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updated: 1/26/2012 6:46 PM

Marmion duo leaves their mark

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  • Eddie Greco, top, and teammate Angelo Silvestro will be seeking their third state berths when the postseason begins next month.

      Eddie Greco, top, and teammate Angelo Silvestro will be seeking their third state berths when the postseason begins next month.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent

The 2009 Class 3A Leyden wrestling sectional provided a defining moment for the Marmion program when brothers Pat and Eddie Greco became the Cadets' first and second state qualifiers.

Eddie Greco, then a freshman 103-pounder, went on to snare the first state medal; it was the initial catalyst to what became an avalanche as Marmion produced seven individual state championships over the next two seasons.

"Definitely my freshman year when Pat and me made it down to state," Eddie Greco said of his most cherished memory in the program. "(My first-round match against former West Aurora star Nicholas Drendel) was a doozy, 12-10."

"The timing was really good," Marmion coach Dean Branstetter said of the IHSA decision to go to three classes in wrestling. "We had good kids come in (2009-10). A lot of people think we came out of nowhere. Going to the (Class AA) Glenbard North regional two years in a row (2007, 2008), we didn't have a chance. That's right when we got good (when Marmion was placed in Class 2A). Eddie is the only one who can say he placed at the 'big boy' tournament."

One year after five underclassmen won state championships, however, the Marmion program has a completely different look.

Three of the state titlists -- Ben Whitford, Jered Cortez and Bryce Brill -- plus two other formidable talents -- Eddie Gonzalez and Danny Rowland -- transferred out of the program.

"I was shocked at first," four-year varsity member Angelo Silvestro said of the departures.

As a result of the Cadets' unexpected losses, Greco and Silvestro have become the face of the program.

"I feel like wrestling has made me who I am today," said Greco, who has elected not to pursue the sport in college. "It has sculpted me."

The duo will seek to become three-time state qualifiers in coming weeks, with the first test at the Class 2A LaSalle-Peru regional.

In fundamental respects, Greco and Silvestro have continued a common theme for the Marmion program in recent years.

"I have said before that I can't talk about Pat (Greco, currently a redshirt freshman at Northwestern) without talking about (former state champion) Nico (Jimenez, a sophomore at Illinois)," said Branstetter. "I can't talk about Eddie without talking about Angelo. They have kept the program strong."

Silvestro has been on a mission after suffering heart-wrenching losses at Champaign the last two years.

The Cornell-bound Geneva resident has parlayed a brilliant summer campaign -- capped by a third-place finish at a national tournament in Fargo, N.D. -- into a memorable final winter.

"(Last) summer was determination not to lose at the state tournament again," Silvestro said of his chief motivation. "I put pressure on myself to open some colleges' eyes. I didn't want Cornell (where his uncle, Rob Koll, is the head coach) to be my only option."

Greco enters his final winter of prep competition with a clear-cut mindset.

"Obviously, the goal is to win state," said Greco, a St. Charles native who plans on studying business at DePaul next fall. "I am working my hardest, doing everything I can to make it."

Silvestro and Greco have been athletically inseparable since they were small boys.

"I've wrestled with Eddie since we were kids," Silvestro said. "I have always pushed myself to get close to him. (Greco) is a great competitor in the (wrestling) room, on the mat and outside of school."

Kaneland third in conference: At the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference tournament last weekend in Ottawa, Kaneland, despite three vacant weight classes, nipped state-ranked DeKalb to finish third behind fellow Class 2A powers Sycamore and Yorkville.

Stephen Gust returned from a skin condition to claim the title at 106 pounds for the Knights, and junior classmate Danny Goress earned his second conference championship in as many years at 138 pounds.

"(Gust) was a little bit rusty," Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said. "He did what he had to do to win the tournament. (Goress) was attacking as usual."

Esai Ponce hit the 30-win plateau with a pair of pins to reach the finals at 126 pounds, but the junior fell to Doug Johnson, the DeKalb junior ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, in the championship match.

"Johnson is very much a tactician," Jahns said of the championship at 126.

Ben Kovalick, the Knights' senior leader at 220 pounds, also lost in the finals to Sycamore senior Matt Copple.

"Ben has always had close matches with (Copple) the past couple of years," Jahns said. "He will adjust his style in coming weeks."

Blackhawks hoping to get healthy: West Aurora is looking to recapture the formula that propelled its program to a first-ever team state finals appearance last year.

Much as a year ago, the Blackhawks are trying to become healthy to defend their Class 3A regional championship in eight days at Metea Valley.

"(The Blackhawks' Mike DiNovo) is a very smart coach," Naperville Central coach Rob Porter said last year after the Blackhawks turned back Hinsdale Central, among others, for their fourth regional title in the last six years. "He knows how to get his guys healthy at the right time."

Nate Pealstrom, a sectional champion two years ago as a sophomore who was injury-riddled for much of his junior campaign, returned recently after suffering two concussions.

"That's the plan," DiNovo said of having all his starters back.

West Aurora senior standout Greg Jacquez said the team expects a full lineup for the DuPage Valley Conference tournament Saturday at Glenbard East and the postseason.

"We're going to have all of our guys back," said Jacquez, the Blackhawks' lone returning state qualifier.

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