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Area wrestlers at top of their game

With at least 38 qualifiers and
17 place winners from last season competing again this season, hopes are high for Joliet-area wrestlers.

Eight local teams are featured in the top-25 rankings on the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association website. Lockport (ranked eighth), Lincoln-Way West (12th), Providence Catholic (17th), Plainfield South (23rd) and Minooka (24th) all were ranked in Class 3A. Two teams are ranked in the top eight in Class 2A, Lemont (third) and Coal City (eighth), while Wilmington (17th) also is ranked in Class 1A.

Lockport just missed out on a fourth-straight trip to the Class 3A dual-team finals a year ago, but looks to be in a good spot to get back and win more individual honors.

Coach Josh Oster’s Porters are led by a pair of two-time medal winners who’ve also enjoyed success at the international and national levels. Anthony Molton (ranked No. 2 at 126 pounds) is a defending state champion who took fourth place in 2017, while Matt Ramos (No. 1 at 120) was third last season after taking fifth in 2017. Baylor Fernandes (No. 2 at 152), who took fourth in 2017, and Ronald Tucker (285), who was fifth in 2017, are two-time qualifiers, while Mike Kaminski (132) advanced in 2018.

“We are off to a good start and have shown that we have depth this year,” Oster said. “We have 22 guys that have already won varsity matches this season. They’ve been listening and working hard, and I’m excited to see where they end up by the end of the year. Our kids have had some sort of varsity experience in the past, which I think has helped them knowing where they needed to be coming into this year.”

Lincoln-Way West looks for another winning season under coach Brian Glynn. The Warriors have four individuals who have been to state, including last season’s qualifiers Garrett Geigner (138) and Jacob Cronk (170). Payton Geigner (145) reached state in 2017, and Chris Kennedy (152) took fifth in 2016.

There’s a new look at Providence Catholic, where one of the all-time Celtic greats, Don Reynolds, takes over for his coach, Hall of Famer Keith Healy. The Celtics have several key athletes back from last year’s third-place state team. Jacob Lindsey (No. 2 at 113), who missed state a year ago after winning a title in 2017 and taking fifth the year before. Josh Ramos (No. 3 at 145) qualified a year ago and in 2016, while Kevin Countryman (152) also advanced to state last season.

Plainfield South hopes to build on its recent success. Coach Jason Acevedo’s Cougars will look to Enzo Silva (120), a two-time qualifier who finished sixth last season, and James Pierandozzi (152), who was a two-time state qualifier while competing for Lockport.

“We return nine starters from last year’s team, plus we have had immediate impact from some new additions,” Acevedo said. “Our goal is to bring home another regional title to Plainfield South, as well as to earn the school’s first team trophy and individual state champion.”

Minooka returned to state for the dual-team finals a year ago. Coach Bernie Ruettiger will look to a pair of returning qualifiers, Noah Boles (160) and Drew Gutknecht (285).

Other returning Class 3A state qualifiers are Plainfield North’s Dylan Amico (113), Joliet Central’s Mario Leon (138), Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Mihajlovich (182) and Plainfield Central’s Nick Minnito (126).

In Class 2A, Lemont returns six individuals who have competed at state, including four who medaled. They include two-time finalist Kyle Schickel (No. 1 at 126) and Grant LaDuke (No. 5 at 138), who is a two-time qualifier and finished sixth a year ago. Drew Nash (No. 4 at 132) and Apollo Gothard (No. 3 at 220) each took fifth place last season. Also in the top 10 are two other returning qualifiers, Paul McGrath (120) and Kyle Zator (145).

“Our team should be pretty solid this year,” Indians coach John St. Clair said. “We have four returning placers in Kyle, Drew, Grant and Apollo along with two qualifiers in Paul and Kyle. We have a strong freshman group wrestling up with us, all with multiple years of IKWF experience and a lot of success. We are finally able to fill out most of the lineup with kids that have experience, so we are looking to have a fun year.”

After enjoying a great run of success in Class 1A in recent years, coach Mark Masters’ Coalers now will compete in Class 2A. They are led by six wrestlers who’ve qualified for state before, including four who won medals last season and two seeking their fourth trip to state.

Alex Friddle (No. 2 at 126) placed second a year ago after a third-place finish in 2017 and a fifth-place finish in 2016, while Ryan Wasielewski (152) is another three-time qualifier. Daniel Jezik (No. 3 at 170) took second last season after placing sixth in 2017. Connor Huston (126) finished sixth last season, while Lane Kutemeier (132) and Brandon Strnad (138) hope to get back to state after missing out a year ago.

“We have a lot of guys returning from last season,” Masters said. “We upgraded our schedule again this season to challenge our guys. When we get healthy and at weight, we’ll be led by our senior class. This is the largest senior class I’ve had with six starters.”

In Class 1A, Peotone’s Paul Keane (No. 2 at 120) won a state title a year ago after taking second place in 2017.

Joliet Catholic Academy is going to Class 1A, but coach Ryan Cumbee looks for more of the same from two who turned in memorable debuts. DJ Hamiti (No. 1 at 120) won a state championship, and Jack Finnegan (126) claimed a fifth-place finish.

Wilmington’s Jack Narine (126) took fifth a year ago, and others in Class 1A who have qualified before are Reed-Custer’s Bobby Mann (120) and Seneca’s Ben Virgo (113) in 2017 and Wilmington’s Landon Flynn (132) in 2016.

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