BLOOMINGTON — Sandburg ran out of tears two weeks ago, so maybe it was fitting that there were only smiles on Saturday.
The Eagles won their second consecutive Class 3A state title and their fifth championship overall in nine seasons, first gutting out a 33-23 quarterfinal victory over Oak Park-River Forest — the team they beat in last year’s final and the team they’d been beaten by twice this season.
Sandburg then took care of business against 2011 champ Glenbard North in the semifinals, winning 36-23, and against first-time finalist Marmion, capturing seven straight bouts en route to a 38-17 title-bout victory.
The run capped an emotional couple weeks for the Eagles, who like the rest of the Sandburg community, were devastated by the recent death of athletic director Bruce Scheidegger.
“That’s what we talked about,” said senior Sebastian Pique, who missed much of the season with an elbow injury before returning to take second at 120 pounds last weekend and was 2-0 Saturday. “We wanted to do something special, just kick butt for Mr. Scheidegger.”
The Eagles did that all day long, starting with the quarterfinals when Chris Pajak avenged a loss in last week’s individual state tournament by beating undefeated 3A champ Joe Ariola of Oak Park 2-1 at 182 pounds.
“It was a close match at state and I knew I could beat him if I put my mind to it,” Pajak said. “In the third period, I didn’t even know I was winning 2-1. I thought it was 1-1, I thought it was going to overtime. I looked over to my bench. [My teammates said], ‘You’re winning, you have 16 seconds left, just finish tough.’”
That’s the intensity and talent level Sandburg (28-4) and Oak Park (33-2) brought to the table. Both are ranked in the top 15 nationally and they combined for four individual state
champs — two of whom lost in this dual. Oak Park’s Davonte Mahomes (46-1) avenged his only loss of the season, beating C.J. Brucki 9-3 at 160.
But it was Pajak’s victory that was the highlight of a Sandburg rally from an 18-10 deficit that also included pins by Colin Holler (52-0) at 170 and Bill Gore (32-7), wrestling up a weight at 285, along with a technical fall by Ricky Robertson (52-0), also up a weight at 220.
“This year hasn’t been quite easy for us,” Robertson said. “But we’re a team that can push through adversity. … We peaked at the right time of the year.”
“To be honest with you, it was a tough year,” Sandburg coach Eric Siebert said. “We battled sickness, injuries [and] we had some other issues we had to get through.”
None will linger as long as the loss of Scheidegger, to whom Siebert said this title was “100 percent dedicated.”
Holler, Pajak, Ricky Robertson, Gore and John Pellegrino (40-6, 145) all went 3-0 on the day for Sandburg.
State champs Johnny Jimenez (55-2, 120) and George Fisher (55-4, 132) both were 3-0 for Marmion (24-3).
“Right now we’re a little young,” said Jimenez, a junior who’ll be going for his fourth individual title next season. “In a few years, I think we’ll be up there with [Sandburg] and win a championship as well.”
Glenbard North (18-7) finished in the top three for the 10th time in 13 seasons, beating Lincoln-Way Central (20-4) 34-27 for third place.