ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East junior wrestler Ramon Lopez redirected his focus from his upcoming bout against Streamwood ever so briefly Thursday night.
For 45 seconds, his sullen glance was broken by shouts and smiles.
Forty-five seconds is how long it took for teammate Keone Derain to pin the Sabres’ Emilio Lopez in his 152-pound victory. East’s school record for fastest fall is 12 seconds, and the Saints had it in their crosshairs during a 62-9 Upstate Eight Conference River Divison romp.
“We had a few guys trying to go for it. You kind of make it a little bit of a competition, but yeah, it definitely makes it fun,” Ramon Lopez said. “I was definitely watching Keone. He almost had it.”
From where Saints coach Jason Potter was sitting, Derain was “reeeeal close at about eight seconds,” after a quick takedown set the tone.
East’s other falls – from Isaiah Vela at 138 and Ray David Cuautle at 195 – felt like “Gone With the Wind” in comparison. The Saints (4-0 UEC River) lost only one of the night’s eight contested bouts against the Sabres (1-4), a decision at 126 pounds.
Six-minute matches might have been the norm, but East kept control throughout, including major decisions from Ryan Valesh (132) and Lopez (160). All in all, the Saints left for home calling the night a good springboard for a weekend that includes tonight’s home dual against Neuqua Valley and Saturday’s Batavia quadrangular. Strong mat room sessions have kept the team energized.
“Potter and Chris, his brother [and assistant coach], we’ve got everyone turned up every day. It’s a lot of fun,” Lopez said. “We always like to think we’re the best-conditioned team around here, so we’re always working hard. We’ve got a lot of guys in there pushing each other, so the intensity’s really high.”
Moments after his victory, Vela assumed his post-bout routine by mixing shuttle jogs and intermediate sprints alongside the basketball endline.
He may well do the same later today, with one major difference: East boys basketball players will run the floor thereafter.
Jason Potter and boys basketball counterpart Pat Woods coordinated a “Brawlers and Ballers” event in which East’s 4:30 p.m. wrestling dual – not sophomore hoops – will lead into the varsity tip.
The hope is the crowd will provide something bigger and warmer than an undercard feel. The ideal result is planting a newfound wrestling appreciation in Saints fans that’s strong enough to lure them back.
“Everybody understands basketball, and it’s easy for high school kids to connect to that and get behind it. But, you know, wrestling’s a hard sport – if you don’t understand what’s going on – to really support,” Potter said. “Most of the people that we have come out are really close friends with kids on the team, their girlfriends and things like that. So [this aims] to get the average student body out to something, just so they can see it.
“Not all of them are going to like it, but maybe there are a few of them that would. We just talked about is there any way we can kind of use their crowd, and we just joked that it had never been done before under the same venue. We’d never seen it.”
That will change tonight. And, who knows, a Saint might pin a Wildcat in less than 12 seconds in the process.