Wrestling season preview: Scouting Fox and DuPage teams
Wrestling is back -- and its Ben Davino and Jameson Garcia who lead a star-studded class of returning state medal winners in advance of the 2022-23 wrestling season.
The two-time state champions are among 15 who brought home a variety of state medals from all three classes, with nearly 45 more that qualified to compete at State Farm Arena in Champaign last February.
It is a toss-of-the-coin between Davino (St. Charles East) and Garcia (Marmion Academy), who begin season ranked 1-2 in state polls at 126 pounds. However, there's little mystery as to where their respective clubs stand in those same preseason polls.
Garcia (32-4), who is headed to Harvard next fall, leads an impressive Cadets lineup that sits third behind Marist and Mt. Carmel, one spot ahead of Davino (37-1) and his mates, who have no less than nine of their men in the preseason top 10, including 2A state champion Jayden Colon, who comes over from Montini Catholic.
"If we stay healthy, sort out our lineup, and lined (correctly), I feel like we can compete with anyone with the addition of a couple of move-ins, the transfer from Colon, and Davino, who since state last year won nationals, Who's No. 1, and the Super 32 challenge," says Saints coach Jason Potter.
While the Saints are the league favorite, the DuKane Conference is one of plenty of quality and talent. That includes longtime rival Glenbard North, and Batavia, which has a superb quartet of top 8 state qualifiers, beginning with state runner-up, Kaden Fetterolf.
"We have great leadership from our seniors, along with many juniors, and sophomores looking to achieve some big goals they have set for themselves," says longtime Bulldogs assistant, Ryan Farwell, who takes over for Scott Bayer.
Bayer now leads a thriving girls program led by IHSA and national champion Sydney Perry, who was fifth overall at the under-15 Junior Worlds.
Lake Park will have its gritty three-time state qualifier Mike DiBenedetto (35-8) to lead the way for the Lancers, while perennial league and state power Glenbard North will lean on a handful of state qualifiers this season.
Geneva senior Joey Sikorsky (31-14) will enter the season as the No. 5 rated 106-pounder.
Wheaton Warrenville South has 11 starters back, three of which were sectional qualifiers, led by Sedeeq Al Obladi (170) who won 31 matches. Over at Wheaton North, state qualifiers Devin Medina and Mikey Rosch, plus Sam Lemp, combined for just under 100 victories.
The Chicago Catholic Conference is always a first class wrestling league in itself. It appears the aforementioned Marmion Academy, by its measure of pure talent, will be right there with Mt. Carmel.
New coach Anthony Cirrincione boasts a lineup of nine returning state qualifiers, five of which brought home state medals, and a pair of incoming freshmen who are each multiple IKWF state champions. Junior Collin Carrigan enters the season the top-rated 152-pounder.
Class 1A state champion Michael Calcagno will give IC Catholic Prep an opportunity to overtake 2A state-ranked Aurora Christian for top honors in the Metro Suburban this season despite losing a pair of state champions. The Eagles lost two brilliant state champions: Braden Stauffenberg (Michigan State) and Nate Wemstrom (Nebraska) but return Deven Casey, one of four 2A state medal winners.
There wasn't a team within miles of eventual 3A state runner-up DeKalb a year ago, which sent 12 to state. But the DuPage Valley Conference champs will return just three giving hope to the rest of the league with Naperville Central senior and two-time state qualifier Ethan Olson (27-9) the highest rated man (No. 6) at 132.
Antonio Torres (32-3) will be tough to replace at Waubonsie Valley, as will a quartet of sectional qualifiers for coach Brad Caldwell.
The consensus among coaches in the Fox Valley Conference is it will be a two-team race between McHenry and Crystal Lake Central; however, there are several potential state medal winners all throughout the league.
St. Cloud State-bound Dominic Ducato (113) and teammate James Wright (120) are both rated in the top eight of their respective weight class at Jacobs, with Wright turning in a sensational two days to win at the Moore-Pettyman last weekend.
Huntley heavyweight Markos Mihalopoulos is fifth as he looks to make his second consecutive trip downstate a successful one.
"With the rest of our team very new to the varsity level (Ducato, and Wright) will be our focal points this season, as we look to the future here at Jacobs," said coach Gary Conrad.
