PALOS HEIGHTS – Geneva senior 120-pound wrestler Brad Martens is a return qualifier to the IHSA Class 3A state tournament, and he didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express on Friday night.
Martens did sleep at the nearby Crestwood Inn between sessions at the Shepard Sectional, allowing himself extra time to rest. Rallying for three victories in four wrestleback matches Saturday undoubtedly would have been tougher had the Vikings’ contingent left from the Geneva parking lot early in the morning.
Instead, the group traveled to Shepard for weigh-ins, then returned to the Crestwood Inn in Palos Heights for a quick continental breakfast before heading back.
“We got a hotel, which made, I think, a big difference,” Vikings coach Tom Chernich said. “Because Brad had to go four matches [Saturday] against all studs. That’s 24 minutes of wrestling and you’re coming off a tough loss.”
Martens (40-7) suffered a 4-1 decision defeat to eventual sectional runner-up David Kasper of Marist in his opening match Friday, immediately sending him out of the championship bracket.
He still was alive for a state berth, but needed to notch three straight victories Saturday to assure himself of at least a top-four finish – the requirement for advancing to state, where preliminaries begin Thursday at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Martens’ closest call turned out to be his first wrestleback match, a 4-2 decision win against Colton Kielbasa of St. Rita. Martens won his next two bouts by at least four points, and although he lost the third-place match by major decision, was glad to clinch another clean slate this week.
“Last year at state, I know I kind of took it in. I made it. That was my goal for the season, to make it down,” Martens said. “This year, it’s to get on the [medal] stand. Last year, wrestling was like icing on the cake. This year, I want to get on the podium, get all state, so I’m going to go down there like I came in here [Saturday], and just go all-out.”
Competitive mat room sessions with practice partner Thomas O’Brien – a state alternate at 132 – helped Martens stay tough throughout the season.
O’Brien, a junior and St. Charles North transfer, joined the lineup near midseason and won 18 of his 26 matches. O’Brien dropped a 3-2 decision against Marist’s Mario Leveille in a wrestleback semifinal that would have sent him to the third-place bout.
“I’m downstate, he’s a match away from state,” Martens said, “so that shows a lot that we work hard enough to be able to get to that.”
On Vikings present: Geneva, Batavia and host St. Charles East are the top three seeded girls basketball teams at this week’s 4A regional at East. If the opening rounds go as expected, the Upstate Eight Conference River Division champion Vikings would face either one of their conference rivals for the regional title Thursday night.
Geneva split a pair of overtime games with the Saints while sweeping the Bulldogs, winning against Batavia by an average of eight points.
“I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to playing East or Batavia – either one – for a third time,” Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. “And all of our kids know it’s win or go home, so we’ve got to bring it [this] week.”
On Vikings past: Former Geneva standout Taylor Whitley on Sunday became the 26th Indiana State women’s basketball player to surpass 1,000 career points.
Whitley, a 2009 Geneva graduate, is the Vikings’ all-time leading scorer – girls or boys – with 2,131 points.
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.