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updated: 1/29/2014 4:29 PM

Kaneland's Diddell wins conference in powerful fashion

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  • Kaneland's Justin Diddell defeated DeKalb's Alex Roach to win the Northern Illinois Big XII 285-pound title Saturday.

      Kaneland's Justin Diddell defeated DeKalb's Alex Roach to win the Northern Illinois Big XII 285-pound title Saturday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent

Kaneland finished in the middle the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference tournament last weekend at Sterling.

"Nothing earth-shattering," said Kaneland coach Monty Jahns, who is retiring at the conclusion of the season. "I think we wrestled where we thought we would as a team."

Longtime conference rival Yorkville won the tournament, with the Knights finishing in sixth place in the 12-school field.

But the Knights did have the satisfaction of crowning at least one champion as senior Justin Diddell had nothing but falls in storming to the heavyweight title.

"I have been pleased with his progress over the last few weeks," Jahns said of Diddell, who stopped DeKalb senior Alex Roach in the second period of the championship match.

Austin Parks (third, 160 pounds) and Adam Mish (fifth, 113) won consolation championships for Kaneland.

Nick Mish (106, fourth), Matthew Redman (fourth, 126), Riley Vanik (sixth, 145) and Zach Parker (sixth, 170) were the Knights' other place-winners.

"We will see what the (Class 2A Belvidere) regional brings," Jahns said. "We are improving, and, obviously, in the next few weeks is when you want to peak."

ACC has high hopes for postseason: Aurora Central Catholic has been striving to create an identity in wrestling for the past decade-plus.

Like many of the upstart programs in the Suburban Christian Conference, as well as its predecessor, ACC has been engulfed by the national prominence of state-record-holder Montini and the emergence of Marmion in recent years.

But Jake Hairrell has plans to craft a new image for the program.

The Wisconsin native took over the helm this season and has instilled many of the training techniques that have proved successful at Pinnacle Performance, a club team based out of East Aurora High School.

The Chargers are the smallest program in the area and will compete in the Class 1A state series when the postseason commences in less than two weeks.

"I believe we could have up to four (state) qualifiers," Hairrell said.

It is a bold statement considering ACC has never had more than a single competitor at the individual state tournament in Champaign during its still-young life span.

Two wrestlers have emerged in particular for the Chargers this winter.

Eddie Gonzalez was the Chargers' one known commodity.

The senior heavyweight made the state cut at 285 pounds last season, even though he failed to win a match at state.

Gonzalez has already stitched together an impressive season thus far.

Ranked No. 3 in the state among small-school heavyweights, Gonzalez has won invitational championships at both Stillman Valley and Lisle.

"(Gonzalez) wasn't very technical at the beginning of the season, but he has made huge improvements since the Plano Tournament," Hairrell said.

The senior, who is undecided about playing football or pursuing wrestling in college, dropped the Plano final to then-top-ranked Sherrard senior Ben Corlett.

But he more than rebounded in style.

"He beat the defending state runner-up (North Boone senior Gus Eisele at a triangular)," Hairrell said.

The other major development for ACC has been the rapid ascent of sophomore Caleb Park.

The 126-pounder is undefeated on the season after 20 matches.

Park made history for the program when being named the Outstanding Wrestler in the aftermath of his triumph at Lisle.

"It was the first time a wrestler from ACC has won MVP at a tournament," Hairrell said.

After taking his fair share of lumps as a freshman last year, Park readily agreed to Hairrell taking him into his club program.

"(Park) started wrestling with me in the off-season," said Hairrell, who plans to relocate Pinnacle Performance to the ACC campus. "He is a very, very good scrambler and has good hips. He is tough on the mat, hard-nosed on the mat."

Hairrell essentially has seven other varsity starters, meaning five forfeits have been the norm this year.

Nick Spagnola (138 pounds), Jim Mattas (160), Dan Mowka (170) and South African foreign-exchange student Utah Marshall (220) all are hovering in the neighborhood of 20 wins.

ACC will participate in the Hebron regional, which feeds into the Byron individual sectional.

"In the future, I think ACC is going to do some good things," Hairrell said.

Jimenez ready for history: Johnny Jimenez is not far away from a quest only 11 other athletes in state history have accomplished: four-time state champions.

The Marmion senior, bound for Wisconsin, captured back-to-back Class 2A titles -- at 103 and 113 pounds, respectively -- as an underclassmen before winning the first largest-class championship in program history last year at 120 pounds.

Current Michigan freshman George Fisher later earned the Cadets' second state championship with the only fall in the Class 3A individual state finals.

Jimenez enters the Suburban Christian Conference dual-meet tournament this weekend with a career record of 146-10.

Dakota senior Josh Alber, the only in-state wrestler to defeat Jimenez the last two seasons, is trying to become a four-time undefeated state champion in Class 1A next month.

Jered Cortez, who won one of five state championships for Marmion three years ago, also goes for a fourth state crown for Glenbard North.

"I always wanted to be a four-time state champion," said Jimenez, who also guided Marmion to a state runner-up team performance last year with his program-record 51 wins.

"Now that (the state series) is getting closer, (the thought of being a four-time champ) sounds that much better."

After a substandard showing -- at least, by his standards -- at the Ironman Tournament, Jimenez is undefeated with prestigious titles at Dvorak and the Cheesehead.

"(Individual) state has always been my favorite tournament," Jimenez said. "Individual state is the time to be selfish. (My teammates and I) are always thinking about team state."

Marmion, which has been crippled by injuries at key positions, needs to win the Waubonsie Valley regional a week from Saturday to earn a return trip to the team state series.

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