Wilmington rallies to beat Brother Rice

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Is there a more loaded weight class in the Southland — or all of Illinois, for that matter — than Class 3A’s 113-pound division?

With Lockport’s two-time state medalist Brian Rossi, Marist standout Nick Lukanich and St. Rita state-placer Jake Silzer in the mix, 113 has turned into a who’s who of elite grapplers.

That’s not even mentioning Brother Rice sophomore Rudy Yates, the reigning 106-pound state champ who was on display Wednesday in a dual against visiting Wilmington, one of the top programs in Class 1A. Wrestling up at 120, Yates (22-0) cruised to a second-round pin. Afterwards, he spoke of his bracket’s rugged outlook.

“We have a lot of goods kids at 113 — a lot of upperclassmen that will be competing hard to look good for the colleges,” Yates said. “This year will be tough, but hopefully I’ll power through and end up on the same spot.”

Rice took a 21-0 lead after brothers Julian (126) and Juan Blanco (132) picked up consecutive wins. But Wilmington countered with nine straight victories, including standout Dexter Fierro’s decision at 182, to rally for a 42-27 victory.

Wildcats coach Rob Murphy recently hit the 400-win milestone, making Wednesday’s matchup with Brother Rice coach Bill Weick a dual featuring two of Illinois’ winningest coaches.

“The mark doesn’t happen without good kids willing to work hard, great assistants willing to help and all kinds of support from all around, including my wife, Tina,” Murphy said.

In the dual’s most compelling bout, Rice senior Paul Balich, a natural 138-pounder, bumped up to 152 to face Wilmington’s Andrew Liaromatis. Balich, ranked No. 7 in Class 3A by Illinois MatMen, dropped an 8-6 decision to No. 8 Liaromatis in a back-and-forth affair.

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