Photo by Jeff Vorva
Richards’ Mia Palumbo, tying up Lindblom’s Steven Ross in sectional action on Saturday, is the second female freshman in history to qualify for the IHSA state finals.
AREA WRESTLING STARS HEAD TO CHAMPAIGN
A list of state wrestling qualifiers from the area:
Stagg – Domenic Zaccone (120 pounds), Peter Radev (160) and Ahmed Suleiman (170)
Sandburg – Pat Nolan (132) and Mike Amedeo (220)
Marist – Michael Leveille (106) and Jacob Dado (138)
Brother Rice – Hassan Johnson (120)*, Dominic Murphy (160)*, Paul Gliva (170) and Myles Ruffin (285)*
Richards – Mia Polumbo (106)*, Rocco Polumbo (145) and Marquis Hall (285)
St. Laurence – Mike Archer (113), Mike Rodriguez (126)
*-- Sectional champion
Mia and Rocco Palumbo didn’t let the pressure of sectional action get in the way of making history.
The two Richards High School wrestlers became the second brother/sister combo to qualify for the Illinois High School Association Individual Wrestling State Finals when Mia, a freshman won the 106-pound championship and Rocco, a sophomore, finished second at 145 at the Class 2A Hinsdale South Sectional Saturday in Darien.
Mia also became the first female to win a conference, regional and sectional title and the fourth female to qualify for state. Caitlyn Chase of Glenbard North qualified in 2005 and lost in her only match at state. Carbondale's Ally Ragan qualified in 2007 and lost her first match. Dunbar senior Quiovany Santos also qualified on Saturday by winning the Class 1A Hope Academy Sectional. Palumbo could be the girst girl to win a match at state.
The Palumbos lead a group of 16 area wrestlers to state, which begins today, Thursday, and runs through Saturday at the State Farm Center in Champaign. Brother Rice is bringing the biggest contingent with four wrestlers including sectional champions Hassan Johnson (120 pounds), Dominic Murphy (160) and Myles Ruffin (285).
Richards coach Nick Grabarek said before the postseason began that Mia Palumbo could win a regional, sectional and state title and she is four matches away from that. She beat three sectional opponents by a combined score of 24-0 to improve her record to 28-3.
And she is picking up a bigger following with every victory.
“It was crazy with everyone cheering for me at the end,” she said. “People have been supporting me throughout.’’
She makes her state debut against Springfield’s Kaeden Kinison (35-9). The other wrestlers in the field have records ranging from 42-1 (Crystal Lake South’s Christian Olsen) to 27-16 (St. Rita’s Noel Rosales, whom she beat twice in the postseason).
Mia said she watched the final night of the state tournament from the stands last year.
“It was fun to watch, but it’s better to be out there on the mat,” she said.
Her goal, like her coach’s goal, is a state title.
“No matter who steps on the line, I’ll give it 110 percent – even if they are ranked higher than me,” she said. “Anything can happen in any match so you have to go out there and compete.’’
Rocco was on a roll in sectional action when he blanked Rich East’s Jalen Terry, 10-0 in the quarterfinals and topped Nazareth’s Alex Carrillo in the semifinals, 6-2. But he was pinned by Thornton Fractional North’s Bilal Bailey in the finals. Rocco brings in a 29-4 record into his second state appeance. Two of his losses were to Bailey, a sophomore who has not lost to an Illinois opponent this season.
“I’ll pull around and get him one time hopefully,” Rocco said. “Making it back to state is exciting. When we wrestled in the (Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation) I never made it to state the same time Mia did so it’s nice to be together.’’
Brother Rice coaches are hoping for big things from the Crusaders’ contingent.
Johnson, who was second in the state at 120, pinned his first two opponents at Hinsdale South and earned a 7-2 decision over Lemont’s Kyle Schickel to win the sectional title. He improved to 31-6
Murphy beat Rich East’s Michael Terry, in just 28 seconds in the sectional title match and takes a 35-9 mark into the state finals.
Ruffin, who finished third in the state last year at 285, pinned his first two sectional opponents and beat Richards’ Marquis Hall, 10-4, in the finals to improve to 35-3.
Other area grapplers who didn’t win sectional championships who could still make a lot of noise in Champaign are Stagg’s Domenic Zaccone (120 pounds, who finished second in the state at 113 last year), Marist’s Jacob Dado (138, who took fourth at 120), and Sandburg’s Pat Nolan (132, fifth at 120).
Sectional dual team wrestling takes place on Tuesday and Sandburg faces Marmion at 6 p.m. at Downers Grove South. The winner goes to the state finals.