Boys wrestling: Jens repeats state championship; Prospect’s Penovich takes 3A title

CHAMPAIGN — Teddy Flores won the trophy he craved — so did Jaxon Penovich, Aaron Stewart, Caleb Noble — but it was Matty Jens who produced one last masterpiece to give the Grayslake Central senior his second straight state title, and third state medal of his brilliant career.

Jens (41-1) sent off four of his opponents during his three days here in Champaign, including Amare Overton (Rock Island, 42-3) who like the others had no answer for the No. 1 man at 175 who claimed the big trophy after his 16-1 technical fall victory Saturday night at State Farm Center.

“One last big show for me,” smiled Jens, whose flair, energy, and desire to thrill the crowd will leave an everlasting taste for the fans from Central.

“When I finished second three years ago, the desire to get back in the final and win (it) two more times is what drove me to succeed,” added Jens, who hopes to make an announcement soon as to what college he will wrestle at.

Flores (48-1), who was anointed the No. 1 spot in the state polls at 120 from the very onset of this season, proved one final time that he truly was the best after a hard fought 6-5 decision over Jason Hampton from Joliet Catholic Academy.

“I dedicated myself to excellence with continued hard work, and training, my fitness, diet, and a commitment to myself, teammates, and coaching staff, and tonight proves that hard work will pay off,” said Flores, fourth here a year ago, and recently signed on to attend the University of Michigan next fall.

Flores built a 5-0 advantage early into the second period — then fought off the hard-charging Hampton — until riding out his opponent with a masterful third period performance to give the Hawks program its first state champion since 1968.

Caleb Noble and Aaron Stewart, perhaps one of the best one-two young powers in the state, each turned in superb six minute efforts to give Warren its first 3A state title since Joel Vandervere did so in 2020.

“What is so amazing about Caleb and Aaron is even as freshmen and sophomores, they are terrific leaders in the room (who) lead by example, both with their wrestling and in the classroom,” said a proud Warren coach Brad Janecek.

Noble (49-2) would stun Honenegah freshman Rocco Cassioppi (49-2) with a thunderous throw for a take-down in the first period to bring the big crowd out of its seats. And from thereafter, it was an intense contest between the top two in the state, who last week met in the sectional final at Barrington.

The No. 1 Stewart (43-2), all but conceded the 157-pound crown in advance of this weekend, recorded a pin, tech-fall, then major to advance into the final against No. 1 Edmund Enright (39-4) from Mount Carmel.

Once there, the tactical plan by Enright was to do his best to keep the high powered attack of Stewart under wraps — and for the most part that's what he was able to do — while he was unable to manufacture any type of offense against Stewart who shut down his advances en route to a 6-5 victory.

“Yes, it feels good to win my first state title, but I've also won a national title in Fargo, and the stage there is even bigger than this one,” said Stewart, third here last season.

Penovich, also at the top of the state polls all year long at 190 pounds — took a cue from his workout partner at club — Matty Jens — and but on a sensational three days which culminated in his 13-5 major decision over Quinn Herbert (32-9) from Loyola Academy.

“Matty has taught me a lot at club — mostly to go out and have fun, do your thing, and respect your opponent (which) is something I made sure to do tonight against a quality opponent like Quinn,” said Penovich, fifth last year in his rookie season.

The Penovich title at 190 is the first for the Prospect program since 2017 when Matt Wroblewski won at 220 pounds.

Not to be overlooked is the four who fell just short in their championship match, beginning with Gavin Rockey (Wauconda, 41-10) who lost a fiercely contested 7-4 decision to Montini Catholic freshman Allen Woo, now 21-3.

“Gavin did a great job to get back even at 3-3 with his reversal at the start of the third period, but Woo is really tough on (bottom) which helped him get the win,” said Wauconda coach Trevor Jauch after Rockey collected his second consecutive runners-up medal at 106.

No. 3 Evan Gosz (Fremd, 37-1) twice a third-place medalist here — finally broke free and into the 144-pound final against No. 2 Jayden Colon (St. Charles East, 41-5). After taking the lead in the early going on a take-down, Gosz slowly saw Colon build a lead en route to a 14-5 decision to earn his third state title of his career.

“It was a great season and tournament for Evan (but) Colon was a great opponent, who is incredibly strong on the mat,” said Fremd coach Jeff Keske.

Barrington senior Rhenzo Augusto (41-6) ran into No. 1 Will Denny (42-4) in his 150-pound final against the Marist junior, and despite an impressive six-minute effort, it was Denny who collected his top prize after a 15-7 victory.

“Rhenzo has come so far so quickly for a guy who hasn't been in this sport for very long, but the one thing about him that impresses all of the time is he is just an unbelievable young man, person, teammate, and leader, which we've all come to appreciate, and especially me since this is my first year as head coach,” said Dan Keller.

