Four Mount Carmel wrestlers win titles; Sandburg’s Zimmer, Shepard’s Reed settle for 2nd
By Steve Millar
CHAMPAIGN — Heavyweight wrestling matches are often slow, defensive battles, but Mount Carmel senior Ryan Boersma decided early this season he did not want to compete that way anymore.
“When I was young, a freshman and sophomore, I survived off defense,” Boersma said. “That doesn’t work in college so I had to change that. It was my mindset to wrestle more aggressively.
Boersma lost two matches in December, both by one point, at the Walsh Ironman Tournament. That helped fuel his training going forward to be more aggressive.
“If I had gotten a takedown in either of those matches, I would have won,” he explained. “That was a little fire early in the season after a quick turnaround from football. I needed a little time to get back in the groove. From there, it was my mindset and my aggression.”
Boersma, a Missouri recruit, has been dominant since those two losses to out-of-state wrestlers. He capped off the season with his first IHSA state championship, beating Sandburg’s Kevin Zimmer, 6-2, in the Class 3A 285-pound title match Feb. 19 at the State Farm Center.
Boersma (40-2) won a championship at the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association state meet last summer after the IHSA state series was canceled due to COVID-19, but he acknowledged this one was more special.
“It just means more,” he said. “It’s more official, it’s more recognized. It’s more tradition and it goes on the Ring of Honor at Mount Carmel.”
Boersma was one of four state champions for the Caravan, joining junior Sergio Lemley (126), sophomore Colin Kelly (160) and freshman Seth Mendoza (106).
Lemley (40-1) avenged his only loss of the season with a 10-5 win over Homewood-Flossmoor’s Vincent Robinson in the finals.
Lemley is now a three-time state champion , with his titles coming in two states. He won a championship as a freshman at Mount Carmel before transferring last season to his hometown public school, Chesterton, because of the pandemic and winning an Indiana state championship.
“With COVID, my family thought it was best to go back home,” Lemley said. “I wanted to come back. I wanted to be at Mount Carmel. That year made me miss it.
“Winning this is pretty crazy to me. It’s been a long time coming, a lot of work; early mornings, late nights. It’s crazy.”
Kelly (37-4) pulled off a dramatic 3-1 overtime win over previously unbeaten Chris Moore of McHenry in the finals, winning it on a takedown.
It was the third straight match Kelly won 3-1, including another overtime win over Loyola’s Cooper Wettig in the quarterfinals.
“This year, I was always thinking in my head that I’m one of the best and I tried to work toward it every day, just get 1 percent better,” Kelly said.
Mendoza (39-2) dominated his bracket to complete a tremendous first year of high school wrestling. He won three matches by technical fall and one by injury default.
He finished it off with a 17-2 tech fall over Fremd’s Wiley Jessup in the finals.
“I came in wanting to dominate the tournament,” Mendoza said. “I’m not trying to keep matches close. I want to go out here and be very successful.”
After finishing third at the Hinsdale Central Sectional, Mount Carmel sophomore Damian Resendez (30-9) finished second in the state at 113, making a strong run that included a 4-2 overtime win over Fremd’s Evan Gosz in the semifinals before falling 11-4 to Marmion’s Jameson Garcia in the finals.
Also placing for the Caravan were Elliot Lewis (4th, 195) and Rylan Breen (6th, 182).
Brother Rice senior Tommy Bennett admitted the atmosphere was overwhelming him a bit in his Class 2A 170-pound championship match against Grayslake Central’s Aaron Cramer.
“You’re so nervous,” Bennett said. “You’re thinking, ‘I don’t want to take second.’ You have to believe in yourself, don’t let the moment get to you, but enjoy the moment at the same time.”
Bennett (31-1), a Northern Illinois recruit, wrestled tentatively and trailed Cramer 1-0 until the final minute of the match. He got an escape to tie it with 45 seconds left, then came up with the winning takedown with just two seconds to go.
“I was freezing up a little bit,” Bennett said. “He almost got a takedown on the edge of the mat and something clicked in my head where I was like, ‘You’ve got to go.’
“That shot was open the whole match and I probably shouldn’t have waited to take it, but I did it when there was no time left for him to do anything back.”
Bennett was ready to celebrate after the match.
“I’m going to go up and hold the bracket board with my friends,” he said. “This has been the best day of my life. I’m so happy.”
