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Area wrestlers begin quests for glory today in Champaign

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Pat Nolan of Sandburg will be seeking his first state wrestling title after medaling each of the past two years. Jacob Dado of Marist, seen here wrestling Nolan at the Class 3A T.F. South Regional, is also in the field at 138 pounds. The IHSA State Wrestling Tournament begins today at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Arena. Photo by Jason Maholy

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Jacob Dado is confident he can beat anyone in the state at 138 pounds, but he preferred to ensure himself a third straight trip to the state tournament without having to battle in the “blood round” of the Class 3A Bolingbrook Sectional.

The Marist senior pulled out a thrilling semifinal win over Batavia’s Mikey Caliendo, 6-4 in overtime, to avoid the consolation semifinals and punch his ticket to state. Dado dropped a 3-0 decision to Marmion’s Ryan Fleck in the championship match.

“I just want to go down to state and do what I do naturally,” Dado said. “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to get into that final match.”

Dado will pursue his first state title after medaling each of the past two seasons.

Owen Dunlap (fourth at 106), Mateen Taylor (fourth at 126) and Kendric Nowling (fourth at 182) also advanced to state for the RedHawks.

Richards heavyweight Ahmad Suleiman (26-5) also punched his ticket to state in dramatic fashion, beating Argo’s Scott Mlyniec 10-8 in the ultimate tiebreaker in the 285-pound semifinals.

The match was the second for Sulieman in as many weeks that went to an ultimate tiebreaker. The Richards heavyweight lost to Sandburg’s Nate Goodman in the finals at the T.F. South Regional after the two grappled for more than eight minutes.

Suleiman had to injury default his championship match against Kennedy’s Jason Joy, settling for a second-place finish and his first trip to state.

Goodman (third at 285) and his Eagles teammates Pat Nolan (fourth at 138) and Kevin Zimmer (fourth at 195) also prevailed in do-or-die consolation semifinals to advance to state.

Goodman (34-6) beat Mlyniec 2-0 to clinch his first trip to state, then pinned Waubonsie Valley’s Charlie Millington in 2 minutes, 41 seconds in the third-place match.

“I weighed in at 213.8, so I’m wrestling up against some kids who are a lot bigger,” Goodman said. “Friends of the family have decided to dub me, ‘The Giant Killer,’ because of it.

“I’ve been working my whole high school career for moments like this.”

Nolan, meanwhile, had to battle through an injury to keep his Sandburg career alive.

The Michigan recruit, ranked No. 2 in the state, injured his right knee during his semifinal against Marmion’s Ryan Fleck and had to injury default the match.He then bounced back and, though hobbled, beat Mount Carmel’s Connor Gaynor 11-6 in the consolation semifinals to ensure his state berth.

Nolan injury defaulted his third-place match.

“The trainers checked it out and told me there was nothing majorly wrong,” Nolan said. “I wanted to go out there and see how it felt. I was in pain, but I had to fight through it.”

Sherman Dixon (third at 170) and Damari Reed (fourth at 113) advanced for Shepard.
Dixon (38-3), a senior, pinned Mount Carmel’s Asa Terrell in the consolation semifinal to seal his first trip to state, then beat Montini’s Anthony Geraci 7-3 in the third-place match.

“I’ve been wanting to go to state ever since I started wrestling,” said Dixon, who never wrestled until his freshman year. “I’m so excited. I was really upset that I lost my semifinal by one point, so I had to come back and wrestle big.”

Reed (31-6), a freshman, clinched his state berth with a 5-1 consolation semifinal win over St. Rita’s Andre Giurini.

Stagg’s Domenic Zaccone (33-2) suffered his first loss since December, falling 5-2 to Montini’s Dylan Burnoski in the semifinals at 132.

Zaccone recovered to seal his spot at state with a 17-2 technical fall over Bolingbrook’s John McDermott. He then beat Lalezas 9-3 in the third-place match.

“I had to get my mind past that semifinal match and focus to make sure I got to state,” Zaccone said. “I didn’t want anything funny happening (against McDermott) so I tried to get it over as fast as possible.

“I’m fine with it. I’m still going down so wherever they put me in the bracket at state, I’m going to wrestle hard. I don’t think anybody can beat me if I go out and wrestle my style.”

Anthony Bitner’s first season at Oak Lawn will end at state.

Bitner (36-4), a junior who transferred from Reavis, finished fourth at 152. He beat longtime foe and friend Rocco Palumbo of Richards 5-0 in the consolation semifinals to punch his ticket to Champaign.

“Rocco and I have wrestled together since fourth grade,” Bitner said. “It was heartbreaking having to end his season, but what’s more important than getting to state? It feels great to be going down there.”

Mount Carmel junior Colton Drousias is heading to the state finals on a roll and with a great deal of confidence.

Drousias followed up his championship wins at the Catholic League Tournament and Reavis Regional by capturing the 113-pound title at the Class 3A Bolingbrook Sectional on Feb. 9.

“Ever since the conference tournament, my mindset has been different,” Drousias said. “I’ve been more locked in, focused on each match. I’m taking it one match at a time, but my big goal the whole time has been to win state.

“I’m coming off wins at CCL, regional, sectional. I’m feeling really good, running on all cylinders.”

Drousias (31-4), ranked No. 2 at 113 by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, ran into his old friend, fourth-ranked Michael Leveille of Marist, in the finals, and prevailed 4-2.

Drousias and Leveille work out together in the offseason.

“We both know what each other’s going to do,” Drousias said. “That’s a good thing, but it’s a bad thing at the same time. It’s hard to sneak something in there that he’s not ready for, so I just go with what’s been working for me the whole year.”

Drousias was one of eight Mount Carmel wrestlers to advance to the state finals, which begin today at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

Joining him will be Noah Mis (second at 126), Jordan Blew (third at 106), Rehan Uribe (third at 120), Miles Hoey (third at 145), Danny Benoit (third at 182), Nik Mishka (third at 220) and Alex Lalezas (fourth at 132).

Leveille (38-7) hopes to see Drousias again at state.

“I see that being the state finals matchup and I’ll be ready for it,” Laveille said. “It’s always fun going against him. We know it’s going to be back and forth every time we go at it.

“I’m excited about state. It’s the coolest place I’ve ever wrestled. I get excited every time I see a picture of it or just think about it.”

St. Rita had a pair of runners-up in Marty Larkin (28-8) at 160 and Jake Viloria (30-14) at 170.

Larkin took Marmion’s Brad Gross to overtime before falling 10-6 in the final. Viloria, meanwhile, edged Shepard’s Sherman Dixon 7-6 in a semifinal thriller before falling 5-0 to Naperville Central’s Jackson Punzel.

“I saw a lot of predictions where people were saying I wasn’t going to even get out of the sectional,” Viloria said. “People look at my record and underestimate me, but my dad said everyone is 0-0 now.”

George Western (32-8) also advanced for the Mustangs with a fourth-place finish at 220.
Western beat Sandburg’s Alex Hirschfield, ranked No. 8 in the state, 6-5 in a thrilling consolation semifinal to extend his season.

“It feels great,” Western said. “That was so close. I know when I get home I’m going to bawl my eyes out.”

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