The 2013-14 wrestling season is in the books and it was another strong year for the Southland.
The area watched six state champions emerge from the individual tournament — led by three-timers in Mount Carmel’s Bryce Brill and Thornwood’s Kris Williams— and a total of 41 individuals reach the podium. Marist and Oak Forest added to the hardware count by bringing home trophies from team state.
So is it too soon to think about next season?
Not if you’re Oak Forest, which finished third in Class 2A and is slated to return nearly its entire roster. Two-time state champ Danny Swan will be back alongside a trio of state-placers and a solid lineup from top to bottom. Swan said the slew of juniors on the team circled their senior seasons long ago.
“We all came in as freshman and we mostly had a freshman team at the time,” Swan said. “We were mostly too young to compete.”
The Bengals finished 6-11 that year in coach Shawn Forst’s first season guiding the program. Two years later, the Bengals went 24-2 with primarily that same group.
“We’re all really tough now, and we’re looking for that state championship next year,” Swan added, “especially because Montini is moving up.”
The last part is key.
Since the inception of the three-class system, no team has ever beaten Montini, which just won its seventh straight 2A title. But now the Broncos are stepping up a class, or rather, being shoved up to 3A by the IHSA Success Advancement Component.
“It’s good for the sport, it’s good for the state to have us in 3A and to give other teams in 2A a competitive chance to win the state title,” Montini senior Edgar Ruano told the Sun-Times.
Marist loses Purdue recruits Peter Andreotti and Mario Leveille, along with seniors Mark Duda and Mike Mullaney, to graduation. Yet the RedHawks shouldn’t miss a beat with third-place medalist Alex Benoit leading another strong group for coach Brendan Heffernan.
Ameen Hamden, Nick Lukanich, Jimmy McAullife and Andy O’Brien form a strong quartet at the lower weights, while David Kasper, Nick Gasbarro and Jakada Hull provide meat in the middle of the lineup.
Sandburg, Lockport and Lincoln-Way Central will keep the SouthWest Suburban Conference among the best for wrestling.
Lockport loses state champ Brian Rossi and stalwarts in Vince Dietz and Dan Radcliffe, but Tyler Johnson will be on a mission to win a state title after losing the 195-pound championship in sudden-death overtime.
Sandburg brings back Brian Krasowski and Patrick Brucki in the heart of its lineup. Lincoln-Way Central will make it tough sledding for opponents in the upper weights with heavyweight medalist Bryan Ditchman, Jake Dudek and Sean Kelly set to return.
Like Picabo Street in downhill skiing or Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, the best names tend to stick with us long after the season ends.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the SouthtownStar’s All-Name Team, featuring the coolest names from seniors around the Southland wrestling scene:
Cosmo Halwix, Argo; Mantas Drukteinis, Stagg; Hunter Pindel, Sandburg; Colton Kielbasa, St. Rita; Keon Mayo, Hillcrest; Tino Abarca, Reavis; Bryce Brill, Mount Carmel; Fidel Toto, Thornridge; Ronan Sullivan, St. Rita; Chitunda Tillman, Morgan Park.