Montini grabs five individual state championships

  • Patrick Kunzer/pkunzer@dailyherald.comMontini's  Josh LaBarbera, front, won against Sandburg's Kevin Zimmer in the title bout at 220 pounds in Class 3A  of the State Final Tournament in Individual Wrestling on Saturday at State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign.

    Patrick Kunzer/pkunzer@dailyherald.comMontini's Josh LaBarbera, front, won against Sandburg's Kevin Zimmer in the title bout at 220 pounds in Class 3A of the State Final Tournament in Individual Wrestling on Saturday at State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign.

 
By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/22/2020 11:17 PM

CHAMPAIGN -- Trevor Swier had an understandable look of satisfaction on his face moments after the championship match at 182 pounds at the Class 3A individual wrestling tournament Saturday.

"What a team," the Montini senior said after earning a first state championship in four tries with his second-period fall over Pekin senior Jared Dowell. "We could set our record for most state championships with five. Three years ago we won four."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Two weight classes later, Montini had in fact established a new benchmark since its elevation to Class 3A.

The two-time defending team champion had a fifth titlist when Josh LaBarbera, known for his grit in hard-nosed matches, outdueled Sandburg star 220-pounder Kevin Zimmer 3-2.

The Broncos went 5-for-5 in their latest virtuoso performance at the state tournament.

Sammie Hayes' 41-1 record for Sandburg at 106 pounds was of little consequence to Joe Fernau.

A sophomore, Fernau completed a journey of not even qualifying as a freshman to climbing to the top of the podium with a 2-1 victory.

"I knew he was a tough competitor," Fernau said of Hayes.

Yet Fernau had already defeated the top-two ranked wrestlers in his weight class to reach the finals.

"I had to take him down for the win," Fernau said. "It all came together."

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Dylan Ragusin has been synonymous with the Montini program for four years.

A Michigan recruit, Ragusin has been in the finals four consecutive years.

Ragusin was on the wrong side of the final his first two attempts.

But in a showdown between the top two seeds at 126 pounds, it was all Ragusin against Lockport senior Mike Kaminski.

Scoring with impunity with takedowns and a series of near-falls, Ragusin captured his second straight title with a technical fall.

"I take this seriously," Ragusin said. "This is my job. I love being in the spotlight. I love to compete. I wanted to prove a point, pound for pound, that I am one of the best wrestlers in the state."

James Pierandozzi had a chance to stop the Montini run at 152 pounds for Plainfield South.

But Joe Roberts' resolve was too much for the Cougars senior. The North Carollina State-bound senior translated into a 5-2 victory in yet another defensive struggle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Six other Montini wrestlers garnered all-state recognition.

Nick Gonzalez (113, third), Nain Vasquez (120, fourth), Jake Stiles (132, third), Braden Stauffenberg (138, sixth), Fidel Mayora (145, third) and Brayden Thompson (160, third) will also compete for the Broncos in defense of their team title.

Montini was undefeated in dual meets and faces Maine South at 6 p.m. Tuesday at South Elgin.

"We will face Mt. Carmel in the finals (Saturday in Bloomington)," Montini coach Israel Martinez predicted on Friday night.

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