Vince Govea will have five back at Burlington Central, including three of which were sectional qualifiers, led by super soph Austin Lee (120, 30-17). Over at Cary-Grove, coach Will Peterson has a roster filled with 80% of freshmen and sophomores.
The room at Hampshire has over 70 out this season, including Dimitri Skoulikaris (182) whose thrilling sudden-victory at sectionals sent the senior downstate a year ago.
A sensational season from Porter Leith (195, 34-5) ended one victory short of advancing to state who is front and center at Dundee-Crown this season for coach Tim Hayes. "We have a very young team, but some terrific returning upperclassmen, so the plan is to develop our young guys, while the others strive to reach big goals," says Hayes.
It was a magical year for Crystal Lake South last season who celebrated the 2A state title from Shane Moran (182) and third-place finish by Josh Glover (113). With both gone, next up will be junior heavyweight Andy Burburijia who joined his mates in Champaign, and enters the season ranked seventh overall.
Glenbard East is the reigning Upstate Eight champ and appears to have a slight edge over Bartlett, South Elgin and West Chicago according to most coaches in the league.
"We return three sectional qualifiers (Waleed Binmahfooz, Blake Salvino, Billy Clayton) and five all-conference guys from last year, so we're looking to compete for another conference title this season," says Glenbard East coach Donald Pool.
"We fell six points short of a league title, and in my opinion, South Elgin, on paper, appears to be the team to beat," opines Bartlett coach John Glorioso, who will lean on UEC champ Kaivin Robles (182) and sectional qualifier Ryan Gura (195) while his young club takes shape.
The state-ranked duo of Nico Clinite (145, 27-3) and big man Tommy Roath appear to have enough to head downstate in front of a veteran lineup over at South Elgin.
"We continue to build our numbers and improve during the offseason, and with a senior heavy lineup, and some very talented incoming freshmen, we will be competitive both in our duals and weekend tournaments," said coach James Gloudeman.
Brian Hastings at Fenton will bring a young team into the season, as will Bill Peach over in Streamwood, and so will Derrick Crenshaw, who is one year away from retirement at Glenbard South.
Larkin coach Earl Danan is thrilled with his club this season, which features six returning all-conference wrestlers, plus conference champ and IHSA fourth-place medal winner, Maria Ferrer, who finished with a dazzling 24-3 overall record.
"We have a wealth of experience this year, the making of a true championship club that has terrific camaraderie, leadership, passion, and commitment to help and support each other," said Danan.
Elgin coach Gary Parciak is just as excited as his Larkin counterpart, thanks in part to his state-ranked heavyweight Adam Lambas (No. 8) and the trio of Julius Avendano, Ruben Campuzano and Fabian Ramirez.
"Those guys put a lot of work in the summer at camps, clinics, and freestyle wrestling, so along with (Lambaz) we have a real solid core to build from," says Parciak, who with Lourdes Hernandez was the only school in U-46 to have a boy and girl state qualifier last year.
Who has enough to top the rest of the bunch in both divisions of the West Suburban Conference this season?
With all due respect to Addison Trail, Hinsdale South, Leyden and Willowbrook, the Mustangs from Downers Grove South appear to be deep for their counterparts in the Gold where Sean Lovelances' men won its 10th league title in the last 12 seasons, and first regional crown in 40 years.
"We'll be led by our two senior state qualifiers, Luke Swan and Donnie Fields, and we have a great junior class led by Matt Lapacek, who is a frosh-soph state champ. And with our depth and several new guys in the mix, we feel like this will be another strong season here at South," says Lovelace, now in his ninth year in charge.
Griffin Carr from Hinsdale South and Addison Trail senior Seth Skamra both are in the top 10 preseason polls, while Richard Ortiz at Willowbrook will rely on five returning starters to supplement a young roster.
The WSC Silver division is loaded this year and is defined with high-end talent all throughout the 14 weight classes.
No. 4 Cody Tavoso (138) and his teammate at Hinsdale Central, Marko Ivanisevic (220), are both capable of adding yet another state trophy to their collections, while state-ranked trio from York -- Zach Parisi, Sean Berger and Sean VanSleet -- will give the Dukes an impressive lower weight advantage over its rivals.
Senior Marty Corval will enter this campaign as the No. 1 man at heavyweight after helping Glenbard West reach its first appearance at dual-team state last February.
