Under their best-laid plans, Kane County Chronicle-area wrestlers will be hanging around the arena floor of the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center for a while this weekend.
No longer known as Assembly Hall, the venue nonetheless remains host of the IHSA state wrestling tournament.
Here’s an early look at some of the athletes who are Champaign-bound, with more to come as the week progresses. Preliminary matches begin Thursday night. Finals are set to start after 7 p.m. Saturday.
• Speaking of best-laid plans, Kaneland coach Monty Jahns had about the greatest farewell possible in hand in February 2013. Jahns watched Knights senior 145-pounder Dan Goress win a Class 2A title, then announced his resignation from his alma mater at the team banquet a few weeks later.
Complications with his would-be successor eventually steered Jahns back to the mat room, and he has since called this season his new swan song. Can 285-pounder Justin Diddell captain another remarkable state run? Jahns certainly sees promise in the 32-9 senior, an Indiana State football recruit.
“For a three-year wrestler to get where he’s at today, a lot of that has to do with his work ethic in the weight room and the football field,” Jahns said. “He’s translated over to wrestling pretty well.”
Diddell speaks routinely about using his strength to defeat more experienced wrestlers. His resolve has been evident throughout the entire team this season, including at Saturday’s Plano Sectional, when a handful of teammates knocked on the door of a state berth.
“[Riley] Vanik and [Tom] Price and [Austin] Parks went out and beat people that they weren’t supposed to beat,” Jahns said, “and they all just wrestled well.
“You can’t really tell when they’re fired up, but they just go out and they get it done.”
• Wisconsin-bound Marmion 126-pounder Johnny Jimenez is one of three athletes eyeing a fourth career state championship this weekend. Among Cadets seniors from St. Charles, however, he’s not the only one with podium aspirations.
Cadets 113-pounder Anthony Bosco, a North Carolina recruit, is looking to follow up on a fourth-place finish at 106 last season. He enters the state tournament at 33-8 after finishing fourth at sectionals and winning a regional championship.
“I mean, I feel like this is definitely the best season I’ve had so far. It makes sense; it’s my last season,” Bosco said. “Laying everything out on the line, getting it done. I’m in a lot better shape than I was in the beginning of the year.”
Like St. Charles East – whose state contingent of Isaiah Vela (138), Jake Mende (145) and Keone Derain (152) are practice partners – Bosco boosts his experience against fellow state Cadets qualifiers such as A.J. Jaffe (120) and Jimenez each day.
“We mix it up a lot,” Bosco said.
Bring on Byron: The Aurora Christian girls basketball team edged top-seeded Seneca to win the 2A Ottawa Marquette Regional final last week. Tonight, the 15-13 Eagles brace for another tough test against Byron in an Aurora Christian Sectional semifinal.
The Tigers, 44-43 winners against Rockford Christian in the Stillman Valley Regional title game, were a supersectional qualifier last season.
“They’ve got most of their girls back and look like they’re coming out of a tough regional too,” Tokars said. “We’re going to be major underdogs in our own sectional, but you know what, that’s all right with me, because we’re at our own dinner table.
“Should be fun.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.