Fans hoping to catch the drama at Saturday’s team wrestling state tournament better arrive early.
Two of the most anticipated matches will happen right off the bat at 9 a.m. at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, including the day’s marquee showdown: Oak Park-River Forest vs. Sandburg in Class 3A. One of the more intriguing matchups in Class 2A, where Montini is a prohibitive favorite to win its sixth straight title, is Bowen vs. Antioch.
Both Oak Park (31-1) and Sandburg (25-4) are consensus top-15 teams nationally who have developed a hard-fought, but respectful rivalry. Sandburg beat Oak Park 30-24 in last year’s 3A title match to earn its fourth state championship since 2005.
Oak Park has beaten Sandburg twice this season, winning Hinsdale Central’s Rex Whitlatch tourney in December and prevailing 27-24 in a January dual. That’s the only loss for either team to an in-state opponent this season.
But three-time state finalist Sebastian Pique of Sandburg missed both of those meets with an elbow injury and both teams were at less than full strength at the dual.
This dual will showcase four of the 14 wrestlers who won Class 3A titles last weekend in Champaign: Oak Park’s Joe Ariola (46-0, 182) and Sandburg’s C.J. Brucki (42-6, 160), Colin Holler (49-0, 170) and Ricky Robertson (49-0, 195). All have unfinished business on their mind.
“We want to make sure we go out as team champions, do what we do so we have the best memories going to college,” Robertson said after his title bout and before Tuesday’s sectional.
“I want the rest of my team to have this feeling,” Ariola said after his championship. “And I’m going to try as hard as I can to get it for them.”
The Oak Park-Sandburg survivor will be the strong favorite in the 6 p.m. Class 3A final. The best team on the other side of the bracket looks to be Marmion (24-2), led by state champs Johnny Jimenez (53-2, 120) and George Fisher (52-4, 132). The
Cadets’ only losses were to Montini and Oak Park.
In Class 2A, Bowen (16-7) is aiming to become the first Public League team to win a trophy since Lane was fourth in Class AA in 2000. The Boilermakers almost ended the drought last year when they fell 37-33 in the 2A quarterfinals to Antioch (16-14) — the same team they’ll face Saturday at 9 a.m.
“We had a better team last year,” Bowen coach Ron Wilson said. “[But] these kids stepped up to the plate and proved me wrong a little bit.”
No one in 2A figures to test Montini, which had four individual state champs: Chris Garcia (43-11, 138), Xavier Montalvo (55-5, 160), Jake Turk (44-8, 182) and Anthony Ferraro (36-8, 195). Garcia, though, missed Tuesday’s sectional after getting hurt in the title bout and may not compete on Saturday.