Jered Cortez, Johnny Jimenez take aim at history

The recruiting push is over, and now Jered Cortez and Johnny Jimenez can turn their attention to making history.

The rising seniors and former teammates both have made college choices this summer, months before starting their quest to join Illinois wrestling’s most exclusive club. Both are three-time state champs bidding to become the 12th and 13th wrestlers ever to earn four IHSA titles.

As freshmen at Marmion in 2011, they won Class 2A crowns — Jimenez at 103 pounds and Cortez at 112. Cortez then transferred to Glenbard North, where he has captured 3A titles at 120 in 2012 and 126 earlier this year. Jimenez has since won crowns at 113 (2A) in 2012 and 120 (3A) last season.

Cortez is heading to Illinois after making what he calls “a pretty hard decision” last week.

“The [recruiting] thing started pretty early,” Cortez said. “Once July 1 hit, I was getting phone calls from schools. I kind of had my list narrowed down, went out of town for a weekend and thought about it a lot.”

Illinois won out for a variety of reasons.

“I like all the kids on the team, the coaching staff,” Cortez said. ”They’re trying to build a program. I want to be a part of building something special.”

Though staying close to home wasn’t at the top of his priority list, Illinois’ proximity to family and friends certainly didn’t hurt.

“They’re going to be able to come to all the Big Ten duals and I can come home over the weekend for a home-cooked meal,” Cortez said.

Having the process done is a plus. “Now I can go into my senior year focused on winning a state title,” Cortez said.

So can Jimenez, who had committed to Wisconsin.

“I always wanted to compete in the Big Ten,” he said. “That was always the goal for schools.”

And the Badgers rose to the top of the pack. “I really loved the campus,” Jimenez said. “The coaches were awesome. They really take care of the wrestlers there. “

Now he’ll be trying to take care of business: “I was coming into high school with the goal of being a four-time state champion.”

Contributing: Kevin McGavin

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