ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East sophomore Keone Derain has a Hawaiian first name but is of Filipino descent. It’s certainly not his least symmetrical combination.
Derain golfs in the fall and wrestles in the winter, forever seeking pins for the Saints.
Derain admits he could be more keen on the name’s meaning. While he knows it’s just an online search or a book flip away, he’d rather use his mitts for grappling, which is evident after an 18-4 start.
“I like to be really aggressive and hand-fight, but at the same time I still like to be really offensive and keep attacking,” Derain said. “Really offensive and technical is what I’ve always been striving for.”
That’s “offensive” as in assertive, not obnoxious. You’d expect no different from someone with “God is the one who blesses us” attached to his name.
From the beginning of workouts, practice partners Ramon Lopez and Brad Kearbey noticed the 145-pound Derain always was pushing. Lopez (152) and Kearbey (160) compete at heavier weight classes than their teammate, and that’s not always a built-in advantage.
After shuttling in and out of the varsity lineup as a freshman, Derain committed to making sure he had a permanent spot this season. His record – blemished only against traditional state tournament contenders – speaks for itself. The Saints pipe up for Derain, too.
“I don’t know what he does, exactly, differently,” said Kearbey, a senior. “He’s pretty hard for me to take down. There’s just something about the way he wrestles.”
Saints coach Jason Potter first observed Derain’s work ethic during the summer, immersing himself in offseason camps and workouts after leaving Leyden to join his alma mater in May.
With no influence on the planning of the offseason itinerary, the former state champion simply “came in and was handed what was there.”
Along with proven veterans such as Ryan Rubino (113) and Isaiah Vela (132), Potter also took stock of his emerging or almost-there talent. Turns out he logged the most mat time with Derain, who followed his father – former Glenbard North wrestler Romualdo – into the sport at an early age.
You can learn a lot about someone just from locking horns for a few days. It didn’t take long for Potter to discover Derain as “a pleasant surprise.”
“When I was able to start getting on the mat with him I realized, ‘Hey, he’s kind of got a knack’ and I really like his attitude,” Potter said. “He can show stuff for me and do that, but his competitiveness is really what I think I like the best about him. He’s in-your-face and he’s going to come at you. I think in the past, his problem has been his lack of confidence. The good news is he’s just barely starting to get the confidence.”
Derain said he could feel a breakthrough approaching early, beginning with his runner-up finish at the Conant Cougar Classic during the season’s first weekend.
Conant senior Mitch Alexander eventually caught Derain in a low single-leg takedown late in the championship bout to secure an 11-9 victory. After that, Derain only resolved to put the match in his memory bank for a possible postseason meeting.
With the rest of the Saints – who can clinch an unbeaten run to the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title with a victory at Streamwood Friday – he has excelled in league duals. Over the weekend, Derain joined Anthony Rubino (106), Peter Banks (220), Ryan Rubino, Vela and Lopez as individual champions at the Glenbard West Invitational.
“I’ve kind of always had the drive,” Derain said. “I’ve just got to keep working hard and getting better.”
Armed with the same approach in golf, Derain has competed for the varsity in each of his first two seasons. He established career bests in both nine and 18 holes in 2012 with a respective 35 and 73 at Peoria’s Weaver Ridge Golf Club.
Teammates often joke with Derain about his unique double dip, but the mood’s far less light once the conversation reaches the mat room. Could be the benefits of the “mental challenges” Derain derives from both sports.
“It’s not your normal mix, and I kind of laughed about that in the beginning myself,” Potter said. “Like, ‘Come on, you can’t be tough and be a golfer.’ But he’s proved that that’s not true.”