Wrestling: Scouting Fox
Top athletes: Wade Abrams, Cary-Grove, sr., 195; Leo Acosta, Aurora Central Catholic, jr., 160; Sayf Afeef, Burlington Central, sr., 145; Cael Andrews, Batavia, jr., 145; Will Ardson, South Elgin, jr., 220; Tyler Atlers, Marmion, jr., 126; Patryk Barnas, Hampshire, sr., 285; Jesus Bosque, Larkin, sr., 160; Nicholas Casillas, Burlington Central, jr., 152; Amador Castro, Crystal Lake South, sr., 126; Elijah Chiaro, St. Charles East, sr., 170; Gavin Clark, Larkin, sr., 152; Nico Clinite, South Elgin, jr., 152; John Conover, Marmion, sr., 145; Ben Davino, St. Charles East, so., 120; Nathaniel Diaz, Kaneland, sr., 285; Dominick Ducato, Jacobs, jr., 106; Joe Fernau, Aurora Christian, sr., 138; Kaden Fetterolf, Batavia, jr., 138; Hector Flores, Larkin, jr., 195; Ino Garcia, Batavia, so., 106; Jameson Garcia, Marmion, so., 113; Colman Gonella, St. Charles North, sr., 220; Caden Grabowski, Kaneland, jr., Rannin Gruen, Cary-Grove, sr., 120; Tyler Guerra, St. Charles East, so., 132; Ryan Guru, Bartlett, so., 182; Connor Hamm, Crystal Lake South, sr., 145; Sam Henkle, Huntley, sr., 132; Damian Hernandez, sr., 220; Ryder Hunkins, Huntley, sr., 182; Braden Hunter, Aurora Christian, jr., 285; Matt Impastato, Dundee-Crown, sr., 145; Adrian Jaimes, Larkin, jr., 138; Juan Jasso, Dundee-Crown, sr., 220; Jake Jensen, Huntley, sr., 126; Jack Kaneshiro, Bartlett, sr., 138; Nathan Kim, Burlington Central, sr., 170; Dylan Konkey, Geneva, sr., 138; Matt Kozodaj, Streamwood, sr., 220; Porter Leith, Dundee-Crown, jr., 195; Alan Liquigan, Elgin, sr., 126; Jordan Lishman, West Aurora, sr., 285; Ashton Massaro, West Aurora, sr., 132; Nate McLoughlin, St. Charles North, fr., 152; Erwin Morales, Streamwood, sr., 152; Shane Moran, Crystal Lake South, sr., 170; Antonio Morell, Bartlett, sr., 145; Matt Muller, Hampshire, so., 120; Zae Nearly, St. Charles North, jr., 145 Liam O'Brien, St. Charles North, fr., 126; Nicky O'Keeffe, Geneva, sr., 138; Cameron Phillips, Kaneland, sr., 113; Doug Phillips, Burlington Central, so., 126; Danny Pigoni, Marmion, so., 106; Dominick Poremba, Dundee-Crown, sr., 182; Moses Quintana, West Aurora, sr., 152; Noah Quintana, West Aurora, 145; Tommy Roath, South Elgin, so., 285; Lane Robinson, Kaneland, jr., 160; Kalvin Robles, Bartlett, jr., 195; Richard Rodriguez, Streamwood, sr., 285; Zach Rogala, Huntley, sr., 138; Chris Santanta, Elgin, sr., John Schmidt, Geneva, jr., 195; Dylan Schlegel, Geneva, sr., 120; 152; Taythan Silva, Aurora Christian, jr., 145; Zeke Schroeder, Harvest Christian, so., 113; Brandon Schwartz, St. Charles East, so., 182; Santino Scolaro, Marmion, jr., 138; Joey Scrivani, Jacobs, so., 152; Dom Serio, West Aurora, fr., 138; Diego Serriteno, Kaneland, sr., 182; Niko Skoulikaris, Hampshire, jr., 152; Joey Sikorsky, Geneva, jr., 106; Braden Stauffenberg, Aurora Christian, sr., 152; Drew Surges, jr., 182; Max Sztuk, St. Charles East, sr., 145; John Tarasiewicz, Bartlett, jr., 220; Jackson Tonkovich, Batavia, sr., 182; Magno Torres, Streamwood, sr., 138; Danny Viscuso, South Elgin, jr., 195; James Wright, Jacobs, jr., 126; Max Zamudio, Larkin, sr., 170.
