High school sports dynasties: Boys No. 1, Montini wrestling
Editors note: The Daily Herald has been counting down the Top Ten high school sports dynasties since 2000. We conclude today with St. Francis girls volleyball and Montini wrestling.
In its first 35 years of existence, Montini Catholic High School never won a team state championship.
Mike Bukovsky aimed to change that.
In his first season as the Broncos' head wrestling coach, the school finally broke that streak in 2000. It turned out to be the beginning of something unstoppable.
This century Montini has won a total of 16 team wrestling titles including the last three -- not to mention 67 individual state titles -- to create one of the greatest prep sports dynasties in IHSA history.
What started as a source of local pride became nationally renowned.
"I've always had so much pride in this school," said Bukovsky, an assistant for nine years under Jim Izzo. "It was a dream of mine to build a program and see Montini win the state title."
In the 1990-91 season Bukovsky started the Bronco Wrestling Club with Jesse Izzo as a charter member. Izzo became the school's first individual champion in any sport in 1998 to put Montini on the wrestling map.
With an expanded coaching staff and a tougher schedule, the first step toward team dominance was getting past rivals Sandwich, Harvard and Lisle. Montini also became the first small school to win the prestigious Dvorak Tournament.
Since then the Broncos have won everything there is to win on the mat. First came the Class A title and multiple Class 2A and 3A championships. The biggest feat in program history, though, was the Class AA title in 2008 that proved the Broncos could compete with anyone.
Beating Providence 37-25 in the Class AA final behind individual champion Garrett Goebel and medal winners Jake Gregerson, Isaiah Gonzalez, Dan Stelter, Carl Foreside and Dan Grimes was monumental.
"It was the pinnacle of everything," said Bukovsky, the Broncos' football coach who stepped away from the wrestling program after the 2010 season. "We kept on pushing and kept on climbing. And we kept getting great kids."
Along the way the Broncos fielded some of the most-dominant wrestlers in Illinois history. Chase Beebe, Conor Beebe and Mike Benefiel became part of an exclusive club of four-time individual champions.
Since that first title in 2000, the program never slowed down.
"The thing that makes it so special for me is Montini has been such a huge part of my life and my family's life," Bukovsky said. "To look at numbers like that, it's just unbelievable and it's a testament to those kids. I never could have predicted something like that."
The Daily Herald prep sports staff voted on the Top 10 boys and girls high school sports dynasties. Ten points were awarded for a first-place vote, nine for second, etc. The results follow.
1) Montini wrestling 85
2) Maine South football 70
3) Montini football 58
4) Driscoll football 56
5) York cross country 55
6) Hinsdale Central golf 29
7) WW South volleyball 28
8) Cary-Grove football 18
9) West Aurora basketball 15
10) Naperville North soccer 7
Honorable mention -- Stevenson gymnastics (6), St. Viator soccer (5), Stevenson basketball (5), Prospect football (5), Lake Park track (4), St. Viator golf (2), IC Catholic Prep football (1).