Marmion junior Johnny Jimenez wrestles year-round, which often leaves little time for celebration.
The shelf life for saluting Jimenez’s latest feat proved shorter than most, as he and the Cadets quickly turned their focus from last weekend’s 3A individual state tournament in Champaign to the upcoming team dual state tournament in Bloomington.
History – and Jimenez’s medal – will show the 120-pounder from St. Charles captured his third individual title in as many tries this winter. That the Kane County Chronicle Wrestler of the Year would rather share the spoils with teammates leaves little doubt.
“We got that little break Saturday night, but then Sunday we came back and it was time to get after it again,” Jimenez said. “We’re wrestling for our teammates and not just ourselves like we do in the individual state series. Everyone on the team, even the JV guys that aren’t starting, we’re wrestling for each other. That’s the mindset we have right now.”
That was the case in the mat room for much of the season, especially among the Cadets’ cadre of lower weight standouts. Senior state champion George Fisher (132) and fourth-place finisher Anthony Bosco (106) grew up tangling with Jimenez at the St. Charles North Youth Wrestling Club, along with other Marmion teammates.
Walking around the Assembly Hall concourse shortly after his third-place bout, Bosco, a junior, was eager to aid Jimenez and Fisher with any last-minute sparring for that night’s finals if they so chose.
“I’m always there to help a teammate out, especially guys I’ve been growing up with,” Bosco said. “They helped me accomplish [my] goals, so if they need me, I’ll be there.”
Jimenez is quick to credit practice partners for his success, but he can’t escape the fact that credit for his 111-7 record over three seasons lies at least in part on his shoulders.
Fully recovered from an appendectomy that limited him to 24 matches as a sophomore, Jimenez – who celebrated his birthday Thursday – was 48-2 entering the team dual state series. He’s a creature of habit where his conditioning and weightlifting regimens are concerned, and he continually tests himself against top statewide foes at the Naperville-based Overtime School of Wrestling each offseason.
Sandburg senior Sebastian Pique, who Jimenez defeated, 3-0, for the state championship a week after winning in a sectional semifinal, is a longtime practice partner. Jimenez and Pique also are familiar with unbeaten 1A champion Josh Alber of Dakota, who handed Jimenez the first loss of his career against Illinois competition with a 3-2 victory in this season’s Dvorak tournament.
“We all go back and forth, you know,” Pique said. “We’re the top three in the state, for sure, no doubt about it. And definitely in the country, [we’re] up there.”
Jimenez is eager to jostle for position in that group as a senior, as Alber aims to complete a perfect run through his high school career.
“He’s my friend. I’m really happy for him,” Jimenez said. “I’m looking forward to wrestling him next year, too.”
Midway through the individual state tournament, Jimenez said the annual trek to Champaign wasn’t even the toughest weekend the Cadets faced amid a traditionally daunting schedule that includes its share of national tournaments.
Jimenez got a jump on the challenge in July, when he earned All-American status by placing third at 120 at the prestigious Greco-Roman Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
Already well-versed in Marmion’s budding tradition as a former assistant at Providence, first-year Cadets coach Ryan Cumbee knew Jimenez was among the jewels he was inheriting when he took over the program.
“He’s an extremely hard-working kid,” Cumbee said, “and he doesn’t take a second for granted.”
Jimenez does allow some time to commemorate his accomplishments. It’s neither gloating nor basking, but simple, proud moments of self-awareness.
“It feels amazing knowing that all your hard work this whole year, all the sacrifices, pay off for this,” he said. “So I’m really happy with everything, and I feel great.”
That’s because what he’s doing is working. Now it’s time to keep going.