Notable female athletes: Giselle Ayala, Larkin, sr., 155; Maria Ferrer, Larkin, jr., 170; Victoria Macias, Burlington Central, fr., 110; Karinna Morfin, Batavia, sr., 170; Sydney Perry, Batavia, so., 140; Dyanni Rivera, West Aurora, sr., 138; Sandra Sanchez, Batavia, sr., 135.
Outlook: Ben Davino and his St. Charles East wrestling coach, Jason Potter, will forever share a commonality beyond that of mentor and pupil.
Like football and basketball a season ago, the IHSA did not sanction an official state series for the sport.
But the coaches' association (the IWCOA) filled the vacuum by duplicating the regional, sectional and state format typically employed by the governing body.
Davino rampaged his way to the Class 3A 113-pound state championship, ending his memorable freshman campaign with 32 consecutive victories.
Potter was also an unblemished state champion for the Saints in the waning years of the original St. Charles High School.
"I don't think a lot of people realize what an accomplishment it was," Potter said of Davino running the table for the entire spring-shifted season.
Potter enters this season with exceptionally high expectations.
"I think this is the deepest team I have ever had the privilege to coach," Potter said. "We are able to train at a higher level. The competition in our area has elevated our performance."
In addition to Davino, the consensus top-ranked athlete at 120 pounds, Potter has all four classes to solidify his formidable lineup.
Max Sztuk is the Saints' senior leader at 145 pounds; Tyler Guerro and Brandon Schwartz are yet two more elite sophomores in the program.
The DuKane Conference is universally expected to have two of the top programs in Class 3A this season with traditional juggernaut Glenbard North and the Saints.
Batavia also has a fearsome arsenal.
The largest-class wrestling landscape was fundamentally altered as all-time state-champion-record-holder Montini, the last official state champion, has been gutted by internal issues.
"I think Glenbard North is probably the favorite," said Naperville North coach Tom Champion, whose pulse for the sport at the statewide level is unquestioned.
"I wouldn't disagree with (Glenbard North being the team to beat)," Potter said.
The ramifications for the local league members cannot be understated.
"Both Glenbard North and St. Charles East are great programs," Batavia coach Scott Bayer said. "We have guys who relish the opportunity to wrestle those teams. Competition makes us better for the postseason. We love being in the same conference as those guys. They force us to be better."
St. Charles East will host the Panthers for the schools' league dual match in eight days.
But Potter is equally impressed with Batavia, which boasts four ranked combatants in Garcia, Andrews, Fetterolf and Tonkovich.
"Batavia is going to be really good," Potter predicted.
"I would say my expectations are what they have for themselves," Bayer said of his top returnees. "They're ready to find the (state) podium this year. I expect them to find the medal stand."
Geneva coach Tom Chernich thinks Schmidt can join the conversation as one of the top athletes in the conference.
"Johnny can wrestle with anyone in the state," Chernich said.
David Drews has been entrusted with the task of rejuvenating the St. Charles North program.
The North Stars' Surges is universally regarded as a quality athlete by local coaches.
"This might be one of the fullest lineups we have seen in some time," Drews said of the central issue that has plagued the North Stars' program in the last decade-plus. "I definitely see improvement."
There will be an interesting dynamic playing out for the Aurora programs this winter.
Marmion, after having its seven-year Class 3A regional run snapped by Naperville Central two seasons ago, has served notice of its desire to reassert its influence at the state level.
