth-place finish at sectionals); 215--Jake Mahnke, sr. (27-12); 135--Jon Santoro, Sr. (30-13).

Top wrestlers lost
Jim Porter (19-10, attends Wisconsin-Platteville); 285--Mike Vega (21-9, all-conference, state qualifier).

"We have a great balance of talented seniors and a great young class of freshman,” said Blanchette. “This year’s team has four wrestlers closing in on their 100th career win. We have a legitimate shot of having four or five all-conference wrestlers. We are also hoping to break the school record for team wins (16). Those same four or five wrestlers should also compete in the state tournament. Some
have a chance at medaling.”

Peotone Blue Devils
Did not respond.

Plano Reapers
Coach: Adam West
Last season’s record: 9-14

Top returnees
171--JJ Cannon, jr. (17-14 at 152); 285--Taylor Thill, sr. (13-15, sectional qualifier); 135--Travis Tomac, so. (27-11, sectional qualifier).

Top wrestlers lost
215--Kirk Kabala (28-10, all-conference, regional champion, state qualifier); 171--Luis Alvarado (24-9, all-conference, regional champion, state qualifier).

“We are hoping for a good season and again looking to finish in the top half of the Interstate Eight," said West. "We had a good summer camp out at the University of Northern Iowa, and some of our kids got some good off-season matches in as well. If we can fill our lower weights, we should be able to compete and win some of the duals we lost last year because of forfeit points. I am optimistic as usual about our chances and feel very strongly that we will have a few kids make a run at a medal in state this year.”

Reed-Custer Comets
Did not respond.

Sandwich Indians
Coach: Josh McCarty
Last season’s record: 16-7 (third-place finish at regionals, third-place finish in conference).

Top returnees
112--Vinnie Defily, jr. (fourth place at regionals); 145/152--Jake Hankes, sr. (20-11, fourth-place conference finish); 125--Colton Otto, sr. (21-10, fourth-place conference finish); 119--Blake Tirevold, sr. (29-6, conference champion, state qualifier).

“We will still be a very young team with only three seniors and three juniors on the team, but the sophomore class will hold their own," said McCarty, who holds a 30-16 record as Sandwich coach. “We are hoping to push multiple wrestlers downstate with the opportunity of possibly a team birth into the state tournament.”

Seneca Fighting Irish
Coach: Todd Yegge
Last season’s record: 13-8

Top returnees
112/119--Rikki Clay, jr. (23-11, sectional qualifier); 103--Travis Koetz, so. (14-16, sectional qualifier); 125--Zach Till, Sr. (11-15, sectional qualifier).

Top wrestlers lost
152--Mark Madison (26-11, 2006 state qualifier); 140--Nick Wantroba (22-11).

Senior female Brooke Webb will compete at 135/140 this season. Webb held a national ranking of 11 by USA Wrestling for females according to Yegge.

“It will be an interesting year," Yegge said. "We lost some talent in the middle, but we were very inexperienced last season and had a lot of athletes step on the varsity mat and contribute. This year all of those athletes have a year of varsity experience under their belt and the potential for growth and improvement as individuals, which can lead to success for us as a team. We had the best dual record in school history last year and won more Interstate Eight conference matches than ever. Hopefully we can fill the holes and improve on that trend this year.”

Westmont Sentinels
Did not respond.

Wilmington Wildcats
Coach: Robert Murphy
Last season’s record: 26-2 (Class A state champions; conference champs).

Top returnees
130--Steve Heino, sr. (41-4, first-team all-conference, second-place state finish); 103--Alex Jones, jr. (32-10, first-team all-conference, state qualifier); 145--Jake Murphy, sr. (40-6, first-team all-conference, state champion); 125--John VanDuyne, sr. (44-1, first-team all-conference, state champion).

Top wrestlers lost
171--Tom Fritz (46-2, first-team all-conference, state champion, IWCOA Class A outstanding wrestler); 135—Jeff Goodwin (28-6, first-team all-conference, third-place state finish); 119--Ryan Nash (18-9, state qualifier).

"We have to replace very good wrestlers," said coach Murphy. "We are going to need leadership from VanDuyne, Heino and Murphy to have the kind of season we have had the past three years. We have a very good mixture of young and old so it should make for an exciting year. Our goal every year is to win the conference title and this year will be tough as ever with Lisle returning almost all of last year’s team. Sandwich is always tough as nails and Coal City has two state champions returning this year. The rest of the conference has great individuals and solid dual teams!” 

Predicted order of finish:
1, Wilmington; 2, Lisle; 3, Sandwich; 4, Manteno; 5, Reed-Custer; 6, Coal City; 7, Plano; 8, Peotone; 9, Seneca; 10, Herscher; 11, Dwight; 12, Westmont.


Today's Schedule: Season Schedule