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Druley: Cadets’ beefed up depth helpful in duals state series

Published: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Erica Benson – ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Marmion sophomore 120-pounder AJ Jaffe earned 36 victories during the individual wrestling season, continuing a successful run from the Cadets' lower weights. An emergence of talent among the second half of the lineup has boosted Marmion's balance in its beat for a team dual state trophy.

Marmion’s first individual state wrestling place-winner competed at 145 pounds.

Its past five state champions weighed no more than 138.

There’s no denying the impact the little guys have made on the program’s ascent to the state’s best. The Cadets might just become elite, however, thanks to the second half of their lineup.

Aiming to improve on last season’s runner-up finish in the Class 3A team duals state tournament, Marmion enters Saturday’s quarterfinal against Plainfield Central with six placers from last weekend’s individual state tourney.

All but four-time champ Johnny Jimenez (126), a Wisconsin-bound senior from St. Charles, are 152 or heavier. Jimenez’s older brother, Nico, was Marmion’s first state champ, at 171.

The Cadets laud a challenging schedule for their success, often channeling experiences from matches from national or regional tournaments once the state series rolls around. They are not forgetful of their roots, however, knowing their backgrounds also are a pivotal reason behind a return trip to Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum.

“Just from getting trained at a younger age,” said Nick Ferraro, a senior from Elburn who was fifth at 170. “Just from growing up around wrestling.”

Many Cadets are cut from the same developmental cloth: “The Barn” at SCN Youth Wrestling in Campton Hills. For those who aren’t – such as Josh Meyers of Yorkville, who was sixth at 195 – it’s not as if high school practices are cakewalks.

“We trained him up here and made him the machine he is now,” Ferraro said.

Albeit a svelte one.

“Josh Meyers, he has to eat every day to get to 170,” Jimenez said.

Other placers flanking Ferraro and Meyers include Trace Carello (152), Nathan Traxler (182) and Lucas Warren (220).

Warren missed most of the season after battling injured discs in his lower back, but returned in time for the state series.

“One hundred percent for sure,” he said. “They’re good now. I’ve been going to therapy. Feel good.”

In addition to missing Warren, Marmion also grew accustomed to a vacancy at 285 for much of the winter. Persistent coaxing from seniors and assistant Donny Reynolds eventually prompted heavyweight Oscar Garza’s return to the mat room in time for regionals.

Garza wrestled as a freshman and sophomore but elected not to compete as a junior. The senior went 2-2 at regionals and finished fourth, narrowly missing a sectional berth.

He has returned to wrestling shape and adds another big piece to Marmion’s quest for a team title.

Speaking of bulk: Cubs first base prospect Dan Vogelbach impressed officials and teammates by shedding 30 pounds in the offseason.

Club brass hopes another farmhand that joined the Class-A Cougars shortly after Vogelbach’s August 2013 promotion added some bulk that “Vogie” gave up.

Trevor Gretzky enters the 2014 season with just seven extra-base hits in 250 minor-league at-bats, which aren’t ideal power numbers for a 6-foot-4 corner outfielder. Even one who played at 190 pounds last season.

“Without a doubt during the offseason and throughout last season it was just trying to get him stronger, continue his progression not only as a baseball player but keeping him athletic,” Cubs assistant director of player development and international scouting Alex Suarez said this month. “Because with his size, naturally, he’s going to get bigger and stronger. But if he maintains the athleticism and gets stronger, then you’ve got a pretty interesting guy.”

A .288 hitter (72 for 250) since joining the Cubs organization as a seventh-round pick in 2011, Gretzky smacked the lone home run of his minor league career Sept. 1 against Peoria. His father, NHL icon Wayne Gretzky, was among those in the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark stands.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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