Crusaders senior Nate Chirillo also reached the podium, finishing fourth at 160.
Hardware for RedHawks
Marist had five medalists, led by runners-up Peter Marinopoulos (195) and Ghee Rachal (220).
Marinopoulos (39-1), a junior, had his unbeaten season ended by New Trier’s Jack Cummings in the finals, falling 3-1.
“I was nervous, so I tightened up a little bit,” Marinopoulos said. “I wrestled a little flat, but I’ll be back.”
Marinopoulos will turn his attention toward helping the RedHawks chase a team state title and reflecting on the success he had this season.
“I’m happy with the way the year went,” he said. “My teammates supported me, my girlfriend and all my friends came to watch. Overall, I’m happy about it, but it stings.
“Now we’ve got to go get that team title. I know my teammates are counting on me there, so I’ll be there for them.”
Rachal (32-3), a senior, put up a strong fight against Lockport’s Andrew Blackburn-Forst in their championship match before falling 3-2.
Rachal rolled into the finals with two major decisions and a pin.
Tommy Boland (5th, 160), Jake Liberatore (5th, 170) and Michael Esteban (6th, 113) also won medals for the RedHawks.
Reed Takes 2nd
Like Marinopoulos, Shepard senior Damari Reed took an undefeated record into his state championship match at 152, but came up just short.
Reed, who won an IWCOA state title in June, could not get any offense going in a 1-0 loss to Conant’s Ethan Stiles.
“I’m so proud of him,” Shepard coach Scott Richardson said of Reed. “He’s come a long way, grown up. He’s so talented. Ethan Stiles is good. That match could have gone either way.
“We would have liked to have seen Damari move his feet more, use more motion. He’s a heck of an athlete. But you can’t take anything away from Ethan Stiles. He had a great game plan and executed it. It was a great high school wrestling match and it just didn’t go our way.”
Sandburg senior Kevin Zimmer finished second at state for the second time in three seasons with his 6-2 loss to Boersma in the heavyweight final.
“I definitely could have been more athletic and moved my feet more,” Zimmer said. “I got kind of lazy in the second period. This is just going to light that much more of a fire in me to get bigger over the offseason, work hard and get ready for college.”
Zimmer, a Wyoming recruit, missed all of last wrestling season and the start of this season after tearing the ACL in his right leg while playing quarterback for the Eagles football team during the spring 2021 season.
He returned in January and went 17-2, with both losses to Boersma.
“If you told me five or six months ago that I’d be in the state finals again, I wouldn’t believe it with how my knee was feeling,” Zimmer said. “I’m still not at 100 percent. I went out there and performed. [Boersma] got the best of me this time. Back to the drawing board.”
Zimmer’s teammate, senior Sammie Hayes, has also dealt with injuries. He got banged up in the first week of the season and sat out the rest of the regular season before returning for regionals.
Hayes (12-3) fell 9-2 to eventual champion Ben Davino of St. Charles East in the 120-pound semifinals. Hayes, a Northwestern recruit, did not risk aggravating his injuries after that, defaulting the remainder of his matches to finish sixth.
Nazareth’s Gabe Kaminski (33-5) fell just short of a state championship, dropping a 5-4 decision to IC Catholic’s Jadom Mims in the 220-pound finals in Class 1A.
Kaminski, a freshman, beat Unity’s Oran Varela by a 14-5 major decision in the first round, advanced when his quarterfinal opponent Samuel Edwards of Dwight was disqualified, then edged Reed-Custer’s Kody Marschner 4-3 in the semifinals.
Kaminski was the first Nazareth wrestler to reach the finals since 2011-12, when Malcom Watson won the Class 2A 220-pound title.
Not Left Dangling
St. Rita junior Austin Dangles (19-10) placed sixth in Class 2A at 113 pounds. Dangles opened with two wins to reach the semifinals, including an 11-1 major decision over Deerfield’s Luke Reddy in the quarterfinals.
He lost his final three matches, including by technical fall to eventual champion Gylon Sims of Joliet Catholic in the semifinals, and a 6-4 loss to St. Patrick’s Olin Walker in the fifth-place match.
“The atmosphere was just awesome to wrestle in,” Dangles said. “It was super nerve-wracking. I had a blast and just wrestled. I faced a tough opponent in the semis and lost to a decent kid in the consolation semis.
“It felt great to get here. I really worked for this and I feel like I deserve it.”
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