By Steve Millar
Mount Carmel success on the mat this season is all due to every member of the squad playing his part.
From the Caravan’s top performers to their more inexperienced and less accomplished wrestlers, everyone is capable of scoring key points.
That depth was on display in a major way Saturday as host Mount Carmel shared the Catholic League title with Montini, both teams scoring 276.5 points to earn a tie atop the 16-team conference.
“It’s all about winning those close matches,” Mount Carmel coach Alex Tsirtsis said. “When you get to sectionals, team state, the big swing matches in dual meets, kids have to know how to win those matches.
“If they freeze up and don’t win it, you’re going to lose those meets, but if they learn to pull those out, that’s when you might be able to beat a team that maybe has more studs than you.”
The Caravan was originally declared the conference’s sole champion with 277.5 points, but it was determined that a penalty point for unsportsmanlike conduct by a Mount Carmel wrestler had not been properly applied.
The Caravanl shared the title despite having only one individual champion, junior 113-pounder Colton Drousias. Montini and third-place Marmion (270) each had five champions.
The Caravan, though, had all 14 of its wrestlers place in the top six at their respective weight classes, with 13 finishing in the top four.
Rehan Uribe (120), Noah Mis (126), Danny Benoit (182), Robert Bowman (195) and Jalen Grant (285) were runners-up.
“We came through in the wrestlebacks,” Tsirtsis said. “Those consolation matches and third-places matches, we really stepped in and wrestled well.”
Drousias (27-4), ranked No. 2 at 113 in Class 3A by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Asosciation, continued a huge month. He also was a champion at the prestigious Cheesehead Invitational in Wisconsin.
With only four wrestlers entered Saturday at 113, Drousias had a long wait before recording a technical fall against St. Rita’s Andre Giurini in the semifinals. He then beat Montini’s Joe Fernau by a 14-3 major decision in the final.
“I figured I’d have a full bracket because the lower weights do most of the time,” Drousias said. “I was surprised there were only four guys, but I just made the best of it and made sure I got the job done.
“Winning the Cheesehead and now this, I feel really good.”
Drousias finished fifth in the state at 106 last season, and beleives he’s in a better position to take a higher spot on the podium this year.
“Last year, I was pretty inconsistent,” he said. “This year, I’m taking the same attitude into every match and wrestling the same way, wrestling like it’s my last match and giving it my all.”
Alex Lalezas (3rd, 132), Miles Hoey (3rd, 145), Andrew Mulay (3rd, 152), Nik Mishka (3rd, 220), Jordan Blew (4th, 106), Colby Lopez (4th, 138), Asa Terrell (4th, 170) and Owen Jacobson (6th, 160) all placed for the Caravan.
St. Rita (172.5) did not have a wrestler reach the finals but finished fifth behind third-place showings from Noel Rosales (106), Giurini (113) and Marty Larkin (170).
After being pinned by eventual champion Diego Sotelo of Marmion – the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 106 – Rosales responded with a 7-3 win over Blew in the third-place match.
“I expected to win,” Rosales said. “Coach (Mike) Boyd always helps me. He always tells me I have world-class strength so that helps me always expect to win if I put the work in.”
Rosales, a sophomore, is still a relatively inexperienced wrestler but is starting to improve his technique to go with his strength.
“I only wrestled two years before high school and I wasn’t that good because I had no shots,” he said. “I only scored on people if they made a move on me and I sprawled on them.
“I’ve improved working with coach Boyd, though. He always tells me I’m extremely strong for my size and that boosts my mentality to go out there and win.”
Zack Rotkovich (4th, 132), Hugh Gorman (4th, 152), Jake Viloria (4th, 160), Ryan Raddatz (4th, 182), George Western (4th, 220), Jon Babyode (5th, 145) and Kumani Gaye (5th, 285) placed for the Mustangs.
St. Laurence senior Jerrell Carey (18-3) made the most of his only Catholic League Tournament appearance, pinning his first two opponents before beating Grant 8-3 for the title at 285.
Carey, who also plays football, began wrestling last season but spent most of the season as the backup to his brother, Jerry.
“I was playing basketball, but I kind of got too big for that, so I tried wrestling,” Carey said. “It was all to help with football. Last year, practicing every day with my brother made me better.
“This year, I’ve improved a lot and I want to finish as strong as possible. To go out like this at Catholic League is amazing.”
The Vikings finished sixth with 130 points. Nick Renteria (4th, 120), Mike Rodriguez (4th, 145), Michael Archer (5th, 126), Mike Gentile (5th, 138), Donte Reed (5th, 195) and Sean Burns (6th, 220) placed for St. Laurence.
Brother Rice senior Dominic Murphy (33-3), ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, rolled to the 170-pound title with two major decisions and a pin of Marmion’s Patrick Daum – ranked No. 9 in 3A – in 2 minutes, 15 seconds in the final.
“I saw an opening and I pulled the trigger,” Murphy said. “It feels good to win this. It shows where I’m at and I just have to keep working hard because there’s a lot to come still.”
Michael Loughney (5th, 106) and Dan Heckett (6th, 195) also placed for the Crusaders, who finished eighth with 68 points.
Murphy, meanwhile, is going into the postseason with confidence. A two-time state qualifier, he has yet to reach the podium, but his goal is to finish on top of the state this season.
“I just have to keep doing the same things I’ve been doing,” he said. “I like that I’m pushing the pace. I always try to push myself and tire myself out to improve my conditioning.”