No. 3 Harrison Konder (152) and No. 5 Ben Bielawski (220) will give Chris McGrath plenty of firepower at Downers Grove North, as will a quartet of returning sectional qualifiers.
"The division will be wide open between us, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township, but our chances for success will depend on how a handful of seniors step into their role(s) on the varsity as leaders," says McGrath.
Sectional qualifiers Kamron Scholl (126) and Caden Grabowski (132) are back in the Interstate 8 conference for Kaneland, while junior and state qualifier Noah Quintana (160) is the lead man at West Aurora for coach Andrew Plata.
"Our entire Southwest Prairie Conference continues to be so competitive, there is not a single team that can be taken lightly," said Plata.
RETURNING STATE MEDAL WINNERS
(records includes individual state tournament)
Michale Calcagno, IC-Prep, Jr, 21-1, 1A state champion, Collin Carrigan, Marmion, Jr, 27-5, 3A 5th place, Deven Casey, Aurora Christian, So, 32-7, 2A 3rd place, Jayden Colon, Montini (now at St. Charles East, Jr, 25-4, 2A state champion, Ben Davino, St. Charles, Jr, 37-1, 3A state champion, Kaden Fetterolf, Batavia, Sr, 41-6, 3A state runner-up, Jameson Garica, Marmion, Sr, 32-4, 3A state champion, Tyler Guerra, St. Charles East, Jr, 32-6, 3A 3rd place
Braden Hunter, Aurora Christian, Sr, 12-4, 2A 4th place, Marko Ivanisevic, Hinsdale Central, Jr, 37-4, 3A 5th place, Harrison Konder, Downers Grove North, Jr, 43-5, 3A 4th place, Jack Lesher, Marmion, Jr, 40-6, 3A 4th place, David Mayora, Montini, Jr, 18-4, 2A 3rd place, Cody Tavoso, Hinsdale Central, Sr, 26-6, 3A 6th place, Josh Vasquez, Aurora Christian, So, 24-10, 2A 4th place.
RETURNING STATE QUALIFIERS
Andrew Alvardo, IC-Prep, So, 22-13, Cael Andrews, Bataiva, Sr, 40-10, Austin Barrett, St. Charles East, Sr, 27-14, Sean Berger, York, Sr, 40-7, Ben Bielawski, Downers Grove North, Sr, 37-6, Griffin Carr, Hinsdale South, Sr, 22-14, Tegan Chumbley, Marmion, Sr, 30-18, Christian Chavez, Glenbard North, Jr, 14-8, Gavin Connolly, St. Charles East, Jr, 30-10, Morley Corval, Glenbard West, Sr, 29-8, Mike DiBenedetto, Lake Park, Sr, 35-8, Dominic Ducato, Jacobs, Sr, 25-7, Ino Garcia, Batavia, Jr, 42-6, Joseh Gliatta, IC-Prep, Jr, 24-9, Aidan Huck, Batavia, Jr, 30-11, Kalani Khiev, Glenbard North, So, 29-12, Jacob Lachs, Glenbard West, Sr, 31-14, Adam Lambaz, Elgin, Sr, 25-6, Devin Medina, Wheaton North, Sr, 41-13, Markos Mihalopoulos, Huntley, Jr, 29-20, Alec Miller, Hinsdale South, Jr, 14-12, Brody Murray, St. Charles East, Jr, 30-8, Ethan Olson, Naperville Central, Sr, 27-9, Zach Parisi, York, Jr, 40-6, Teddy Perry, Marmion, 25-16, Donny Pigoni, Marmion, Jr, 35-12, Joe Ranieri, Lisle, Sr, 26-14, Mikey Rosch, Wheaton North, Sr, 28-19, Noah Quintana, West Aurora, Jr, 40-8, Omar Samayoa, IC-Prep, Jr, 19-8, Santino Scolaro, Marmion, Sr, 26-10, Sean Scheck, Marmion, Sr, 35-12, Will Schuessler, Downers Grove South, Sr, 37-10, Taythan Silva, Aurora Christian, Sr, 30-10, Seth Skamra, Addison Trail, Sr, 25-10, Dimitri Skoulikaris, Hampshire, Sr, 18-11, Bryson Spaulding, IC-Prep, Jr, 14-10, Luke Swan, Downers Grove South, Sr, 31-8, Sean VanSleet, York, Sr, 31-10, James Wright, Jacobs, Sr, 26-8.