There figures to be some really great story lines involving area wrestlers who are set to kick off action in the IHSA State Finals Tournament, which opens today at the University of Illinois' State Farm Center in Champaign.
Four local wrestlers are seeking their second championships, two individuals will be making their fourth state appearances and 10 others qualified for state trips for the third time. While one individual is pursuing a fourth-straight medal, six others seek their third medal for claiming a top-six showing at state.
Peotone's Paul Keane (30-1) is seeking to capture his second-straight Class 1A state title and compete for a championship for the third year in a row. He was ranked second in 1A at 120 behind Heyworth's Gabe Spencer.
Lockport's Anthony Molton (41-4) looks to repeat as a Class 3A champion while picking up his third-straight medal when he competes at 126. He has split the last two weekends with Marian Catholic's Travis Ford-Melton while Montini's Dylan Ragusin is top-ranked.
Joliet Catholic Academy's Dean Hamiti (38-4) is favored to repeat as a state champion. His biggest threat in 2A at 126 is Washington's Brody Norman.
And Jake Lindsey (20-5) is back at state for a third time after missing out an appearance last year. The 2017 state champion and two-time medalist is in a tough 3A 113 weight class.
Coal City's Alex Friddle (45-0) is looking for a second-consecutive trip to the title match and his first championship. The three-time placewinner ranks second in 2A at 132 behind TF North's Sincere Bailey. Friddle's teammate, Ryan Wasielewski (43-3), is also back at state for a fourth time. He seeks his first medal when he competes in 2A at 152.
Lockport's Matt Ramos (30-4) seeks his first title and finals berth while pursuing a third-straight medal when he competes in 3A at 120. The favorite at that weight is Edwardsville's Noah Surtin, who beat Ramos in the sectional finals.
And Lockport's Baylor Fernandes (31-4) is back at state for the third time. He's the favorite in 3A at 160 over Deerfield's Brock Emmerich.
Lemont's Kyle Schickel (40-4) looks to follow up on two second-place finishes by winning his first title while competing in 2A at 138. Carmel's Riley Palm is ranked ahead of him. And his Indians teammate, Grant LaDuke (24-5), is also a three-time qualifier who will be at 145.
Coal City's Daniel Jezik (20-0), who was second a year ago, is going after his third-straight medal. Other three-time qualifiers who seek their initial medals are Plainfield South's Jimmy Pierandozzi, who's at 145 in 3A, and Providence's Josh Ramos (39-7), who's at 138 in 3A.
Other individuals who are ranked high in 3A include Providence's Ryan Boersma (42-5) at 220 and Plainfield South's Andrew Bejarano (43-2) at 285. In 2A, Lemont's Drew Nash (38-5) and Apollo Gothard (41-2) are other top contenders while in 1A at 152, Seneca's Jackson Beene (40-2) is one of the top-ranked individuals.
Also making their second state trips in 3A are Lincoln-Way West's Garrett Geigner (27-15) at 138 and Jacob Cronk (33-6) at 182, Providence's Kevin Countryman (37-9) at 145 and Lincoln-Way East's Nick Mihajlovich (45-3) at 182. Returning to state for the second time in 2A is Joliet Catholic's Jack Finnegan (39-10) at 120, who was a medalist last year.
In 2A, Coal City's Brandon Strnad (23-12) at 138 and Lemont's Kyle Zator (30-17) at 152 also are making their second trips. And Reed-Custer's Bobby Mann (37-10) at 120 and Wilmington's Landon Flynn (132) are back for a second time in 1A.
Action begins today at noon with preliminary-round matches while quarterfinals in 1A and 2A will start at 6:45 p.m. On Friday, 3A quarterfinals get started at 8:30 a.m. with wrestlebacks to follow and all of the semifinal matches will begin at 7:30 p.m.
And on Saturday, quarterfinal and semifinal wrestlebacks begin at 9 a.m. while third-place and fifth-place matches start at 1 p.m. Later that evening, the Grand March gets underway at 5:30 p.m. with state championship matches following at 6 p.m.