Marmion senior Johnny Jimenez pinned five of his first six opponents at the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukana, Wis., over the weekend. His sixth and decisive bout, for the 126-pound title, went the full six minutes against someone Jimenez figures to get to know well for the next few years.
Wisconsin teammate-to-be Jens Lantz of Ellsworth (Wis.) took a 5-2 decision loss to Jimenez. Both Jimenez and Lantz are three-time state champions and have earned their titles at progressively heavier weight classes – 103 pounds, 113 and 120 – entering this season.
"I've met him a few times up there on visits and everything," Jimenez said. "It was pretty cool. .. After the tournament I talked to him a little bit; before the match not too much, though. We kept the social stuff for after we wrestled."
Seven other Cadets competed at Cheesehead, including champion Nathan Traxler (182) and runners-up Anthony Bosco (113) and Trace Carello (152).
Carello encountered a relatively familiar face in his championship bout – former Cadets state champion Bryce Brill, now of Mount Carmel.
With Marmion still awaiting the health of its full lineup, a traditionally daunting schedule of tournaments and out-of-state duals is keeping the rest of the Cadets sharp.
"We're right where we need to be," Cadets coach Ryan Cumbee said. "We don't have a healthy team yet, but we'll get guys back and get after it."
• Credit Batavia sophomore 126-pounder Ryan Marsh with a rare wrestling assist.
Two years ago, as an eighth-grader at Rotolo Middle School, he persistently needled well-proportioned classmate Dylan Uzumecki to give the sport a whirl. In short, Marsh's persistence paid off.
"Kept nagging me every day," Uzumecki said. " 'Just go to practice.' Every day. I just got sick of it, and I finally went."
Uzumecki's skill level has steadily climbed since he joined the high school program. He went 5-1 at 220 and 285 at DeKalb's Don Flavin Invitational at the end of December, and hails upper-weight veterans Noah Frazier (195) and Connor McKeehan (220) for helping his development.
Uzumecki is pondering playing rugby in the spring, but it might not be that way if not for the confidence he's derived from wrestling.
"Yeah, I've gotten a lot out of it," Uzumecki said.
• Batavia's Jan. 16 home dual against West Chicago has been tabbed "Wrestling Night in Batavia" and will offer free admission for all levels of wrestling, including Rotolo Middle School and the Batavia Pinners youth club.
The evening is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. with Rotolo against Wheaton Edison, and be followed by the Batavia freshmen and JV (6), Pinners exhibitions (7) and the varsity dual (7:15).
Now that's intense
Kaneland tweaked its warmup recently, making room for more live wrestling before it competes.
Coach Monty Jahns figured the maneuver went a long way in Saturday's 30-29 victory at Plano, which he called "the most exciting dual all year" before a crowd that was "really rumbling."
IN THE GROOVE
Kaneland, Fr., 126 pounds
What he did: Redman earned one of four Kaneland falls in Saturday's 30-29 nonconference dual win at Plano. On Friday, he was a double-winner as the Knights defeated Richmond-Burton and Woodstock but lost to Mundelein in a quadrangular at R-B.
What the Vikings did: Geneva won three of four duals over the weekend, and will look to keep its surge going when it hosts Elgin tonight.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Geneva is top-heavy. The Vikings claimed seven consecutive bouts from 113 to 152 pounds in Saturday's 55-12 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory at South Elgin. The stretch included first-period falls from Ryan O'Brien (126) and Mike Huck (145) and a Jordan Soto technical fall at 138 in 2:22.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How St. Charles East defends its home mat. The Saints will look to remain perfect in UEC River Division duals when they host Streamwood tonight, and then must recoup for a quick turnaround, as conference crossover foe Neuqua Valley visits Friday. The Friday dual is part of a "Brawlers and Ballers" event in which wrestling precedes East's varsity boys basketball game against Elgin.
COACH SLY SAYS
A big "bravo" for East's "Brawlers and Ballers" idea.
Here's hoping the Saints' matmen get a good crowd before the usual roundball backers take their seats.
Wrestling doesn't have to have a niche audience, folks. It's a rewarding sport whose fans are passionate and gladly can fill you in about what's going on.