IHSA Class 2A Dual Team State Preview
By CURT HERRON
While Montini prepares to claim its sixth straight state title and 11th since 2000, the question in Class 2A is who is second-best?
Because of the way that the brackets of Saturday's Class 2A dual team finals was drawn, that answer may be difficult to determine.
Lincoln-Way West could make a good claim, but it has to meet up with Montini in the quarterfinals, which figures to doom its trophy hopes.
Sycamore has also been one of the top-ranked squads all season but it runs into the Broncos in the semifinals, giving hope to someone else.
Bloomington, Geneseo, Antioch and Bowen are on the opposite side of the bracket from coach Israel Martinez' squad, meaning that one of the four will make their first title appearance.
There are three newcomers in this year's field at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum, and they are Geneseo, Lincoln-Way West and Taylorville.
Bowen became the first Public League school to earn back-to-back state trips since CPS teams entered regionals in 2003.
The Boilermakers again meet Antioch in the quarterfinals, where the Sequoits won 37-33. If Bowen can avenge that loss it will become just the third CPS team to win a trophy.
The top matchup in the quarterfinals pits Montini against Lincoln-Way West. The Broncos eliminated the Warriors the last two years in the sectional.
Montini is 31-4 this season and has lost only to Oak Park and River Forest among Illinois squads. This is the third time that Martinez has led the Broncos to the state finals.
Leading the way for the Broncos are champions Chris Garcia (43-11) at 138, Xavier Montalvo (55-5) at 160, Jake Turk (44-8) at 182 and Anthony Ferraro (36-8) at 195.
The Broncos also received seconds from Tommy Pawelski (42-7) at 113, Vince Turk (42-11) at 120, Jordan Laster (48-9) at 126 and Michael Sepke (38-10) at 145.
Edgar Ruano (46-9) took third at 220 and Jimmy Pawelski (33-20) placed fourth at 106 for the Broncos.
Lincoln-Way West was 20-3 in dual meets this season under coach Brian Glynn. The Warriors had 10 state qualifiers and five placers.
Leading the way for West are fourth place finisher Kyle Rodriguez (44-7) at 132 and Noah Keefe (35-16), who was sixth at 120.
Finishing fifth for the Warriors were Kyle Ruettiger (39-12) at 113, Josh Ruettiger (36-14) at 152 and Javier Montalvo (33-15) at 182.
"We'll go out and battle Montini and are not going to make any excuses," Glynn said. "We're going to be competitive and come at them and we'll see what happens.
"we're just happy that we made the next step. I think last weekend kind of proves that we're the second-best team in the state. But what are you going to do about it?"
Sycamore is back at state for the fourth straight year, and for the third time under coach Alex Nelson.
The Spartans, who took third place in 2011, have posted a 17-4 mark in dual competition this season.
Leading Sycamore is 113 champion Kyle Akins (41-1), 152 runnerup Austin Culton (44-1) and Jacob Davis (39-2), who was third at 195.
"The dual team tournament means a lot to our program," Nelson said. "It legitimizes what we have done as a team throughout the year. We feel we wrestle a tough non-conference schedule to go along with a tough conference schedule.
"We tell our kids to trust in what we do and we will prepare them for individual state and in the process give ourselves a chance at a team trophy. This will be our fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament and we hope to add a second trophy during that run.
"Our first opponent will be Taylorville. All we really know about them is that they won their regional and beat Cahokia for a trip to team state. We are excited to wrestle them for a chance to ensure a team trophy. At this point all opponents have earned to be where they are and anything can happen. All we can do is continue to work hard and wrestle the way we have been and see what happens."
Taylorville is 23-1 with its lone loss coming to Mahomet-Seymour early in the season. This is the Tornadoes' first state trip.
Coach Lee Mateer's squad did not have any placewinners at state. Brock Letcher (34-6) at 170 leads the team in victories.
The Tornadoes are likely the feel-good story of the tournament. Wrestling has struggled for years there but now that seems to be changing.
"For our program, our high school, and our community, this is truly an amazing accomplishment," Mateer said. "Wrestling started in our community in 1965 and for decades, the program was in pretty dire straits. We were always being bounced around for practice space, had trouble getting funding, rarely had coaches that were in the building, which all equated to low participation numbers and not a lot of interest in the community.
"Don Beetem (Grant graduate and former wrestler) moved down and took over the program in 2003 and made huge strides in changing the mentality of the sport. Three years ago, when I took over for him (he is now my assistant) we wanted to take things to the next level. We told the kids we werenít interested in just being good, we wanted to be great. Last year was the first time in school history we ever won a team regional championship. Heck, last year was the first year ever in program history that we even had a wrestling room to practice in. We have made strides.
"At the beginning of the season, our coaching staff challenged the guys to not be content and take the next step and get to team state in Bloomington. We grinded and worked all year long and to accomplish this goal is truly amazing for our program and its growth in our small community. Because of the financial situation with a lot of downstate school districts, it wasnít very long ago that wrestling was on the verge of getting cut. To see our program and our sport grow so much in our town in just a short time is truly amazing and for us to reach this goal speaks volumes to the type of kids we have.
"Taylorville is a blue-collar town that has a lot tough, hard working, and proud people. We arenít always the most athletic individuals in the world, but people from our town understand sacrifice, working hard, being tough, and never ever quitting. Those principles are fundamental with an overwhelming majority of the families here in our community. This truly is a community accomplishment and it took a lot people working extremely hard to get to this point. I am just so proud of our team, our coaches, our high school, and our community and I am proud my hometown."
In the 9 a.m. quarterfinals, Bloomington meets Geneseo while Antioch once again matches up with Bowen.
Bloomington is back at state for the second straight year and only its third time in history. The Purple Raiders finished third last season.
Adam Richards' squad is 19-3 this season. They are led by Kyonn Keith (40-8), who was third at 138, and Austin Weltha (45-5), who took fifth at 195. Steven Bradford (40-13) at 113 also had 40 wins for BHS.
"We are excited for the opportunity to compete again this weekend," Richards said. "We have only been to Team State two other times in our schoolís history, so to be back at the State Tournament for a second consecutive year is a good step in the right direction for our program.
"This is also an exciting opportunity for many of our kids since most of them havenít been there before. We graduated half of our lineup from last year, so most of these kids will be experiencing this environment for the first time. It will be an important learning experience for our young guys, but we are also looking to earn a trophy."
Geneseo is another program that will get the opportunity to experience its initial dual team state competition on Saturday.
Coach Jon Murray's Maple Leafs were 22-2 in dual meets this season. They are led by Brandon Mizlo (37-9), who took sixth place at 170.
"These guys are so proud to be the first state qualifying team for Geneseo," Murray said. "They have worked hard all season and really deserve this.
"I am so happy for them and so proud of them. They are having fun with this experience and have really developed a great team unity. I wish them the best of luck Saturday."
Bowen is at state for the second straight year to cap a season where the Boilermakers won the City Championship.
Ron Wilson's squad has gone 16-7 in dual meets and are led by Rudy Johnson (33-3), who was third at 126, and Bobby O'Banner (31-6), who took sixth at 152.
"We're definitely looking forward to the challenge of facing Antioch again," Wilson said. "I know that they lost a few men and we lost a few but these kids have stepped up.
"I'm very excited about what we've done, but we've also put the work in. I'm also a Chicago fireman but I'm on vacation right now and spend all of working out with them."
A year ago, Antioch won its first state trophy after finishing fourth. It seeks a repeat effort as it makes its third state trio in four years.
Coach wilbur Borrero's squad has posted a 16-14 dual mark this season. Michael Gussarson (42-12), who was fifth at 132, leads the Sequoits.