BLOOMINGTON – Lemont’s wrestlers have been a factor in Class 2A ever since they made their first state appearance in 2009, but after placing third in 2010 and fourth in 2011 and missing out on trophies in 2015, 2017 and 2019, the desire not only to compete for a trophy but to battle for a state championship provided plenty of motivation this season.
With a talented group of individuals and few holes in the lineup to go along with a lot of depth, Lemont had all of the characteristics to finally contend for a state title, and its rankings and accomplishments throughout the season definitely indicated that it was achievable.
But to reach the top spot, coach John St. Clair’s Indians would have to beat the best, which happened to be four-time defending Class 2A champion Washington, whom they drew in Saturday’s finals of the Class 2A Dual Team wrestling finals at the Grossinger Motors Arena.
And the Indians definitely proved to be up to the challenge, as they got off to a strong start and forced the Panthers to chase them throughout the dual meet. And they capped their memorable 32-2 campaign with a 30-26 victory to capture their first state championship.
“Somebody who was a past champ texted me and said, ‘Hey, welcome to the club,’ ” and it’s a pretty good club and it feels cool. When you look at the crowd we had tonight, it was as big, or bigger as anyone else, and that was awesome. That’s because all of the people who were here had kids who grew up wrestling in Lemont and they knew that this year was going to be something special, and they followed them through, and I’m so happy for everybody.
“The depth in the room helped push all of the starters. Everybody didn’t have to go with the same guy all of the time, they could go with different people and have different looks. In this dual, we only went with the starters, but on Tuesday, we had guys who came in and they stepped up. But that’s because of the room and the leaders that we have. Lemont wrestling hopefully has another one in them soon since the cupboard is not bare,” St. Clair said.
State runner-up Grant LaDuke started things off at 152 pounds with a 10-4 decision over Cole Watkins, Kyle Zator followed with a 6-1 win over Donnie Hidden at 160, before Alex Tagler got an 11-5 victory over Jake Sollberger at 170 to give the Indians a 9-0 lead.
After Tyler Casey edged Mohommad Khalil, 5-2, at 182, Lemont was back at it as Tyler Wilms won, 5-2, over Steven Apgar, state champ Apollo Gothard (220) got a fall in 1:23 and state champion Mo Jarad (285) was an 8-3 winner over Dylan Cooper to extend the advantage to 21-3 midway through.
State champion Kannon Webster (106) received a forfeit win and Josh Biagini edged Tyler Bentley, 6-3, at 113, and then Abe Hinrichsen won by technical fall over Evan Schiffman at 120 to pull the Panthers (22-7) to within 21-17 with four matches remaining.
State champion Drew Nash (126) followed with a fall in 10 seconds at 126, and state champion Brody Norman edged Ray Hernandez, 6-3, at 132. But AJ Heeg won, 10-5, over Alec Mihelic at 138 to seal the win for the Indians, who didn’t have to send four-time finalist Kyle Schickel out for a final match.
“This is my fifth time in the finals and it feels amazing to finally get one of them,” Schickel said. “I’m going to go to Disney World. I would never trade this in for another title. I couldn’t ever find a better group of guys to win this title with. We all put our effort into these matches.”