Some of the wrestlers heading to Champaign for this weekend’s state tournament are looking to wind up on the medal stand.
A smaller group has realistic title hopes and an even more elite number can look to remain unbeaten. But Ricky Robertson’s dreams are bigger than all that.
“I was looking to end the year ranked nationally No. 1,” the Sandburg senior 195-pounder said. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that with the teams we’ve faced. But in order to do that, you have to go undefeated and that’s another motivation.”
Also spurring Robertson (44-0) was a recent message board thread that included his name on a list of the best wrestlers never to have an IHSA championship.
“Not only that drives me to win a state title, but last year [after] taking second, you want to redeem yourself,” Robertson said. “I feel like I have a little bit of unfinished business down there.”
That Robertson’s wrestling 195 is a bit of a surprise. He was ranked most of the year at 182 after finishing runner-up at 170 as a junior. But as Robertson continued to knock off big-name 195-pounders, including nationally-ranked Broc Berge of Minnesota, the plan changed.
“You look at it and [think] why is there a reason to go back down when you’ve been so successful at 195,” Robertson said.
Robertson’s success is undisputed — he’s ranked third nationally by Amateur Wrestling News and fifth by Intermat.com. But to stay on course, he’ll have to get past Plainfield Central’s Jordan Ellingwood (43-0, eighth Intermat, 18th Amateur Wrestling News) in what would be one of Saturday’s most anticipated title bouts.
Two other Class 3A finals could feature a pair of unbeatens: 285, with Hinsdale Central’s Brian Allen (44-0) and Neuqua Valley’s Andrew Geers (37-0), and 106, with Brother Rice’s Rudy Yates (38-0) and Plainfield South’s Miguel Silva (38-0).
Two Class 3A wrestlers are seeking to win titles for the third straight year: Glenbard North 126-pounder Jered Cortez (44-0) and Marmion 120-pounder Johnny Jimenez (44-2). Cortez took first at 112 in 2A for Marmion in 2011 before winning at 120 in 3A for Glenbard North last season. Jimenez won 2A titles at 103 (2011) and 113 (2012) before the Cadets moved up to 3A this season.
Other returning champs in 3A are Lincoln-Way East’s Kyle Langenderfer (39-0) at 152 and Bartlett’s Sal Annoreno (30-2) at 132. Montini’s Tommy Pawelski (38-6 at 113) and Sycamore’s Austin Culton (40-0 at 152) are looking to repeat in Class 2A.
Oak Park-River Forest leads the 3A qualifying with 11 wrestlers, one more than Sandburg and Marist. Montini advanced 13 in Class 2A and Lincoln-Way West qualified 10. Wilmington’s eight qualifiers are tops in 1A.
Competition begins Thursday at Assembly Hall for all three classes with preliminary bouts. The quarterfinals are Friday morning with semifinals to follow in the evening. The title matches are Saturday night.