PALOS HEIGHTS – Anthony Bosco, Johnny Jimenez, Jake Field and George Fisher are the lightest of Marmion's seven wrestlers headed to next week's IHSA Class 3A state tournament.
With their longstanding ties to the St. Charles North Youth Wrestling club, the quartet also carries the heaviest history.
Before seeing one another on the podium as the 3A Shepard Sectional concluded Saturday, Bosco (106 pounds), Jimenez (120), Field (126) and Fisher (132) – all of St. Charles – charted their teammates' development.
"I mean, we've known each other since we were 5," said Bosco, a junior, "and we've been pushing each other ever since then."
St. Charles resident Alex Fritz (285) bookended the other side of the Cadets' contingent bound for the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall in Champaign. Teammates Trace Carello (145) and Cody Snodgrass (195) also will join them, along with Geneva senior 120-pounder Brad Martens.
A junior in search of his third career state crown, Jimenez claimed the first of Marmion's two individual sectional titles. Fisher, a Michigan recruit, captured the other, the third of his career. It's the first 3A sectional crown in 3A for Fisher, who was a 2A state champion as a sophomore, but neither the new number – nor the competition – has fazed him since the Cadets moved up in class before the season.
"To be honest, I just go out there and wrestle. I don't care which sectional is harder, which one is easier. I just want to wrestle," Fisher said. "I just want to show everyone who's No. 1 and who isn't. That's all I really care [about]. Doesn't matter if it's 1A, 2A or 3A. I just want to find out who's the best."
Top teams such as Sandburg, Marist and St. Rita offered plenty of competition to Marmion and the rest of the field.
The gauntlet made Martens, a return state qualifier, feel slightly more steeled in his accomplishment, especially after his recovery from an opening-round loss Friday.
"Senior year, these could be my last matches ever and I pulled them out," Martens said. "This year, my mentality is different. I feel like I'm a lot more focused."
Batavia will be without a state qualifier for the first time since 2001 after three senior captains fell one victory short of wrestling back to the third-place bout. The top four sectional finishers in each weight class advance to Champaign.
The Bulldogs' fourth senior pillar and co-captain, Mickey Watson, already had been eliminated when he watched Joel Shump (126), Charlie Smorczewski (138) and Jon Wagner (160) lose by no more than four points.
Shump and Wagner fell by a point each, with Shump losing, 7-6, in overtime to Jake Vales of Sandburg. Shump, 40-3, entered last week's Naperville Central Regional final with 37 wins to open the season before suffering his first loss in the title bout.
"They all wrestled really well, really hard today," Watson said of his teammates. "I mean, with how much work we put in, it's not like it's not worth it. It could have gone either way."
Marmion advanced just more than half of its sectional qualifiers. Last week, 13 Cadets moved on from Naperville Central, where Marmion captured a team crown and a berth in the Hinsdale South team dual sectional after the individual state meet, which begins Thursday.
Many Cadets are multiple qualifiers, including Fritz, who's aiming to place for the first time in four trips.
"I've felt stronger lately and hopefully that can happen," he said.
Whether they hailed from the lighter side of the lineup or the heftier one, the Cadets credited their practice partners for helping them advance.
Half of the 14 weight classes will be represented in Champaign, with the rest of the lineup shouting from the stands along with family and friends.
"This is the hardest time of year you work for," Jimenez said.
He's not the only Cadet who knows the feeling.