St. Charles East's Davino runs unbeaten streak to 38
Jason Potter, the wrestling coach at St. Charles East, was a two-time Class AA state champion at his alma mater in the late 1990s.
But even before Ben Davino was officially enrolled at St. Charles East in the summer of 2020, Potter was well aware he had an incoming freshman like few others.
"Before he even got to high school, we talked about setting really, really high goals," Potter said of Davino. "If we get this thing right, he's going to take over every record at our school."
Davino has certainly set his sights in the stratosphere.
"After eighth-grade year, that was the whole goal: to be undefeated in high school, to be a four-time state champ. Nothing else can come in the way."
Davino is one-fourth of the way to his overarching goal.
As a freshman 113-pounder last spring during the revamped wrestling season, Davino vanquished all 32 of his foes, concluding his triumphant first campaign by winning the unofficial state tournament sponsored by the coaches' association (IWCOA).
Davino has extended his two-season-opening streak to 38 matches after winning twice at the Wheaton Warrenville South Mega Duals over the weekend.
In his opening match on Saturday morning, Davino, in what Potter called a potential Class 3A state-championship preview in February in Champaign, turned back Libertyville senior Caelin Riley 3-1.
Davino is top-ranked at his new weight, 120 pounds, in the coaches' poll.
Riley entered the match in the No. 5 slot.
"I left some points out there," said Davino, who added a technical fall in the Saints' 33-29 loss to Naperville Central in his second match at WW South. "I thought I wrestled a pretty good match. Riley is a really tough opponent. I would love to wrestle that match again, in the state finals or even before then."
Davino will travel to suburban Cleveland this weekend for the prestigious Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament, one of the top invitationals in the country.
"That's going to be super fun, a great place to compete," Davino said of his weekend agenda.
Potter has a master plan for Davino, not only for the current season but also his upper-class years as well.
"One thing we do with him is we're going out with every intention of putting him up against the best possible kids," Potter said. "We're not worried about wins and losses; we want him to be the best he possibly can be. He wants the big match, he wants the big moment."
West Aurora update:
West Aurora also had its season-opening dual-match winning streak snapped by Naperville Central Saturday in Wheaton.
But also like the No. 10 Saints, the Blackhawks (10-1), who moved up nine spots in the coaches' Class 3A preseason rankings to No. 13 after claiming five dual matches at Antioch over Thanksgiving, rebounded with a 38-33 win over No. 8 Libertyville.
Senior heavyweight Jordan Lishman has been indispensable to the Blackhawks' lofty ranking thus far.
Saturday in Wheaton, Lishman, fourth-ranked at 285 pounds, had a critical fall against Libertyville after earlier dispatching state-ranked Naperville Central fellow senior Nick Antonietti.
"I think more than half of my wins are by pins," Lishman said. "I am trying to clean up the little stuff, so that when I get to the big matches I end up winning them. I just came with the game plan (against Antonietti) to wrestle my match for six minutes. I kept him off his game and came out on top (4-1)."
"(Lishman) still has some work to do," West Aurora coach Andrew Plata said. "We still need to make progress and turn up the heat a little bit. We have a game plan and will continue to work with it."
Girls wrestling update:
An informal survey of local coaches has found a wide disparity in interest among female wrestlers in the area.
The IHSA has ambitiously announced a first sanctioned two-event state series -- a sectional and a state final -- for girls this winter.
Like their male counterparts, a team dual-meet championship will follow the individual state tournament in Bloomington.
Neither St. Charles high school, however, was able to attract a willing candidate.
"We are hoping to change the situation," Potter said. "We are working with some girls at the elementary and middle-school level."
"We are going to push our female program," first-year St. Charles North coach David Drews said. "I think it's looking better."
"Zero," Geneva coach Tom Chernich said when asked how many girls were in his program. "We're working on it."
But there is optimism elsewhere.
"Since I took over as the head coach seven years ago, we have had at least two girls on the team," Dundee-Crown coach Tim Hayes said.
Melanie Pulido (106 pounds) and Perla Lomeli (152) are the Chargers' representatives this winter.
Huntley has six girls actively competing.
"I have never seen them wrestle," Huntley coach B.J. Bertelsman said for the season preview. "They are all green. But they are athletes in other sports."