The Cadets, who also feature a coaches' state champion in Garcia (106)--like Davino, also the preseason No. 1 -- captured the prestigious Barrington tournament last weekend.
Also a sophomore, Garcia moved up a class to 113.
At Aurora Christian, Fernau, a state champion for Montini two years ago, leads the Eagles, who have made dramatic strides in recent years.
Aurora Christian had four individual champions at Barrington over the holiday weekend in placing fourth.
"The fate of our program is going to be in the hands of our young guys," first-year Aurora Christian coach Danny Alcocer said. "If the freshmen and sophomores improve throughout the season and show up in February, we should be a top-three Class 2A team in Illinois."
The Eagles finished third in 2019.
West Aurora knows all about operating in the shadow of Glenbard North.
The Blackhawks won multiple regional titles during their stay in the DuPage Valley Conference (1997-2014) but never could dent the Panthers' run of 16 consecutive league titles
But the Blackhawks have potentially their best team since their lone state representative in program history from 2011.
"Our entire varsity lineup has returned this year," said West Aurora coach Andrew Plata. "We have talent up and down the lineup."
Lishman was state runner-up at heavyweight last spring; Moses Quintana is one of the top 152-pounders in the land.
But Serio is perhaps the one to watch as the Blackahwks' most ballyhooed newcomer in years.
The son of former Addison Trail coach Rob Serio, Dom qualified for the prestigious Fargo national tournament as a barely-graduated eighth-grader last summer.
In the Fox Valley Conference, Huntley has plans to wrest back the league trophy from Jacobs behind state veterans Hunkins and Jensen.
Jacobs' Wright occupies elite status among 126-pounders in the Class 3A rankings.
The Eagles' Ducato also bears watching.
"I think it will be one of the most competitive FVC races," said Crystal Lake South coach Ross Ryan.
The Gators' Moran is one of the few all-state athletes from two years ago who has yet to graduate.
The conference decides its champion solely on the basis of dual-match results.
In the Upstate Eight Conference, Larkin could very well be the standard-bearer among the five Elgin-area programs.
"We have a 'you-can-only-go-up-from-here' mentality," Larkin coach Earl Danan said. "As a program, we all decided as a family we will one-up from season to season."
Bayer had a vision some years back for the Batavia wrestling community as a whole.
"One of the best moves I ever made in my career was to start our girls program here," Bayer said. "This is the area where our sport is going to grow. I am proud we jumped on early. It shows how far our sport has come in terms of being more innovative and thinking outside of that very traditional box. Adding girls is going to mainstream the sport."
Perry not only went undefeated for the Bulldogs last spring in winning an individual title; the sophomore helped lead Batavia to the unofficial dual-team state title as well.
"It was just a really fun experience," said Perry. "I think it's great that girls wrestling is rising so fast. I am kind of starting girls wrestling -- with a lot of other girls. I want to get better at all the stuff I am not as good at."
Morfin was also all-state for Batavia.
"I am going up a few weight classes, so I am expecting some lot stronger girls," Morfin said. "I am excited for it."
Sanchez left the state tournament 0-for-2 for Batavia.
"Wrestling in general is such an astonishing sport," the senior said. "I never imagined myself being into such an aggressive sport. When you get onto the mat, you have that mentality of being a warrior."
Interest level varies widely in what is a watershed moment for girls in the sport.
The IHSA will conduct its first sanctioned individual state tournament for the girls, in conjunction with the boys three team dual-meet state finals in Bloomington next February.
Ferrer, whom Danan will not hesitate to put in the mix in the Royals' dual matches, was also a state champion last spring.
At Burlington Central, Macias is one of six girls in the program.
"We are expecting great things from her," said Burlington Central football coach Vince Govea, who has returned to the fold to direct the Rockets' wrestling program this winter. "Her brother (Austin) was our first state champion, and she is looking to follow in his footsteps."