Boys wrestling: Washington denies Montini in thrilling 2A state title match; St. Charles East settles for 3rd in 3A

BLOOMINGTON — Montini was the clear favorites ahead of the proceedings at Grossinger Motors Arena after its thrilling 32-29 victory on Tuesday over No. 2 IC Catholic Prep at its dual-team sectional semifinal in Wauconda.

Once in Bloomington, the Broncos produced a high-powered attack that led the No. 1 team into the state final after easy victories over Rochelle on Friday, then Glenwood early Saturday morning to set up a 2A final with No. 2 Washington.

The road paved to glory appeared to be lined with gold for the Broncos (27-3-0) who got off to the start that they wanted, only to see its lead disappear once.

After building a 25-15 advantage, then fighting for its life down the stretch, before the Panthers stunned Mike Bukovsky's club on the final match to claim the championship.

Montini's Jaxon Lane controls Washington's Wyatt Leman during the 215-pound match during the IHSA Class 2A Dual Team Sate Championship match Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. Gregory Shaver

“This is a tough one to swallow — we let it slip away,” admitted a disappointed Bukovsky, who was looking to win the ninth dual-team state title in program history, and first since 2020.

“We didn't wrestle like we needed to tonight,” added Broncos assistant Sal Annoreno, himself no stranger to performing on the big stage when he became the first and only individual state champion at Bartlett in 2012.

State champions Allan Woo (25-3) and David Mayora (42-1) helped the Broncos to a 20-15 lead, which became 25-15 after Harrison Konder (20-3) added a tech-fall at 157 to give what looked like a comfortable lead for the Broncos.

However, Josh Hoffer (39-12) gave the Panthers their first lead after his 7-2 decision at 190 pounds — and the race was on.

Jaxon Lane (215) put the Broncos back on top (28-27) with a hard-fought 4-1 decision, but Panthers heavyweight Sean Thornton dashed the dreams of Montini with a 6-4 decision.

The title is the sixth in the last seven years for the Panthers (22-6-0).

No. 1 St. Charles East (22-1-0) came in as a slight favorite over a star-studded field in 3A. And after a perfect start on Friday in its quarterfinal against No. 7 Hononegah, the Saints ran into No. 3 Mt. Carmel (15-2-0) who had just a little more in its gas tank during a 35-30 semifinal victory.

The Caravan would later go on to crush Yorkville (22-5-0) to win its fourth state title in program history.

“We knew our match with Mt. Carmel was basically the state final because of the way the brackets fell together. They're a great team, nationally ranked just like us, but a couple of matches didn't quite go our way, and we ended up (losing) to a well coached, highly talented team,” said Saints coach Jason Potter, whose club was without one of the best at 138, Tyler Guerra, who was injured at state tournament, and was unable to return to action.

“I am very fortunate to have wrestled four years for the absolute best coach in the business in coach Potter — my experience has been nothing less than amazing, and I've been in a room that each and everyday I look forward to coming into,” said four-time state champion Ben Davino (54-0) who finished his brilliant career, along with five other seniors in the Saints starting lineup, on a high note when it beat Libertyville in the third-place match 37-22.

The fourth-place finish marks the first state trophy for No. 16 Libertyville (13-3-0) since 2008 when the Wildcats Hall-of-Fame coach Dale Eggert would guide his club to a 22-4-0 overall record.

After that, the last time the Wildcats were here was in 2014.

“We had a favorable draw in the brackets with Mt. Carmel, St. Charles East, Joliet Catholic (Academy) and Hononegah all on the other side, but we can only wrestle who's in front of us, and the guys did a great job on Friday to win our quarterfinal against Oak Park-River Forest to at least guarantee a state trophy,” said Eggert, who during his brilliant 37 years in charge has amassed 661 career victories.

“This has been a fantastic season for us, and if you told me at the start of the year that we would be going home with a state trophy, I would have wondered if that was possible despite us having a very good team,” said Wildcats senior Owen McGrory (45-3) who will wrestle next fall at Duke University.

McGrory was fourth a week ago in Champaign, while the Wildcats best man, Matt Kubas (175, 40-3), earned his second straight fourth-place state medal.

Kubas would avenge a loss to Brody Murray (46-10) in that third-place contest a week ago with 3-2 six-minute, hard-fought match, one of a half dozen the Wildcats would collect against St. Charles East.

The season would end for both Wauconda and Naperville Central on Friday night when both clubs fell in their dual-team quarterfinal.

No. 3 Washington had too much firepower for No. 4 Wauconda (18-2-0) whose hopes of a second straight 2A state trophy ended in a 49-13 decision.

“(Washington) has been a powerhouse in 2A (so) we knew we had to be at our best, and today they were the better team,” said Wauconda coach Trevor Jauch.

Despite the loss, the Bulldogs would enjoy a marvelous season, and will return several key figures, including Gavin Rockey (44-11) a two-time state runner-up.

Naperville Central got off to a flying start against No. 7 Yorkville (21-4-0) going out to a 23-6 lead before the Foxes went on a 30-0 run to finish off the Redhawks (20-7-0) by a score of 36-29.

Central's big men Nico Besteiro (215, 31-8) and Will Erbeck (285, 38-5), both state qualifiers with Besteiro earning a sixth-place state medal, staked the Redhawks to an early 9-0 advantage, with Jake Moore (106), Ty Martin (120) and Mitch Kaszuba (126) adding another 14 points to Central's lead before Yorkville took over.

Libertyville’s Matt Kubas faces off against St. Charles East’s Brody Murray in the Class 3A 3rd place match on Saturday, Feb. 24th 2024 in Bloomington.
Libertyville’s bench cheers as teammate Charlie Clark is awarded a penalty point as the match got heated against St. Charles East’s Anthony Gutierrez in the Class 3A 3rd place match on Saturday, Feb. 24th 2024 in Bloomington.
Libertyville’s Logan Tatar works over St. Charles East’s Will Carney in the Class 3A 3rd place match on Saturday, Feb. 24th 2024 in Bloomington.
St. Charles East’s Dom Munaretto brings down Libertyville’s Tyler Wuh in the Class 3A 3rd place match on Saturday, Feb. 24th 2024 in Bloomington.
Libertyville’s Matt Kubas celebrates his win against St. Charles East’s Brody Murray in the Class 3A 3rd place match on Saturday, Feb. 24th 2024 in Bloomington.
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