MINOOKA – After returning to the IHSA dual team state finals last season for the first time since 2013, Minooka’s wrestling team hopes that it can get there again in 2019.
While veteran coach Bernie Ruettiger realizes that won’t be easy since they have to first prevail in the Class 3A Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional which features two other ranked teams in Lincoln-Way West and Moline, he believes that his squad has the ability to become the program’s 10th state qualifier in the past 16 years.
The Indians are ranked 14th in the latest Class 3A rankings on the IWCOA website. They recently won the title at Palatine’s Berman Invite after placing fifth at Hinsdale Central and they have four losses with three coming to Illinois teams who are ranked ahead of them.
Minooka prepared for its next big tournament test at this weekend’s Lincoln-Way West Illini Classic when it hosted Joliet Central on Thursday in a Southwest Prairie Conference dual meet. The Indians recorded four falls and only lost three matches to help them capture a 60-12 victory over the Steelmen.
“Lincoln-Way West is very solid and they beat us already this year so I think it could be either us or them and Moline can either help us or hurt us,” Ruettiger said. “We’re getting ready for regionals and hopefully we’ll be healthy when we get there. But just like Joliet, we’ve still got guys who are out. Getting back to state should be expectation for us. And the good thing is that we’re young with a lot of sophomores and juniors.”
The Indians opened their dual meet with the Steelmen by getting a first-period fall from one of their ranked individuals, Drew Gutknecht, at heavyweight. After Nathan Berta followed with a forfeit win, the Steelmen picked up their first win when Mike Anderson got a late takedown and nearfall to claim a 6-1 victory over Joe Cecala at 113.
Michael Carey responded with a 9-6 win over Hunter Mack at 120 and Minooka built its lead to 27-3 following forfeit wins from Nick Chaidez and Michael Ruettiger.
“Our coach pushes us to be wherever we can for the team and whatever spots we need to fill, we try our best to fill them and do what we can to help the team,” Carey said. “We’re just always there for each other. And no matter what we’re doing, we have each others backs 100 percent and we just encourage each other to do the best for the team.”
Jake Mensik followed with another quick pin at 138 and Caden Arlis added another pin in the next match. Nick Daniel claimed a 4-1 over Dan Bierly before Mason Spivey recorded another fall to give the hosts a 48-3 advantage.
“Kids on our team don’t really care for themselves, they’re all about the team,” Daniel said. “Some of them are wrestling up since we’ve had injuries and we have kids who’ve stepped into places where we need them and our coaches are always pushing us. We just want to carry how we’ve doing over into the postseason. It’s going to be a tough regional and sectional but I know that we can push through.”
The Steelmen were able to win the final two contested matches. Ke’Andre Wiley got a late takedown to beat Noah Boles 3-1 at 170 before Minooka’s Justin Lechelt and Chris Jordan received forfeit wins. In the finale at 220, Damaris Stanley got a pin for Central, which has put together one of its best seasons in recent years.
“We’ve got a couple of kids who are ranked honorable mention now, and that’s just respect from peers there because they’re putting together some good seasons,” Steelmen coach Gardner Coughlen said. “Our 220-pounder (Stanley) is comparable to anyone out there and some of our other individuals are having phenomenal years. We have some kids who are dealing with injuries so we’re trying to get them for the stretch drive. We have a tough Stagg tournament coming up and two weeks after that is the regional.”