Vernon Hills sophomore Ilia Dvoriannikov (32-7) was looking to become just the second state champion in program history, but No. 1 Nick Mueller (Dunlap, 43-3) was just as focused on earning the first for his program.

Mueller, second a year ago, would use a third period reversal and take-down to ensure his 4-2 victory.

“We had a plan, Ilia would execute almost to perfection, but we fell a little short when a quick let-down gave Mueller the chance to go ahead for good,” said Vernon Hills coach Jesse Wolter.

“It was a great year for Ilian, whose put a lot of extra work in, so now the goal is to get back and win it all a year from now.”

The trio of Matt Kubas (175), Brady Phelps (Schaumburg, 120) and Hersey junior Maksim Mukhamedaliyev (132) added more hardware to their trophy case.

Kubas (39-5), a Libertyville senior, was able to reach the Friday night semifinals before he would eventually finish fourth overall for the second straight season.

“I wasn't happy with my effort last night — so it make it tough to come back (here) for an early match — but I felt so much better when I went out there to help get myself another state medal,” said Kubas, who became the first to be a three-time state medalist at his school, and in doing so also set the record for career pins (74) with yet another on Friday to break the record of Mark Friend.

Phelps is now a three-time state medalist, but it has been a tough road to achieve such an honor.

“I never expected to get so sick early on with meningitis, and to miss so much time, but on the other hand, maybe it was the break I needed to come back fresh, and ready to go,” admitted Phelps, fourth overall with a record of 25-4.

Mukhamedaliyev (36-4) earned his second straight medal with a third-place finish at 132, and along with teammate Abdulloh Khakimov (126, 34-7) have provided head coach Joe Rupslauk with a dynamic lower weight bridge to the middle of the Hersey lineup.

“Those two guys have been key figures in the rebirth of our program which was really struggling prior to me coming here — and I know for (Max) he's come so far in such a short time, and he could easily be wrestling for a state title next season,” opined Rupslauk.

Hersey will meet Honenegah on Tuesday for its 3A dual-team sectional semifinal while Libertyville takes on Prospect there as well.

Schaumburg hopes to reach its first dual-team state tournament if able to beat Oak Park-River Forest at host Addison Trail.

Antioch senior Edgar Albino (40-7) collected his fourth state medal of his career, but without the elusive first place finish after his sixth place finish at 132.

Wauconda will host Notre Dame on Tuesday in its 2A dual-team sectional semifinal with Cole Porten (150, 47-11) and Nick Cheshier (157, 30-7) to lead the way as the Bulldogs look to return to dual-team state.

“I like the way our team is looking for Tuesday, and for me, I am so happy for my fifth place medal after such a disappointing loss in my semifinal,” said Cheshier, who will attend the University of Chicago in the fall where he will wrestle, and major in economics.

Porten finished sixth, Antioch junior Gavin Hanrahan (41-8) was third after his defeat of No. 2 Rocky Almendarez (Galesburg) and Grayslake Central freshman Vince DeMarco (106, 45-9) was fourth overall.

Other first time medalist were: Kaleb Pratt (Barrington, 106, 36-14, 6th), Luke Berktold (Libertyville, 120, 36-9, 6th), Abdulloh Khakimov (Hersey, 126, 34-73rd), Grant Madl (Elk Grove, 126, 37-5, 5th), Owen McGrory (Libertyville, 45-5, 4th), and heavyweights William Cole (Round Lake, 45-3, 4th), Tyler Fortis (Maine South, 44-6, 5th) and Asai Hernandez (40-10) from Mundelein.

“I cannot think of a better young man than Grant Madl to be our first to bring home a state medal in 40 years,” said a proud Elk Grove head coach Dan Vargas.

Hernandez' sixth place finish gives Mundelein its 21st medal in program history, while the fourth place medal from Cole is just the ninth for the Panthers.

  Warren’s Aaron Stewart escapes the grasp of Mt. Carmel’s Edmund Enright in the Class 3A 157-pound bout at the IHSA state individual boys wrestling championships at the University of Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. John Starks/
  Fremd’s Evan Gosz and St. Charles East’s Jaden Colon, in orange, in the in the Class 3A 144-pound bout at the IHSA state individual boys wrestling championships at the University of Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. John Starks/
  Barrington’s Rhenzo Augusto struggles against Will Denny of Marist in the Class 3A 150-pound bout at the IHSA state individual boys wrestling championships at the University of Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. John Starks/
  Vernon Hills’ Ilia Dvoriannikov struggles against Dunlap’s Nick Mueller in the Class 2A 165-pound bout at the IHSA state individual boys wrestling championships at the University of Illinois on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. John Starks/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.