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St. Charles East wrestling paces Tri-Cities contingent at S. Elgin Regional

St. Charles East's Jake Mende wrestles with South Elgin's Nikel Wiliby in a 145-pound 
match during Saturday's IHSA class 3A regional at South Elgin High School.
St. Charles East's Jake Mende wrestles with South Elgin's Nikel Wiliby in a 145-pound match during Saturday's IHSA class 3A regional at South Elgin High School.

SOUTH ELGIN – Isaiah Vela spent all of 36 seconds on the mat Saturday on his way to winning a regional wrestling championship.

The St. Charles East 138-pounder was one of four Saints to win titles at the Class 3A South Elgin Regional, helping East to a second-place finish in the team standings behind Glenbard North, which crowned eight champions. Joining Vela atop the podium for the Saints were Jake Mende (145 pounds), Keone Derain (152), and Ramon Lopez (160).

Vela (37-3) opened his day by pinning Elgin sophomore Ariel Torres (1-10) in 6 seconds, breaking Vela’s own school record for fastest fall by one second.

“I just went to an underhook and hip-tossed him,” Vela explained. “I threw him right to his back.”

Vela pinned Bartlett’s Alec Delgado (21-11) in 30 seconds in the semifinals and was awarded the championship when Glenbard North’s Phil Partipilo injury defaulted. Vela had wrestled Partipilo twice earlier in the season and defeated him both times.

Vela was asked if he would have rather had tougher competition heading into next week’s sectional tournament.

“Easy days – you never can complain about it,” Vela said. “It’s the postseason, so you just want to get on and off the mat, so I’ll take it.”

East’s other champs had to work a little harder for their titles. Mende (30-7) held off a third-period challenge from Geneva’s Mike Huck (25-14) in the 145-pound final for a 9-5 decision.

“I’ve wrestled Mike Huck a couple times, recently at conference,” Mende noted. “It was a little bit closer match at conference. Coming into this, I knew I’d face him again and I went out there strong and wrestled a good match.”

Derain (38-4) ran up a 7-0 lead after one period in his title bout with Glenbard North’s Anthony DiPrima (12-16) before pinning him 48 seconds into the second period.

“From the neutral position, he was just taking multiple shots,” Derain said. “I blocked them off and I just caught him with a really good reshot. He happened to be out of position and I just took my chance right there and finished the match.

Derain had three pins on the day, as did Lopez (33-7), who threw Tom Czernek (11-12) of Glenbard North 2:30 into their title match.

“We have our little rivalry with GBN every regional,” Lopez said. “Me and Derain were going hard out there looking for sticks because we knew we weren’t winning the team score. We wanted to go out there and have a small victory – finish strong.”

The Panthers won the first five title matches of the night en route to rolling up 263 1/2 points. The Saints wound up with 182 points, 65 more than third-place Geneva.

East sophomore Anthony Rubino (32-7) lost a tough 11-8 decision to Glenbard North’s Austin Gomez (37-2) in the 113-pound final and the Saints’ Ryan Valesh (29-11) was defeated by Panther senior Jared Cortez (37-2) in the 132-pound championship match by technical fall. They will still advance to next Saturday’s sectional tournament at Leyden High School, along with East’s third-place finishers – D.J. McDermott (120 pounds), Blake Fialka (182), and Will Leite (285).

Geneva advanced five wrestlers to the sectional tournament, including sophomore Steven MacDonald (26-9), who downed Bartlett’s Sam Valencia (13-15) in the 113-pound third-place match, 8-4.

“I had a rough second match [a 20-11 loss to Gomez],” MacDonald said. “I had to come back and want it for the third-place one. My coaches helped me out a lot in that match … just keeping me out of bad positions and – if I got in one – just telling me what to do keep him from finishing me or getting back points.”

Austin Chaon (30-9) placed second for the Vikings at 170 pounds and Jake Anderson (24-10) finished second at 220.

Geneva’s only champion on the day was 182-pounder Mitch Bradberry (21-11), who survived a wild title match with Glenbard North’s Gio Esparza (13-12) for a 13-10 victory.

Bradberry, who has been battling tendonitis in both of his arms, was in obvious pain at the end of the match.

“It was hard to fight through,” he said. “I can’t squeeze for anything. I can’t squeeze at all. I couldn’t write my name if I wanted to right now.”

The only St. Charles North wrestler to advance was freshman Kolbe O’Brien (33-6), who placed third at 106 pounds with a 6-4 victory over South Elgin’s Israel Villarreal (25-21). O’Brien has been struggling recently with a right shoulder injury and he said it caused him difficulty in the third-place match.

“It happened right at the beginning,” O’Brien said. “The first move he pulled on my arm. … It was hard to deal with the pain throughout the match, but I managed to get through it.”

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