Wrestling: Three Saints win state titles
CHAMPAIGN -- Ben Davino quietly sobbed for a few moments before collecting himself.
The St. Charles East junior's tears were not the emotions of winning his second consecutive IHSA state title. Even in victory over a fellow defending state champion, and maintaining an unbeaten record on Illinois soil over his high school career, Davino felt he didn't wrestle to the standards the perfectionist holds himself to.
"I'm not the best I can be, and that's the goal," Davino said.
Davino, in a marquee 126-pound championship match at Saturday's Individual State Tournament on Saturday at the State Farm Center, won a 6-1 sudden victory over Marmion senior Jameson Garcia, the defending Class 3A 113-pound champion.
Davino (50-0), now a three-time state champion, was one of three St. Charles East state champions crowned Saturday. The IHSA 120-pound state champion last year, and Illinois Wrestling Coaches' and Officials Association state tournament champion as a freshman, Davino now carries a high school record of 119-1.
And he's still not content.
"Every time I'm out there, I'm going to wrestle my best," Davino said. "I just didn't feel like I did that, so definitely something to improve upon and definitely something to go back in my mental game and fix."
Davino and Garcia (40-5), wrestling for the sixth time dating back to middle school, were deadlocked 1-1 in the extra period. With 48 seconds left, Garcia dove to his left, attempting the takedown. Davino evaded to his left before shuffling twice to the right and grabbing control of Garcia's right shoulder to slam down and counter. Davino then held him down for five additional seconds before emerging from the mat victorious.
Garcia admitted he "took a bad shot...props to him for standing in good position when matches get tough."
The Harvard recruit, however, relished the legacy he's going to leave on the Marmion wrestling room.
"I would just say hard-working [and] perseverance]," Garcia said. "When times get tough, overcoming them and sticking throughout through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs and being there for each other. I think that's what makes me, me."
The Saints, who qualified a team-record 11 for the state tournament, left Champaign with three champions.
Saints' freshman phenom Dom Munaretto ran his record to 50-0 with a 3A 106-pound title, beating Belvidere North's Brayden Teunissen in a 19-7 major decision in the final.
Munaretto was in the State Farm Center when he saw his cousin Anthony Randazzo of Marian Central, lose in the 2A 138 finals in 2017.
"It felt amazing to see this atmosphere...I thought those are the guys I looked up to my whole life," Munaretto said. "This feels amazing to be at this stage and be dominating so much."
St. Charles East's Jayden Colon, who won the Class 2A 145-pound title at Montini before transferring to East before the season, won the 3A title match over Moline's Noah Tapia in a 4-3 tiebreaker. Tapia, the runner-up last season, entered undefeated at 52-0.
Colon, meanwhile, wasn't paying attention to the undefeated opponent facing him.
"I don't pay attention to the rankings. I don't pay attention to who projects who," Colon said. "I just went out there and had fun. I left everything on the mat and gave it my all."
Tyler Guerra, in the 3A 138-pound final, lost a 5-2 decision to Rich Township senior Nasir Bailey. Bailey (43-1) entered as an already two-time IHSA state champion as a freshman and junior. His sophomore season in 2020, Bailey transferred to Texas-based Arlington Martin High School and won the 132-pound title.
In 2020, Bilal, Nasir and Sincere Bailey became first set of three of siblings to win IHSA state titles in the same season.
"I believe that I'm the type of guy that can beat a guy like that," Guerra said. "So I'm a little upset but it is what it is. Got to just keep going and keep improving and [make] little adjustments."
Also placing for St. Charles East was AJ Marino (120), who took third, Anthony Gutierrez (160) and Brody Murray (182), who took sixth, Lane Robinson (170), who placed fifth and Austin Barrett (285), who took fifth.
Marmion junior Jack Lesher won the 182-pound final over previously undefeated Shamon Handegan of Pekin with a convincing 6-1 victory.
Lesher, fourth last year, took home his first title.
Coming off the mat, Lesher gave a hearty fist pump in the direction to his team sitting feet away.
"It's not just me. It's all these guys," Lesher said. "The state title isn't just mine. It's my whole team's. These guys have had my back since I was a little kid...This is just all hard work not just from me, but all my best friends."
Sean Scheck (285) took third, Nick Garcia (106) took fourth, Donny Pigoni (113) and Zach Stewart (120) each took eighth for the Cadets.
St. Charles North 195-pounder Drew Surges took eighth and finished his season 11-2, while Geneva's best finish was John Schmidt, who lasted until the second round of the consolation bracket before losing to Surges via tech fall.
Batavia's highest finish was senior Kaden Fetterolf, who fell in the Class 3A 152-pound third place match to Warren's Aaron Stewart in a 4-2 decision to place fourth.
Fetterolf, who was second at state last year at 138 pounds, had an undefeated record until the semifinal round in sectionals last week. Fetterolf became the second in program history to achieve all-state status three times and finished his senior season at 48-3.
Senior 145-pounder Cael Andrews (46-9) and junior 114-pounder Ino Garcia (25-9) finished sixth. Aidan Huck (37-11) fell in the second round of the consolation bracket.
"It's just nice to be something that's going to be there forever," Fetterolf said. "Just [made] some history...I'm just proud of keeping my head good mentally throughout these years."
