JOLIET – There were plenty of great story lines involving local wrestlers during Saturday’s IHSA Class 3A Joliet Central Sectional, which proved to be one of the toughest versions of this competition in recent years.
Of the 24 area competitors who earned top-four finishes to advance to next weekend’s state finals at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center in Champaign, five won titles, while nine others settled for second place and seven more took third place.
Two seniors who had gone to state and finished on the awards stand, Providence’s Jake Lindsey and Lockport’s Baylor Fernandes, will return after not being in the finals last year.
Fernandes pinned Quincy’s Hunter Yohn in 2:24 to win the title at 160 pounds, while Lindsey, a two-time placer who won the state title in 2017, will also return after advancing to the 113 title match, where he injury defaulted to Belleville West’s Josh Koderhandt.
“I was seeing where I wrestled better and felt better and it was 160, so that’s why I made that decision,” Fernandes said. “I tell myself that in order to be the best, you have to beat everybody who is better than you and this is definitely one of the toughest sectionals around.”
For the second straight week, there was a rematch between two individuals who met for a state title last year, Lockport’s Anthony Molton and Marian Catholic’s Travis Ford-Melton. After defending champ Molton prevailed a week ago, Ford-Melton won 5-2 on a tiebreaker in the 126 finals.
There was also a clash between the top-two competitors at 120, Edwardsville’s Noah Surtin and Lockport’s Matt Ramos. The latter staged a late rally to scare the defending state champ, who settled for an 11-10 decision in the battle between two two-time placers.
Four other senior finalists assured themselves of first trips to the Champaign. Plainfield South’s Andrew Bejarano won the title at 285 with a fall in 48 seconds over Edwardsville’s Lloyd Reynolds, while Plainfield East’s D’Anthony Hopkins (138), Lincoln-Way Central’s Mason Sargent (195) and Joliet Central’s Damaris Stanley (220) all took second.
“Honestly, it has to do with practicing hard and knowing what you have to do for the week,” Bejarano said. “In my freshman year, I was 8-10, but over the years I just pushed harder and went to Izzy Style and that helped me, and this year all of the work finally paid off.”
The Cougars also won another sectional title, with this one coming from junior James Pierandozzi, who will be making his third state trip. He defeated Providence’s Kevin Countryman, 11-4, to capture the 145 title.
“I’ve been wrestling really well and I wanted to win regionals and sectionals to prove myself and I’m working toward a state title,” Pierandozzi said. “I changed my attitude and the way I wrestle since I wanted to be more confident and I’m doing a lot better this year.”
Two freshmen also won sectional titles, Plainfield North’s Jared Gumila (132) and Providence’s Ryan Boersma (220). Gumila pinned Yorkville’s Cole Ferguson in 2:33.
“My brother Jordan is one of my biggest inspirations,” Gumila said. “He’s opened me up to so many things about life and thinking the right way. All year I feel like I was struggling. My only goal as a freshman was to just to make it to state, but now I have a chance to do better.”
Boersma pulled out a 2-1 victory over Stanley to become one of the rare freshman 220-pounders to win a sectional title.
“I’m definitely happy with what I’ve done so far, but I’m 100 percent hungry,” Boersma said. “Our tough schedule really helps a lot since wrestling the best makes you so much better and our workouts are awesome.”
In other title matches, Lockport’s Kaleb Thompson lost, 4-1, to Moline’s Charlie Farmer at 106, Hopkins fell, 11-0, to Edwardsville’s Luke Odom at 138, Lincoln-Way West’s Jacob Cronk was pinned in 1:05 by Yorkville’s Nick Stemmet at 182 and Sargent lost by fall in 3:38 to Yorkville’s Ben Stemmet.
Finishing in third place were Lincoln-Way West’s Javen Estrada (126) and Josh Pakula (170), Plainfield East’s Alex Villar (120), Providence’s Josh Ramos (138), Plainfield Central’s Jamel Sheppard (145), Plainfield South’s Jake Kendall (160) and Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Mihajlovich (182). Lincoln-Way West’s Garrett Geigner (138), Lincoln-Way East’s Dominic Adamo (152) and Minooka’s Jake Shipla (220) all took fourth place.