NEW LENOX – Minooka’s wrestling team entered this weekend’s Illini Classic at Lincoln-Way Central ranked the fifth-best Class 3A team by the Illinois Wrestling Coaching and Officials Association after taking first and third in invites and losing only once in dual meets.
A program that has qualified for dual team state nine times and won three trophies hopes that it can do it one more time in Hall of Fame coach Bernie Ruettiger’s final season. And if the team’s performance in the 19-team, two-day competition is any indication, its quest to enjoy another memorable season is certainly achievable.
Minooka won two titles, had four finalists and five others who placed sixth or better to finish with 198 points, placing it ahead of Washington (187.5) and Lincoln-Way West (182).
Winning titles for the Indians were Justin Lechelt (182 pounds) and Drew Gutknecht (220). Lechelt got a fall in 2:53 over Lincoln-Way Central’s Andrew Hesse, while Gutknecht moved to 27-3 after winning 13-1 over St. Rita’s Eric Andersen. Jake Mensik (145) and Jack McClimon (152) placed second, while Michael Ruettiger (132) was third, and Joey Cecala (113) took fourth.
“I feel great at 220,” Gutknecht said. “I feel like I’m more explosive and fast and can dominate there, so it’s just a better weight class for me. I love this team; it’s as good as the team we had two years ago, and I think we have a chance of placing at team state this year.”
Lincoln-Way West had three champions, four finalists and nine in the top six. They got consecutive titles from Javen Estrada (138), Garrett Geigner (145) and Brock Pfeifer (152), while Payton Geigner (160) took second, and Karter Guzman (106) and Ian Swidergal (170) were fourth. Estrada is 29-1, and Garrett Geigner is 27-2.
Estrada won, 6-2, over Washington’s Zeke Hulet, Garrett Geigner edged Mensik, 2-1, and was named the most outstanding wrestler, and Pfeifer won, 3-2, over McClimon. Payton Geigner lost, 11-2, in the finals to St. Rita’s Marty Larkin.
“From 138 to 160, we call ourselves the Four Horsemen, and three of us got firsts,” Garrett Geigner said. “At the end of a dual, we know that we can be an anchor for our team. We have really good coaches who are good at taking kids with a little talent and polishing it off.”
Providence Catholic’s Ryan Boersma (285) moved to 31-1 after beating St. Charles East’s Xander Song, 18-4, for a title. Kevin Countryman (145) and Liam McDermott (182) were third.
“I’ve had a great season so far,” Boersma said. “I had a minor setback this summer when I dislocated my elbow and I missed summer nationals, but my elbow feels great. There’s a few things that I would have liked to have done last year that I plan on doing this year.”
The other area champion was Morris’ Robby Bates (195), who improved to 23-1 after winning, 3-0, over Marist’s Ghee Rachal.
Plainfield North had three finalists. Jacob Macatangay (113) was pinned by Bloomington’s Chad Bellis, Dylan Amico (126) lost by fall to St. Charles East’s Jake Penzato, and Evan Smith (170) fell, 12-5, to Marist’s Bob Gaylord. Jared Gumila (138) placed third.
Lincoln-Way East’s AJ Lizak (132) and Jake LaMonto (195) both finished in fourth place,while Lincoln-Way Central’s Hesse (182) was second, Joey Malito (106) took third, and M.J. Hollingsworth (120) finished fourth.