Aurora Christian 1A champ, Huntley 4th in 3A
BLOOMINGTON -- If Montini Catholic is the Class 3A model of wrestling excellence in which all of its rivals strive to become then Aurora Christian is the 1A version of its big brother.
The Eagles (26-3-0) absolutely hammered their competition on Saturday creating chance after chance- and always a danger to pin their opponents -- which they did several times en route to winning the 1A dual-team state title in Bloomington.
AC head coach Justin Pearch, who already has already transformed his program into a deluxe version of the high performance model of Montini Catholic -- where he served his prep apprenticeship under Izzy Martinez -- changed the Eagles' schedule in hopes of leading them to a state title.
"We went out so quick at sectionals last year, so I knew we had to do something in order to prepare for the postseason this year so I changed our tournament schedule, making it much more difficult," said Pearch
"I was so excited when I found out coach improved our schedule," began Noah Villarreal (46-3) who won a state title last weekend in Champaign.
"The entire room took on a different approach knowing we had a much tougher tournament schedule to prepare for, and I think all of us knew it would make a difference in the end."
The Eagles smashed their first round opponent, Chicago Hope, then found themselves in a tougher test with Coal City only to pull away from the 1A state power when Tyler Eby (34-8), Cameron Johnson (40-6) and Villarreal all recorded pins to close things out.
In their final with Vandalia (22-3-0) the Eagles silenced the big crowd by going up 34-3 with a variety of pins and major decisions on their way to a 48-18 victory.
"Early on, we knew we had the talent to win a state title, and because of our schedule, and commitment to the coaches, program and each other, it all came together," added Johnson, a two-time state qualifier.
There's more ahead for AC as it returns all but one of its men on the varsity roster, making the Eagles the early favorite to repeat next season.
Huntley's first trip to the dual-team state tournament was better than anyone would have imagined.
The Red Raiders (25-4-0) came home with the first state trophy in program history after collecting fourth place honors.
Coach BJ Bertelsman's men opened the tourney with a well deserved 35-31 win over perennial 3A power Glenbard North then lost their semifinal to eventual runner-up Oak Park-River Forest.
In its final contest of this long day, Huntley would fall to Providence Catholic, who gave its retiring head coach Keith Healy a proper send-off with a 37-25 triumph.
"What a great season this was," beamed Bertelsman, resplendid in a new suit purchased in anticipation of his club advancing into the trophy round on this day.
"The guys put in a lot of work this season, and because of that they can bring home our first trophy from dual-team state and that's something to be very proud of."
"When you look at how many teams come here, and never go home with a trophy and) we did it on our first time here, well that says something about these guys," added assistant, Richard Tado.
The Red Raiders came out flying against Glenbard North, never letting the Panthers get themselves off their back foot.
When David Ferrante and Juan Quiroz went back-to-back with a pin a major, the Huntley lead would extend to 18-6
Jimmy Pellegrino (106) and Sammy Spencer (113, 45-6) would secure the victory which guaranteed the silverware.
"I cannot believe how good this team got from the very beginning of the season until now," began Spencer, who along with his brother Zach, a senior, earned state medals one week ago in Champaign.
"The work that everyone put in each and everyday would pay off for us, that, and having a great coaching staff, which really helped turn up the intensity in the room is why we're going home with a trophy."
After welcoming back both Nate Jimenez and Brad Gross to its lineup last in the season, Marmion Academy (21-11) looked the part of one of the top 4-5 wrestling clubs in the season for the stretch run.
However, the hopes of adding a fourth state trophy to the Cadets' collection had to be tempered when the brackets for the dual-team state tournament were released showing the Cadets would meet No. 1 Montini Catholic in their quarterfinal Saturday morning.
The Broncos, who would go on to easily win their 14th state title in program history, made quick work of the Cadets sending Nate Jimenez and his mates out of the tournament and ending the prep careers of the Michigan State-bound four year star and two other graduating teammates.
"It was very disappointing to see who we drew in our quarterfinal. We obviously have a very talented team, but us, and nobody else in 3A can challenge a team like Montini this year," said Jimenez, who is a two-time state runner-up.
"Nonetheless, it's been a great year for all of us, and for me personally, one that I'll always remember. My hope is that I've been a good leader and mentor to the guys coming back, who, if they work hard in the offseason, will be able to achieve plenty of great individual and team honors before they are done."