Adam Lambaz (31-6) claimed the first state medal for the Elgin program in 15 years, and 18th overall after the Maroons senior finished sixth overall in the 3A 285 pound weight division.
Lambaz made his successful run all possible when he pinned Hersey big man, Oleg Simakov (40-10) in his Friday night semifinal to guarantee a spot on the podium.
"Adam is the ultimate leader, and teammate - someone who has taken our young guys under his wing as a mentor, both in the room, and classroom (he) has helped make our program relevant again," said Maroons coach Gary Parciak.
South Elgin, who won its first UEC title in its history, came so close to celebrating its first state medalist since Cody Pych did so in 2012.
Storm freshman Demetrios Carrera fell one victory short of a state medal at 106 when he dropped a hard fought wrestle-back quarterfinal to Plainfield North sophomore, Maddox Garbis. Carrera (106) would end his rookie season with a sparkling 40-4 record.
Dominic Ducato never doubted he'd win the most important match of his high school career, no matter how unlikely it seemed.
Ducato, a Jacobs senior, trailed 2-1 with six seconds left in his Class 3A third-place match but didn't panic. He knew exactly how he'd come back to win.
He reversed Bradley-Bourbonnais' Ethan Specht to earn two points seconds before the match ended to complete the comeback that was never in doubt.
"It's awesome, never give up, six seconds left, I knew I could reverse him." Ducato said. "I did my hardest and I got it."
Ducato wanted to overcome just his third loss of the season, which came in the semifinals on Friday to Mount Carmel's Seth Mendoza by technical fall. Both Ducato and Specht came close to scoring in the first two periods Saturday, but neither could grab an early lead.
The shutout finally ended early in the third when Ducato grabbed a 1-0 lead, but Specht gained two points with 30 seconds left in the match. Ducato knew he couldn't stop moving and finally got the reverse to capture third place.
"It's one of the greatest feelings," Ducato said. "It really sucks that I lost in the semifinals, but being able to wrestle back and finally prove myself is amazing."
Jacobs' James Wright (132, 3A) finished sixth.
Ben Bielawski just tossed his anklets into the air before miming a smoking gun celebration.
Bielawski, the Downers Grove North senior, entered Saturday's Class 3A 285-pound state finals with a 44-1 record. He left it with one more win, an ultimate 5-3 decision over Belleville East's Jonathan Rulo.
"The awards and the medals are nice, but it's more important to me that I represented my family, my community and a Higher Matter," Bielawski said. "That's what it means to put my head down on the pillow at night."
"And, something I can hang my hat on," Bielawski continued. "I just represented Downers Grove as a whole."
Bielawski highlighted the evening for the Trojans, as Harrison Konder (152) took fifth by defeating DeKalb's Jacob Luce in a 3-2 decision as the two reprsentatives.
Nazareth sophomore Gabe Kaminski, who entered the Class 1A 220 finals with a 30-0 record, fell to Dakota's Noah Wenzel. Wenzel, the defending 195-pound champion, prevailed in a 2-1 decision.
Kaminski was runner-up at 220 last year. It's what "lit [his] fire" and sustained him to his opportunity at potential first-place glory.
"I'm not going to make any excuses. He was just stronger than me; he got most of me," Kaminski said. "I had a plan going in and I just didn't execute the plan."
"...Seeing I get second again, it [stinks], but hopefully, he'll be back next year," Kaminski continued. "I get to see him again and finish."
IC Catholic senior heavyweight Isaiah Gonzalez prevailed for the title by pinning Auburn's Cole Edie.
"This year, my main driving factor was losing twice in the finals," said Gonzalez, who fell short in 2021 and at the 2020 IWCOA unofficial state tournament. "I got a lot of motivation from my teammates and my coaches saying 'You have to get over that hump. You cannot make it to the finals three years in a row and lose.'"
Saul Trejo (120) took third, Joseph Gliatta (152) took eighth, and Foley Calcagno (182) took sixth for the Knights.
Montini 152-pounder David Mayora fell in the finals to Aurora Christian's Taythan Silva in a 1-0 decision. Ben Dunne (113), Kameron Luif (120) and Will Prater (160) took sixth. Santino Tenuta (145) took eighth for the Broncos.
Downers Grove South senior Luke Swan finished his senior season with a fifth-place finish after his opponent, St. Charles East's Anthony Gutierrez, injury defaulted. Matty Lapacek (182) took eighth.
York's Sean Berger placed fourth and Evan Grazzini (182) placed eighth, while Lyons Township's Gunnar Garelli (160) took fourth.
Nolan Allen broke out of the blocks slowly on Thursday afternoon, but the West Chicago senior would pick up a head of steam, and send off one opponent after another en route to the 152-pound state title last night at State Farm Center in Champaign.
Allen would end his career with an unblemished 29-0 overall record after edging Edmund Enright (Mt. Carmel, 19-3) to complete a clean sweep of a magnificent weight class that featured all of the top rated men in the state.
"I fought hard all three days - kept things simple, and really never allowed any of my opponents to get comfortable, and in sync," said Allen, who spent two years at Glenbard North before transferring to West Chicago for his final two years.
Allen would get in deep with a shot halfway through the second period to gain a 2-1 advantage, then defend, and ride Enright until the referee whistled the 3-2 contest over.
-- Michal Dwojak and Mike Garofola contributed