Strap on some headgear and stare down your opponent, and it’s easy to get tunnel vision on a wrestling mat.
St. Charles East honed its collective focus during summer workouts and has gladly collected dividends since. The Saints won the team title at the Glenbard West Invitational this past weekend, and can finish a perfect run to the Upstate Eight Conference River Division regular-season title with a win at Streamwood Friday.
“We had a pretty good team last year and I noticed we’d been working a lot harder during practice, so we could only get better from last year,” East senior 160-pounder Brad Kearbey said. “That’s what matters.”
East contended for the regular-season conference crown last season, but narrowly lost a home dual to eventual champion Batavia by criteria. The 2012-13 Saints returned several contributors from that team in addition to a steady newcomer or two, including freshman 106-pounder Anthony Rubino.
Along with older brother Ryan Rubino (112) and teammates Isaiah Vela (132), Keone Derain (145), Ramon Lopez (152) and Peter Banks (220), Anthony Rubino won an individual title to steer the Saints’ team success at Glenbard West.
One day after wrestling Streamwood, the Saints are set to face host Homewood-Flossmoor and Willowbrook in a Saturday triangular. It’s the team’s final tune-up before the UEC tournament at Batavia on Jan. 18-19.
“We’re going to have some tough competition at that tri this weekend. A couple of our kids are going to have some good-caliber guys to compete against,” Saints coach Jason Potter said. “So if that goes well and we roll into the conference tournament hot, I think we should be putting ourselves in a position to try to win it.”
‘Dominating’ Cadets shine at Cheesehead
Marmion, which starts several wrestlers from St. Charles, also has successfully blended youth with experience. The Cadets fielded seven freshmen in their lineup at the Cheesehead tournament in Kaukana, Wis., over the weekend en route to a fourth-place finish.
Each of the 14 Cadets who competed won at least three matches.
While coach Ryan Cumbee remains “really happy with the depth” and the match-ready attitudes of such freshmen as AJ Jaffe (113) and Riley DeMoss (152), he can’t forget his veterans. That group includes Cheesehead champions Johnny Jimenez (120) and Michigan recruit George Fisher (132), both of St. Charles.
Cumbee said both wrestlers are competing about as strongly as he’s seen them. With Jimenez, a two-time defending state champion, that’s especially notable.
“Johnny last year, he won a lot of his matches. This year, Johnny’s dominating a lot of his matches,” Cumbee said. “He’s winning by a lot of points and he’s not stopping. He’s continuing to score until that last whistle is blown.”
Jimenez won the Cheesehead title with a 10-2 major-decision victory against Jordan Shearer of West Fargo (N.D.).
Batavia keeping pace
Batavia will look to complete a 5-1 run in UEC River duals when Larkin visits tonight. The Bulldogs, who still have longshot hopes of tying the Saints for the regular-season conference crown, won’t have to leave home until the state series.
The team is set to host its annual tournament Saturday before the UEC tournament the following weekend. On Jan. 25, Batavia will entertain Kaneland in a tune-up dual for the postseason.
Senior 126-pounder Joel Shump still is undefeated. He opened a dual victory against West Aurora this past weekend with a 14-1 major decision.
IN THE GROOVE
Marmion’s St. Charles connection
What happened: Junior 120-pounder Johnny Jimenez and senior 132-pounder George Fisher – both of St. Charles – captured separate individual titles at the prestigious Cheesehead tournament in Kaukana, Wis., over the weekend. The Cadets placed fourth among a 28-team field featuring several top schools from states including Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
What they did: Host Geneva finished fourth in Saturday’s Newbill Invitational behind a tournament-best three individual champs, all of whom were seniors. Brad Martens (120 pounds) Tony Castelvecchi (170) and Jake Boser (182) took titles for the Vikings.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Golfing and wrestling mix just fine. On Saturday, a pair of linksters excelled at their respective tournaments, with St. Charles East sophomore Keone Derain winning a 145-pound title at Glenbard West and Kaneland senior 120-pounder Connor Williams taking third at Sycamore.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether St. Charles East can finish its unbeaten run to the Upstate Eight Conference River Division regular season title. The Saints are 5-0 in conference duals entering Friday’s visit to struggling Streamwood. Batavia hosts the UEC individual tournament from Jan. 18-19.
COACH SLY SEZ...
Marmion’s kids are more than just all right.
With seven freshmen starting, the Cadets finished fourth among 28 teams at the Cheesehead tournament in Wisconsin this past weekend, continuing a series of strong debuts that have fueled the powerful program all the more.
Sly knows a lot of these upstarts cut their teeth at “The Barn” of SCN Youth Wrestling, keeping St. Charles strong in the wrestling scene. We’ll see how The Pride of the Fox fares in next month’s IHSA state series.