Metea Valley wrestling coach Claudio Torres spoke for many of his brethren when sizing up the field of the Class 3A Shepard sectional Saturday evening in Palos Heights.
"It's like a mini-state tournament," Torres said. "I have seen so many state qualifiers (from past years) get eliminated already. There are ranked wrestlers not getting out (to the individual state tournament this week in Champaign)."
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Defending team state champion Sandburg was the true measuring stick with 10 qualifiers, and the field included some of the top Catholic schools in the state.
Marmion went toe-to-toe with the likes of Marist, St. Rita -- its team-sectional dual-meet foe a week from Tuesday at Hinsdale South -- and Mt. Carmel to lead the area programs with seven state qualifiers.
Johnny Jimenez continues his quest.
The junior 120-pounder, with back-to-back Class 2A titles, is aiming for his first in the largest-class division after improving to 44-2 on the season with a 3-0 victory over Marist sophomore David Kasper in the championship match.
"This is the best time of the year," the St. Charles resident said. "I'm preparing myself mentally and physically for the big state tournament. I'm really excited to get that third state title."
George Fisher authored the second sectional championships for the Cadets when the senior -- also a reigning two-time state finalist -- captured his eighth postseason title with a 7-2 verdict over St. Rita sophomore Michael O'Connor.
The national champion looks to vindicate a state finals loss from last season after winning one of five state titles for Marmion as a sophomore.
"It's the way I felt after that (state-championship) match," Fisher said of his prime motivation. "I told myself that I was never going to lose another match because I wasn't mentally prepared."
Of the three other Marmion wrestlers to advance to the finals, none had a tougher loss to stomach than Jake Field.
The senior dropped a back-and-forth 13-12 overtime decision to Marist sophomore Nick Gasbarro at 126 pounds.
On the other hand, the Cadets' Trace Carello and Alex Fritz faced insuperable barriers in their quest for a sectional championship.
Mt. Carmel junior Bryce Brill -- a former Marmion state champion -- and Hinsdale Central heavyweight Brian Allen entered the tournament undefeated.
Neither had any issues when Brill stopped Carello on a technical fall, and Allen, the top-ranked 285-pounder in the state, earned a double-digit win over Fritz.
"My record (44-0) is not important right now," Allen said.
"(Allen) is a man amongst boys," Marmion coach Ryan Cumbee said. "We just wanted Fritz to wrestle six hard minutes."
Anthony Bosco was third for Marmion at 106 for the sixth team selection, while Cody Snodgrass' 42 wins on the year could secure only a fourth-place effort at 195 pounds.
Geneva senior Brad Martens made the state cut.
In qualifying for a second straight year, the 120-pounder earned an automatic selection via the consolation bracket to the third-place match.
Martens finished fourth.
"I wrestled one of my best tournaments of the year," Martens said. "That would have been a dagger if I didn't make it down my senior year."
For the first time in 11 years West Aurora did not produce a state qualifier.
"We're going to use it as way to move forward," West Aurora coach Mike DiNovo said.
Batavia met the same fate as the 37-match winning streak Joey Shump showcased during the regular season and regional went for naught.
"That kind of thing happens all the time in this sport," said Batavia assistant coach Tom Arlis.
There was more than a little motivation for Luke Roth to overcome his first loss of the season, a fall in quarterfinal action on Friday night.
The Naperville Central senior was not about let coach Rob Porter have his season end early.
"I did what I had to do to make sure (Porter) would get to coach me again," said Roth, who became a three-time state qualifier via his third-place victory at 195 pounds.
Porter was sitting out a one-match suspension for being ejected at the regional last week.
"He's been there for me the whole time," Roth said of his coach.
"It was really all about dealing with adversity," Roth said of having his 31-match winning streak halted. "I knew I could win three matches in a row (to qualify)."
Roth will have company in Ben Williamson; the Redhawks' sophomore clawed his way through the back draw to advance at 132 pounds with his fourth-place finish.
"The coaches have been pushing me to keep going and going for all six minutes," Williamson said. "I was just one match away from (qualifying last year as a freshman)."
After a one-year hiatus, Wayne Yuan found himself punching another ticket to Champaign.
The Naperville North senior, who qualified two years ago, earned a second state trip with his circuitous route to third place at 113 pounds.
Yuan had all the offensive points in a 5-1 decision over Sandburg senior Jim Pellegrino in the third-place match.
"He beat me last year (in a dual meet)," Yuan said of his 5-1 victory. "I felt good dominating him for third. It was a lot tougher this year (to qualify than two years ago)."
Breon Hoosier became the second Metea Valley wrestler to qualify for the individual state meet in program history with his fourth-place result at 170 pounds.
"All the guys who won matches (for Metea) reversed the results from the regional," Torres said.
Hoosier upended West Aurora sophomore Tim Young, who defeated the Mustangs' senior in overtime for the regional title, to advance to the major-consolation mat.
Downers North senior Cullen Cummings, a reigning state finalist, advanced for the third time in his career.
The 138-pounder improved to 43-1 on the season with a 5-0 whitewash of Sandburg junior John Pellegrino in the championship match.
"I have established myself as one of the best wrestlers at my weight (class)," Cummings said.