Glenbard East senior wrestler Dayton Olson improved his standing against Marmion’s Johnny Jimenez this season, yet still found himself a casualty of the Cadet’s climb to four career state championships.
Lamenting his last chance to defeat Jimenez after a Class 3A quarterfinal at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center last month, Olson ended with a premonition:
“The hardest person Johnny’s going to have is Marmoleo,” he said, “and I think he can beat Marmoleo.”
Jimenez already had defeated Glenbard North’s Jon Marmoleo this season, so a 5-1 victory in the 126-pound title bout the next night was no surprise. More unexpected was Jimenez’s post-match demeanor. The St. Charles resident and three-time Kane County Chronicle Wrestler of the Year dug deeper than usual, to be sure.
“It’s kind of like, ‘I did it. I did everything I dreamt of.’ And, you know, I just feel like I’m really giving back to a lot of kids that also have dreams,” Jimenez said. “Younger wrestlers that want to accomplish their goals, who might look up to me. I feel that I’ve really given back to the sport and just appreciate everyone.”
Jimenez earned two Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation state titles before entering high school, where he began his career with a 103-pound title in 2010-11 and moved up a weight class each season.
A proud alumnus of St. Charles-based SCN Youth Wrestling who will compete collegiately at Wisconsin, Jimenez has returned to the facility more regularly in recent seasons and calls it “heartwarming” to see athletes enjoy success.
One of them, an 8-year-old, recently won an IKWF Bantam title.
“You know, someone that young wanting to achieve their goals that bad, it means so much,” Jimenez said.
About the only pedestal Jimenez was unable to reach in his career was the top of the dual team state podium. Marmion qualified in each of the past two seasons before finishing second and third, respectively.
Individually, Jimenez knew that champion’s perch throughout his 166-10 career. He is one of only 14 wrestlers in IHSA history to win a state title in all four tries.
That number grew by three members this season, with 132-pounders Jered Cortez of Glenbard North (3A) and Josh Alber of Dakota (1A) following Jimenez into the club moments after he brought the State Farm Center crowd to its feet.
Alber completed a perfect career run (182-0) and was the only in-state opponent to defeat Jimenez the past two seasons. Their most recent encounter: Alber’s 5-3 overtime victory in the Dvorak tournament finals in December.
“I’m good friends with Johnny,” Alber said. “He was one of my two toughest matches. Other than that, I was pretty dominant.”
Long known as an expert technical wrestler, Jimenez worked with second-year Cadets coach Ryan Cumbee to add physical toughness to augment his mental game.
“Johnny was ready to wrestle every match. No questions asked,” Cumbee said. “He’s always been an example for the other guys in the room.”
Jimenez simplified things in his final state series in a bid to move his career pursuits to the back of his mind.
Easier said than done. Every opponent to shake hands with Jimenez in Champaign knew what an upset win potentially could do, and how it might impact the state wrestling scene.
Ultimately, Jimenez avoided any danger by harnessing an approach he could just as easily repeat to his champions in waiting.
“Winning one period at a time. Staying really relaxed,” Jimenez said. “Getting those takedowns, and not getting too amped up in that first period.”