The sport of wrestling has provided Brad Gross a measure of distraction in the last month.
A Class 3A reigning state runner-up for perennial powerhouse Marmion, Gross was dealt a most cruel blow over the extended Thanksgiving weekend when his father Scott passed away unexpectedly.
“It’s definitely the toughest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life,” Gross said. “I am starting off [adulthood] a little bit sooner. I have to take care of my siblings. I have to take care of my mom, especially.”
There can be little doubt as to the two benchmark local wrestling programs in the Chronicle coverage area.
The Cadets welcomed St. Charles East on Saturday afternoon in Aurora as part of a round-robin dual-meet tournament.
Anointed among the top-seven Class 3A programs in the state by two authoritative websites, St. Charles East had all the momentum when Ben Anderson and Peyton Schroeder had back-to-back pins at 126 and 132 pounds.
In yet another showdown between either returning state qualifiers or currently state-ranked combatants, the Saints’ Justin Benjamin prevailed over Nathan Calloway in a nail-biter at 138 pounds to give St. Charles East an eight-point lead.
But Marmion made sure St. Charles East was done scoring on the afternoon.
The Cadets’ Ryan Fleck had a technical fall at 145 pounds to narrow the Saints’ cushion to three points.
Marmion defending state champion Trevor Chumbley then terminated his match at 152 pounds in the first period to reverse the score from a three-point deficit to a lead of the same amount.
Gross then took the mat in what proved to be the final match against the Saints’ seasoned veteran Tommy Schroeder.
Gross had a second-period reversal for the only points of the match in a 2-0 victory to cement the Cadets’ 33-27 triumph.
“It was just heart and love for my teammates,” said Gross. “The Marmion community has done so much for me. It is my duty to give back to them.”
“We are all battling, making each other better,” said Chumbley. “I wanted to get six [points] for the team.”
St. Charles East fell to 16-3 on the season with the loss.
The Saints had few issues in wins over St. Rita and Stagg on the day.
“We lost a couple of key matches that we needed to win,” St. Charles East coach Jason Potter said of the showdown with Marmion. “I thought our boys wrested pretty well. [The Cadets] have a lot of studs on their team. We knew that their lineup had the thunder at the back end.”
Marmion improved to 12-2 on the season with wins over the Saints, Stagg and Bloomington.
“We have had a couple tough weeks of competition,” first-year Marmon coach Nate Fitzenreidersaid. “Getting everybody healthy is the most important thing. We wrestle the tough kids to see what improvements we need to make.”
The Cadets’ other state-known commodities, returning all-staters Diego Sotelo and Michael Jaffe, also shined for Marmion in its three victories.