Unless Kaneland moves campuses or the paint suddenly thins, Monty Jahns will remain linked to the Knights’ wrestling room.
A former Kaneland athlete from the Class of 1981, Jahns earned a place on the 20-win wall, and ostensibly surveyed that space each day during a lengthy run as an assistant and head coach.
Citing an increased workload at his day job at Nicor Gas, Jahns stepped down in March after leading the program for five seasons. Earlier this month, he returned for one final winter out of a sense of duty.
Former Knight Jeremy Kenny, who had been recommended and approved by District 302 to replace Jahns in the offseason, elected to take another position as the 2013-14 school year approached.
“I kind of knew that he was looking at options,” Jahns said, “and I knew if we were going to be without, that I would be willing to go back for another season until they were able to get a full-time head coach that will hopefully be in the school. But if not, give them a little bit more time to search. ...
“We had the right guy, but it just didn’t work out.”
Plano athletic director Jim Schmidt confirmed Kenny is working as a teacher in District 88 while serving as an assistant coach for football, wrestling and track. An attempt to reach Kenny was unsuccessful.
Jahns keeps in touch with Kenny, who was a full-time Kaneland security guard last school year, and acknowledged he made the move in the interest of his career.
Jahns and Kenny both were known to be active in the mat room. The program displayed similar mobility last season, as Kaneland produced multiple state place-winners for the first time since 1993. Recent graduate Dan Goress, the Class 2A state champion at 145 pounds, headlined the list.
Despite Goress’ and other graduation losses, Jahns is eager to see how a new crop of seniors – namely Justin Diddell (285), Dane Goodenough (132/138) and Zack Russell (152/160) – handle increased leadership expectations.
Junior brothers Nick Mish (106) and Adam Mish (113) also are poised for big seasons.
“I don’t want to say [it’s] a rebuilding year,” Jahns said. “We’ll have a lot of young wrestlers in the lineup, a few upperclassmen and at least I think we’ll be able to fill most, if not all of the weights.”
That’s a scenario Jahns thought he was leaving a protege. Now that he’s back, Jahns might as well make the most of it.
Wrestling season preview capsules
TEAMS TO WATCH
"Ultimately, I think everyone's going to be chasing St. Charles East," Vikings coach Tom Chernich said, but not before vouching for a seasoned group of his own. Jake Andersen (220), Mitch Bradberry (182), Ryan O'Brien (126) and Brock Perry (152) are among a core of athletes looking to break out.
Added a new strength and conditioning coach (former Montini aide Mark Holstein) and a handful of challenging out-of-state duals to go with an already-daunting tournament slate. "We're putting our kids against the toughest schedule possible," said coach Ryan Cumbee, who presided over four 3A state place-winners in his debut season. "It's kind of like thoroughbreds going to the Kentucky Derby every weekend."
St. Charles East
The Saints return 10 wrestlers with 10 to 15 matches or more of experience from last season. They're aiming first for an Upstate Eight Conference River Division title, then could be a factor as a 3A team state tournament entry. "We're nipping at each other now," coach Jason Potter said. "We're definitely ready to get out and compete against somebody else."
WRESTLERS TO WATCH
St. Charles East, So., 106
East is relying on a Rubino at the top of the lineup again. Anthony Rubino held his own last season while competing alongside older brother and recent graduate Ryan.
Marmion, Sr., 113
A recent North Carolina commit, Bosco, a St. Charles product, finished fourth at 106 in Class 3A last season. He added muscle in the offseason and is ready to move up.
St. Charles East, Jr., 152
One of four Saints state qualifers last season, Derain helps anchor a deep lineup that's especially solid at the middle weights.
Kaneland, Sr., 132/138
His name is one Stuart Smalley would love. His mat demeanor is much less passive, especially after an improved showing last winter.
Batavia, Sr., 145
Familiar face looks to help Bulldogs and a full mat room reload. "We've got some seniors that need to step up," coach Scott Bayer said, "and I think a few of them might."
Marmion, Sr., 126
Wisconsin recruit from St. Charles shooting for fourth state championship in as many seasons. He won 48 of 50 matches last winter en route to a 3A title at 120.
Batavia, Sr., 220
His 24 falls last season fell three short of the single-season program record. Figures to be a force again once football season ends.
Burlington Central, So., 126
BC will look to Mengel to be one of the building blocks for a young team that features one senior and three juniors.
St. Charles North, Jr., 126
North has no seniors under first-year coach Ben Hummel, so experienced juniors such as Noverini, Steven Collins (132) and Ethan Fredericks (145) will shoulder most of the leadership.
Geneva, Sr., 138
Overcame offseason injury and is ready to go. A state alternate at 132 in 2012-13, he provided a spark after transferring from St. Charles North.
Geneva, Fr., 132/138
The nephew of Ray Soto – the lone wrestling state champion in Geneva history – has shown well in the mat room so far. He was an Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation state place-winner in eighth grade.
St. Charles East, Sr., 138
"A big, solid 38-pounder," per coach Jason Potter, Vela expects to vie for his third career state berth at one weight. He moved down to 132 late last season.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com