Wrestling community rallies around Batavia's Shugayev
Eldar Shugayev had made the ultimate commitment to becoming a full-fledged member of the Batavia varsity wrestling program.
"He is a heavyweight," Batavia coach Scott Bayer said of Shugayev. "He once weighed almost 360 pounds. He lost 50 pounds (to meet IHSA maximum-weight standards). He was one of us, for sure."
In the Bulldogs' dual match against Naperville Central over the Thanksgiving weekend, Shugayev made his debut for Batavia -- only to meet disaster.
"It was his first match ever, and (he) injured himself catastrophically," Bayer said of a broken knee cap that displaced his fibula, the lower-leg bone.
Shugayev has been in two hospitals ever since.
The prognosis was terribly grim.
The Batavia wrestling community rallied around Shugayev, a Russian immigrant of Turkish descent.
"It was a combination of parents and me," Bayer said of an initiative to raise funds for the Shugayev family through a GoFundMe drive.
The collective efforts have raised almost $24,000.
"We are in the process of turning the funds over to the family right now," Bayer said.
Optimism is gradually replacing a worse-case scenario.
"When I first visited him in the hospital the Wednesday after it happened, the fear in his eyes was palpable," Bayer said. "We have gotten good news in recent days. I don't think amputation is the first (medical) option any longer."
Girls wrestling update:
The reverberations of the IHSA announcing a separate state tournament for girls this season continue unabated in both DuPage and Kane counties.
"We want to showcase girls wrestling," said Bayer whose sophomore superstar Sydney Perry, the IWCOA (coaches association) state champion from last spring who is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation at 135 pounds, will be a featured attraction Thursday at the Bulldogs' DuKane Conference dual meet with archrival Geneva.
Noelia Vazquez was an undefeated state champion for Fenton during the pandemic-shortened spring season earlier this year as well.
"I think a lot of people are really excited, including myself," Fenton coach Brian Hastings said of the girls having a two-event individual postseason as well as a team-dual state tournament. "It's a tremendous way to grow our sport."
Vazquez, a 182-pounder who intends to pursue a career with the Marine Corps, has not lost the last two seasons.
"She is big and strong and athletic," Hastings said of his prized senior. "She is in general very tough. She is very competitive."
Vazquez vanquished Downers South sophomore Gracie Swierczynski, who was third last spring at the coaches' tournament, two weekends ago at the Fenton Invitational.
"It was a good match," Downers South coach Sean Lovelace said. "Gracie is the leader of our girls program, which is a good thing."
Lovelace is also very high on freshman Violet Cherap.
Larkin also boasts a returning state champion as Maria Ferrer, who captured her title at 170 pounds, is the Royals' starter at 182 in exclusively boys competitions.
Four weight classes to watch:
There are four Class 3A weight divisions -- 132, 138, 170 and 182 pounds -- where there are multiple athletes from DuPage and Fox crowding the coaches' poll in the latest rankings.
There are other weight classes as well with a pronounced grouping of DuPage and Kane athletes, but this particular quartet of divisions is the weekly featured groups.
At 132 pounds, West Chicago senior Pierre Baldwin, Hinsdale Central senior Cody Tavoso and St Charles East sophomore Tyler Guerra are respectively ranked third, fourth and sixth in the eyes of the coaches.
Kaden Fetterolf, a Batavia junior, Michael DiBenedetto, one of two senior linchpins for Lake Park and Downers North sophomore Harrison Konder are slotted in consecutive order between Nos. 5 and 7.
"He is the real deal," Lovelace said after the Mustangs denied their crosstown rival 42-24 at the Downers South dual-team tournament over the weekend on Konder. "I have known him since he was a little kid. He has a high wrestling IQ."
At 170, Willowbrook senior NIck Matubas is looking to climb even higher than his No. 7 ranking after claiming the Hoffman Estates Invitational over the weekend.
"There will not be too many times in which there will be a better athlete on the mat than Nick," Willowbrook coach Rich Ortiz said of his senior standout who was also all-state in football. "He does all the right things on and off the mat. I am very happy with where he is right now."
Tyler Perry and Cody Dertz, from fifth- and fourth-ranked Marmion and Glenbard North, check in Nos. 3 and 6 in the division.
Another superior Marmion wrestler is second-ranked Jack Leshner at 182 pounds, followed closely behind by Batavia senior Jackson Tonkovich (No. 4) and Downers North junior Ben Bielawksi (5).
Tonkovich is unblemished after 13 matches, including eight by fall.
"He has been an anchor in our lineup," said Bayer, whose team is ranked No. 10, on Tonkovich. "He is not in fear of any of his opponents."