CHAMPAIGN -- They have been the mainstays for Glenbard North the last three years.
But Jered Cortez is returning to a familiar perch for the final day of the individual wrestling season; Jon Marmolejo, on the other hand, is in uncharted territory to conclude his extraordinary time with the Panthers.
Contact information ( * required )
Marmion is the common theme for the two seniors.
Cortez, who began high school at the Aurora military academy with a Class 2A championship three years ago, can become the 12th athlete in state history to win four titles on Saturday in the Class 3A 132-pound finals.
Marmolejo is the last obstacle for Marmion senior Johnny Jimenez at 126 pounds. Jimenez handed Marmolejo his lone defeat of the season at the Dvorak Invitational in December, and the Wisconsin-bound Jimenez is also seeking a fourth title.
Josh Alber, who defeated both Cortez and Jimenez this season, is trying to become a four-time undefeated champion in Class 1A for Dakota.
"I am going to go out, have fun and let it fly," Cortez said Friday night after posting a 5-2 semifinal win over Conant junior Bobby Alexander at the University of Illinois' State Farm Center. "We (Glenbard North) put two in the finals. We're going to come ready to go (on Saturday). I just had to keep my head (after Alexander stunned Cortez with a second-period takedown)."
The Illinois-bound Cortez, after back-to-back undefeated seasons, is 43-2 this season. Marmolejo improved to 44-1 on the season with his first state semifinal victory, a 6-4 triumph over Lockport sophomore Shayne Oster.
"Every point is going to count (against Jimenez)," Marmolejo said. "I was going to defend (against Oster) when I needed to defend and attack when I needed to attack."
The 138-pound weight class proved to be a heart-wrenching semifinal for Jimmy Davis and Qarin Johnnic. Davis, a Waubonsie Valley senior, and Johnnic, the soul of the Wheaton Warrenville South program, each failed to score any offensive points in their respective 5-3 and 5-1 defeats at the hands of Oak Park-River Forest sophomore Walter White and Marist senior Mario Leveille.
"Jimmy was being Jimmy," Waubonsie Valley coach Brad Caldwell said. "He is going against a kid who is ranked sixth nationally. We're happy with how he wrestled; we're not happy with the result."
Niko Daniello also suffered a hard-to-stomach loss for Lake Park in his 220-pound semifinal collision with Harlem senior Sage Hecox. Daniello fought back from an early deficit and tied the match at 7-7 in the final period, only to have the top-seeded Hecox prevail by two with a late takedown.
"Nico wrestled a great match," Lake Park coach Todd Raymond said. "He has nothing to be ashamed of. He wrestled a big boy. (Daniello was giving up) 30 pounds."
Hinsdale Central's Michigan State football recruit, Brian Allen, the defending heavyweight champion, avenged his only loss the last two seasons with a hard-fought 4-2 triumph over Lincoln-Way East senior Nick Allegretti.
In the Class 2A tournament the Montini juggernaut reached new heights after nine out of its 10 semifinalists advanced to the finals. Advancing in bunches, Dylan Duncan, Keegan Calkins, Vincent Turk, Chris Garcia and Luke Fortuna made the cut in every weight class between 120 and 152 pounds with the exception of 126.
The upper weights are equally well-represented as Xavier Montalvo, Anthony Ferraro, Edgar Ruano and Michael Johnson are finals bound at 170, 195, 220 and 285 pounds, respectively.
"That was not the match I wanted to wrestle," Johnson said after his heavyweight semifinal victory. "You have to put that behind you with a clear head."