It's appropriate to say that the local Class 3A state qualifiers who will participate in the state wrestling tournament at the State Farm Center in Champaign starting Thursday could be regarded as the ultimate perseverance club.
After all, 17 of the 28 individuals are first-time qualifiers, with only two of those being freshmen and six of them seniors who aren't new to the varsity level.
The group also consists of 15 seniors, including five who had qualified for state before but didn't go last year, and only three that had previously made it to the awards stand.
With 16 of the wrestlers included in Rob Sherrill's rankings on the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association website and with an average record of 34.7-6.5 (.842) for the 28, there figures to be a lot of individuals who could earn state medals.
The three individuals who hope to finish on the awards stand for a second time are all seniors. They are Lockport's Kaleb Thompson (20-1) at 113 pounds, Providence Catholic's Kevin Countryman (37-9) at 145 and Plainfield South's James Pierandozzi (29-3) at 152.
Pierandozzi is the lone four-time state qualifier of the group, and he finished sixth last year. Thompson, who is making his second state trip, was third a year ago and Countryman hopes to improve upon last year's fourth-place finish as he makes his third-straight state appearence. Thompson is ranked No. 4, while Pierandozzi is No. 6 in his weight class.
Plainfield East senior Alex Villar (27-3) at 132, Lincoln-Way West junior Javen Estrada (39-2) at 138, Plainfield North sophomore Jared Gumila (45-12) at 138 and Providence sophomore Ryan Boersma (41-3) at 285 all were state qualifiers for the first time last season. Boersma was ranked No. 1, but lost matches in the regional and sectional, while Estrada was ranked No. 5.
Three seniors are returning to state after missing last season. Lockport's Mike Kaminski (41-4) at 126, Plainfield Central's Nick Minnito (37-4) at 126 and Minooka's Drew Gutknecht (34-5) at 220. Kaminski is No. 3, Gutknecht No. 5 and Minnito No. 6.
Lincoln-Way West senior Payton Geigner (38-6), who's ranked sixth at 160, is returning to state after last making it his freshman season. Plainfield Central senior Joey Ahern (34-7) at 152 will make his state debut after competing in the Tennessee state tournament in 2017 and 2018.
Lockport and Bolingbrook each have two ranked individuals making their state debut. For the Porters, sophomore Keegan Roberson (32-8) is No. 6 at 132 and sophomore Andrew Blackburn-Forst (40-8) is No. 9 at 195. And for the Raiders, senior Cam Hargrove (41-6) is No. 5 at 145 and sophomore Joe McDermott (35-10) is No. 10 at 113.
Plainfield North sophomore Jacob Macatangay (44-4) is No. 5 at 113, while Plainfield East junior Zach Barlev (21-4) is No. 7 at 285. Other Plainfield first-time qualifiers are East senior Barry Stevenson (32-3) at 145, North sophomore Evan Smith (32-12) at 170 and South sophomore John Pacewic (31-9) at 195.
Two Joliet Township seniors will make their state debuts and both own 39-4 records. Central's Jayden Perez is No. 8 at 182, and West's Jeremy Pullen is No. 9 at 160.
Two other seniors who advanced to Champaign are Bolingbrook's Jack McDermott (31-9) at 132 and Minooka's Jake Mensik (37-8) at 145. The Indians also qualified junior Jack McClimon (30-10) at 152.
A pair of freshmen who qualified are Bolingbrook's Luis Bazan (38-8) at 120 and Providence's Billy Meiszner (28-17) at 106.