HINSDALE – Three-time state wrestling champion Johnny Jimenez entered this weekend as the obvious favorite to win the 126-pound title at the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional, but the Marmion senior from St. Charles wasn’t thinking about his quest for a fourth state title.
"Not today, but starting with the regional, I focused more on winning every period,” Jimenez said
Saturday after winning a sectional championship. “So I’m trying to go one match at a time. I’m not really focusing on the fourth state championship at this moment. Right now I’m focusing on getting through this period, getting through this match, getting through this tournament.”
Jimenez (38-3) did just that, and will lead a contingent of nine Cadets into next weekend's state tournament at the University of Illinois. Batavia senior 220-pounder Connor McKeehan also qualified for state, finishing second in his weight class.
Jimenez opened the tournament with a pin of St. Rita junior Valentino Ortiz in 2:35. He defeated Marist senior Mike Mullaney in the semifinals, 11-4, then won the championship match by recording a technical fall against Sandburg sophomore Christian Robertson in 5:45. Jimenez scored 15 unanswered points in the match.
With the sectional hurdle cleared, Jimenez said he heads to state feeling relaxed.“I try to stay away from making myself nervous,” he said, “putting more pressure on me that doesn’t need to be there. I feel really good.”
Also feeling good after winning sectional titles for the Cadets were Nick Ferraro and Josh Meyers.
Ferraro (31-10) claimed the 170-pound title by pinning Mt. Carmel sophomore Dru Worker in 3:22. It was the second time the two have squared off this season.
“He took me down in the first period and I knew that he was here to wrestle like last time we wrestled,” Ferraro said. “He brought the same attitude. Honestly, I got lucky the last time I wrestled him. Getting that pin was lucky. Now, I just wanted to make sure I set the tone. It’s not luck anymore.”
Trailing, 2-0, Ferraro started the second period in the top position.
“I threw the legs in and I power-halfed him over,” the senior said. “I brought his elbow in over his head and I was able to finish that half and put him on his back.”
Ferraro reached the finals by defeating Downers Grove North senior Nick Bonomo (40-3) in the semifinals, 10-4.
Meyers (33-7) rallied from a 4-2 deficit entering the third period of his championship match with Naperville North senior Ben Brancaleon to win a 9-6 decision.
“Usually I go through the first two periods and just hand fight because I’m a lot smaller than these kids,” Meyers said. “If I go out right off the bat and try to take them down, they’re just going to overpower me. So I just hand fight, hand fight, and then when they get tired, I attack.”
Marmion sophomore Nathan Traxler (32-8) dropped a 2-1 decision to Marist junior Alex Benoit in the 182-pound championship match. Traxler edged Mt. Carmel senior Jimmy Mickens in the semifinals, 3-2.
Traxler still will advance to state along with Anthony Bosco, A.J. Jaffe, Trace Carello, Sam Breen, and Lucas Warren.
McKeehan (27-7) reached the secontional finals in trademark fashion by getting out of a couple tough spots against Waubonsie Valley senior Anthony Napolitano and rallying for a 9-5 victory.
“Going into the match, I knew I was in better shape,” McKeehan said. “For me, that’s something I take advantage of. I know if I can’t pin a kid in the first period – and obviously I can’t do that to him, he’s a very good wrestler – but I knew that I could outlast him. I could beat him in the third period.”
Bosco (33-8) had a rough day, finishing fourth at 113. He dropped a 2-1 decision to Jake Silzer of St. Rita in the semis, forcing him to have to beat Downers Grove South’s Ahmir Hooks in the consolation bracket to earn a trip to state. Bosco downed Hooks, 5-3, before dropping an 8-6 decision in the third-place match to Brother Rice sophomore Rudy Yates (32-1), who entered the Sectional undefeated.
Jaffe lost an 8-3 overtime decision in the semifinals at 120 to Kris Williams of Thornwood, who also entered the Sectional undefeated and stayed that way at 27-0. Jaffe wound up fourth, but punched his ticket to Champaign next week by pinning Jesus Vasquez in 1:16.
Carello (35-6) placed third at 152, advancing with a 4-1 victory over A.J. Villarreal in the consolation semis and a 5-2 win over Metea Valley junior Kenan Carter.
Breen (15-5) pinned Downers Grove South junior Shawn Jager twice to finish third at 160.
Warren (10-2), who recently returned from a back injury that sidelined him for most of the season, lost a 3-2 decision to eventual 220-pound champ Matt Allen of Hinsdale Central before bouncing back with a pin of Hinsdale South’s Josh King in the third-place match.
McKeehan lost to Allen in the championship match, 5-1.