Nazareth senior Aeneas White didn’t wrestle in last year’s East Suburban Catholic meet, having been beaten out for the spot at 182 pounds by teammate Pat Vitek.
“In all honesty, Pat’s our best wrestler,” White said.
White’s junior season wasn’t over, however. He opted to enter last year’s regional as an undersized 195-pounder and all he did was fight his way through a Class 2A regional and sectional to become a state qualifier.
On Friday, with unbeaten Vitek now wrestling at 195 and White undefeated at 182, the two seniors became the second and third ESSC champions in the program’s four-year history. Nazareth graduate Malcolm Watson won a conference and a state title for coach Denis Laughlin last year.
Senior Dan DeSimone (220) had to sit out Friday’s conference meet due to injury, or the Roadrunners might have had three individual champions.
As the top seed at 182 in Friday’s ESCC meet at Notre Dame, White pinned Marist’s Ethan Benoit midway through the first period of their title match.
“The football team had three all-area football players this year ?— Aeneas, Pat and Danny,” Laughlin said. “Pat’s the wrestler, Dan’s the brawler and Aeneas is the athlete.”
White was a two-way starter for the Roadrunners’ football team and is aiming to play football in college, possibly at either the University of Indianapolis or St. Ambrose in Iowa.
But for now, White (18-0) has his sights set on Saturday’s Class 2A regional at Riverside-Brookfield. A top-three finish at 182 there would send him to an individual sectional at Rich East.
White lost his first two matches downstate last year and didn’t place at 195, but at 182 he’s ready to earn a spot on the awards stand in Champaign.
“My conditioning is definitely better this year and so are my takedowns, as far as shooting,” White said. “I’ve always been more of a thrower. I’m comfortable on bottom and I haven’t wrestled many guys that can hold me down.”
Laughlin has seen White improve on the mat this year.
“Last year it was all about getting by on his athletic ability and this year he’s more of a wrestler,” Laughlin said. “He’s done a lot better on the bottom and he’s always been good on his feet.
“(Benoit) is a quality kid, ranked in 3A, and Aeneas just took advantage of him being out of position in that title match. He made a beautiful throw and then cemented him.”