Eight Fox Valley area wrestlers win state
CHAMPAIGN -- The final whistle, and sheer release of euphoria, tension, nerves and every other emotion under the sun could be seen on the face of Justin Benjamin when the clock struck zero and the St. Charles East senior was crowned 138-pound state champion Saturday night in Champaign.
The biggest prize in Illinois state wrestling was up for grabs inside State Farm Center, and while area fans were treated to an impressive eight championships, it was the 138-pound title Benjamin (46-4) secured that gave fans at the 82nd tournament reason to stand up and cheer.
"It sounds kind of like a cliché, but all the feelings of winning tonight is surreal -- especially after having offseason surgery on my meniscus, working my way all the way back -- then going out there and beating an opponent (Ryan Fleck, Marmion Academy) who I first met at kids club several years ago," said Benjamin.
The Saints star would plow through a star-studded weight class to earn the first title in program history since Brandon Rubino did so in 2010.
"I was so relaxed before the match, and really strong all throughout (knowing) all along this title was mine to win, and nothing was going to stop me."
Teammate Justin Hull (38-6) missed his chance to join Benjamin atop the podium when a late takedown by Aydin Guttridge (Rockford East, 35-2) was the difference in a 3-1 contest.
While Fleck was unable to solve Benjamin, the senior did enjoy a superb three days, but nothing like teammates Diego Sotelo and Trevor Chumbley who both celebrated state titles.
For Chumbley (41-2) it was his second straight after the Cadets star beat Fidel Mayora (Montini Catholic, 41-8) for the third consecutive weekend.
"We know each other real well because this was the ninth time we've met, but with that said, I knew this one would be just a tough as the others, especially with so much riding on the end result," said Chumbley following his hard fought 2-1 overtime victory.
After a second-place finish a year ago, Sotelo (45-3) used a precise and timely takedown at five minutes to close out Montini Catholic sophomore Nick Gonzalez, 4-2.
"It was a long day for Nick and I at 106 because we were the last final to go on -- so it was important to stay alert, and keep busy in order to compete at my absolute best," said Sotelo.
Another 106-pounder, sophomore Joel Mylin (43-5), joined the ranks of state champion at Aurora Christian after his 3-2 victory over Tavius Hosley (45-7) from Unity.
"I came in here as the No. 1 seed, and I wanted to hold that seed by winning a state title," said Mylin, who was joined by teammate Noah Villarreal (132, 43-4) who is now a two-time state champion after blasting Anthony Federico (47-4) of Altoff with a 12-0 major decision.
"My coaches wanted me to play it safe, and not to do anything away from our game plan -- so that's what I did, and it feels great to win here again," said Villarreal, who had figured Cameron Johnson (33-7) would collect his third state title in three years.
However, Johnson would suffer a shoulder injury 27 seconds into his final with Ethan Doty (West Carroll, 45-0) who took an injury default title.
Nick Termini and David Ferrante were so dominant throughout the three days, it seemed the thought of the dynamic duo to wear championship rings a fait accompli in advance of this weekend.
Termini made it two in a row with after a well played 1-0 decision over Anthony Turner (41-2) of Danville -- giving the Old Dominion recruit a spotless 50-0 record, and a program-high 152 career victories.
"This is a win that I'll savor for a long time," said Termini. "This title was the perfect way to end a perfect season, and to be the second two-time champ along with my good friend Austin Macias makes it all the more special."
Ferrante (45-2), who has said on numerous occasions how proud he is to wear the big 'H' on the front of his Huntley singlet, made the Red Raiders faithful and its wonderful wrestling program prouder than ever after his overwhelming his fourth opponent here over the three days.
"David is all about the Huntley program (first) and everything else (second) but tonight is his night, and his state title was really well deserved," said coach BJ Bertelsman.
"I cannot tell you how great it feels to be the first in Huntley history to win a state title, it gives me a great deal of pride, and it's something that's been a goal of mine since stepping into the room three years ago," said Ferrante, No. 1 in his junior class, and on his way to Northwestern two seasons from now.
Last, and certainly not least in our list of state champions, is Crystal Lake South sophomore Christian Olsen (113, 39-1) who looked all powerful during a brilliant six minute performance in a 12-3 major decision victory over Miles Trahey (41-4) of Oak Forest.
"I am just speechless after that win by Christian, who in early January went on face time with our last state champion Eric Barone (starring at Illinois) and talked out everything about everything (including) the proper mental state to have, how to react to certain situations, and just how to be a better wrestler," said Gators coach Ross Ryan.
"That talk with Eric really helped set me straight on a lot of different things (I) was never aware of -- he's been there in so many situations in high school and college, so that talk was huge for me," added Olsen, fourth here a year ago.
Tommy Schroeder came alive on his final day here -- going to the well three times with his favorite 'cement-mixer' move to seal off all three of his opponents en route to his third place finish.
"I came into this tournament, and especially today (relaxed) and knowing what ever happens will happen -- and I really feel that helped me go out there and just wrestle, have fun, and let it all happen," said Schroder, who pinned his way through wrestle-backs, ending with his third and final pin against four-time state qualifier, Brad Gross (32-7) of Marmion Academy.
The three-sport star helped give the Saints a program best three state medals this season.
Gross, and teammate Nathan Callaway, end their tremendous regular season career in advance of dual-team sectionals next week with five state medals combined.
Gross now has a second, third, fourth and sixth place trophies, while Callaway (37-8, 132) earned fourth place.
Harvard-bound Michael Jaffe (42-4) was unable to solve his good friend Matt Ramos (Lockport) for the third time this season -- which sent the two-time state medal winner into wrestle-backs following his 6-5 defeat in Friday's semifinals.
"Yeah, he's been a real thorn in my side, but I was so much closer this time around, which really helped me get ready for a run at another state medal today," said the Cadets senior, fourth a year ago at 41-4.
Mikey Caliendo (41-7) may have lost twice in three days to eventual third-place medal winner, Michael Gunther of Libertyville, but the Batavia super-soph proved he's a force to be reckoned with during his next two seasons.
Caliendo (138) survived in one of the top weight classes here -- one in which was filled with several state placewinners, including No. 2 Pat Nolan (Sandburg, 44-6) who on Thursday stunned No. 1 Luke Odom (Edwardsville).
Nolan would fall victim to the aforementioned Fleck in the semifinals, then to Caliendo, who advanced into the third-place bout after his 13-8 victory over Nolan.
"I was right there (twice) with Gunther, beat Nolan and Josh Ramos (Providence Catholic) -- both who were two-time state qualifiers -- so with more hard work in the off-season, I can challenge for the top spot on the podium next season," said Caliendo.
There was plenty of good news to go around if you were an Aurora Christian and Burlington Central fan.
Obviously, most of the cheers were reserved for the Nick Termini championship run, but his sophomore teammate, Josue Ferro (37-9) provided a glimpse of the future for BC wrestling after his fourth-place finish at 220.
"What an amazing turnaround for Josue -- going from just nine wins last season, to almost 40 this year," said coach Ashton Brown, who bumped his big man from 195 to 220 for the postseason in what proved to be a brilliant move by the Rockets' first year head coach.
"It was all about extra work during the off-season, then continuing to do the same hard work, in and out of the room," said Ferro.
Nate Orosco's move from Kaneland to Aurora Christian this fall proved highly profitable to the AC senior who earned his second state medal after claiming third place with a 6-5 victory in overtime.
Orosco, now 42-8, will help his club prepare for dual-team sectionals on Tuesday, as will junior, Zeke Marshall (25-8) -- now a three-time state medal winner after his fourth-place finish at 138.