Oscar Garza returned to the Marmion mat room three weeks ago, snapping what was bordering on a two-year hiatus.
Duty called the Cadets’ senior 285-pounder, although lunchroom needling admittedly got him in motion.
After forfeiting at 285 for much of the regular season, Marmion knew its bid to improve on last season’s runner-up finish at the Class 3A team dual state tournament needed bolstering. Yo, Oscar. You sure you don’t want to wrestle another few matches?
“I would harp on him every day about it at lunch,” said senior 113-pounder Anthony Bosco, who had an assist from classmates and assistant Donny Reynolds. “We finally got him.”
Garza competed at 220 in each of his first two seasons but elected not to wrestle as a junior, focusing his efforts on improving as a thrower in track. Also an offensive lineman for Marmion’s football team, Garza eventually caved to becoming a short-lived winter sports athlete.
“I didn’t really want to, but I realized it would really help the team if I just came out, tried my best, hopefully helped them win a state title as a team,” Garza said. “And I just want to get back in shape for track. Hopefully, I can throw better.”
Garza is aiming to exceed 55 feet in the shot put this season after topping out at 49 last spring. He had been “just lifting weights every day” and appreciates the conditioning crash course wrestling offered.
Garza went 2-2 at the 3A Waubonsie Valley Regional last weekend. A 5-1 loss to Wheaton Warrenville South freshman Chris Beck in the third-place bout ended his chance to advance to individual sectionals, but Garza will compete when Marmion faces Mt. Carmel in the Marist dual team sectional Feb. 25. The Cadets won the team regional title handily, and hope to keep things rolling with Garza in tow.
“For him to come out at all, though, tells you what a selfless person he is,” Cadets coach Ryan Cumbee said. “Because there’s nothing in it for him other than, hopefully, a team medal at the end. Individual was never part of his equation for coming out. This was all about helping Marmion get further in the dual team state series.”
Despite their long-term vacancy there, the Cadets still haven’t lacked for heart at the heaviest weight class. Cumbee said senior Erik Eckberg shed about 60 pounds from the beginning of the season to be eligible to wrestle in a late-season dual against Wheaton Academy.
“What other reason would he have have to come out his senior year?” Cumbee said. “He pretty much dedicated himself to four months of hard training, and he got down below weight and he was certified, so I gave him that match.”
Eckberg also received a new nickname in the process, transforming from “The Big E” to “Skin E.”
‘Major increase’ in
Kaneland senior 285-pounder Justin Diddell quickly adopted the nickname “Texas” after moving from there entering seventh grade.
These days, Diddell possesses confidence befitting the size of the Lone Star State. He is 32-8 entering this weekend’s Class 2A Pontiac Sectional and defeating more seasoned wrestlers along the way.
An Indiana State football recruit, Diddell needed coaxing to come out for wrestling early in high school. He since has picked up plenty of experience on both the technical and toughness scales.
“When I go out on the mat, there’s kids that have been wrestling their entire lives. And, yeah, they may have the skill, but then they don’t have the strength to back them up,” Diddell said. “And that’s when they get beat by kids that are stronger, that at least have a little bit of technique, that can move a little bit.
“So yeah, I’ve definitely seen a major increase in my wrestling. I’m taking shots this year that I never would have done and I’m just moving faster than what a regular heavywght should.”
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles East, Sr., 138 pounds
What he did: Vela established the program record for quickest fall en route to an individual title at Saturday’s 3A South Elgin Regional. He needed just six seconds to subdue Elgin’s Ariel Torres in his first match of the day.
Marmion, So., 220 pounds
What he did: Won a 3A Waubonsie Valley Regional title just a few days removed from returning to the Cadets’ mat room. Sidelined for much of the season with a back injury, Warren worked back into the lineup to join eight teammates atop their respective podiums.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Batavia salutes more than just its three sectional qualifiers. Decorated seniors Marc Goodin, Trevor Kilgallen and Nick Offutt wrestled their final matches at the 3A Waubonsie Valley Regional, which also marked the swan song of a solid sophomore season for 113-pounder Michael Doranski, who won 29 matches.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Which wrestlers are headed to the Feb. 20 to 22 IHSA state meet at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center in Champaign. First-, second-, third- and fourth-place finishers from each sectional weight class advance to the state meet.
COACH SLY SEZ ...
STC East more than held its own in head-to-head title matches against Glenbard North at the 3A South Elgin Regional, enough to make the Panthers and their impressive streak sweat.
But Glenbard North’s balance across the board was slightly more steady than that of the Saints, who were unable to end the Panthers’ run that now stands at 14 straight team regional titles.
East still has a healthy haul headed to Saturday’s Leyden Sectional, with nine individuals advancing. Although team state was near the top of the goal board, the Saints still must realize this can be a special season.