SYCAMORE – In all his praise for Gabriel Crome, Sycamore wrestling coach Randy Culton said it’s the current Spartans senior and future U.S. Marine’s character that stands out more than anything.
Buried behind state hopefuls such as Zack Crawford, Cooper Bode and Gus Cambier, Crome hasn’t wrestled much varsity this season, but he has done everything in his power to not just improve himself, but help the other Spartans wrestlers improve in the room as well.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Crome said. “I’m kind of in a hard spot. I’ve got top-ranked kids like Zack Crawford, Brayden Peet [last year], and if I go up a weight class, there’s somebody. Same if I go down a weight class.
“I’m not going to let that stop me, though, because wrestling is a really fun sport, and I love it.”
The state series begins Saturday, with Sycamore heading to the Class 2A Burlington Central Regional before the Rochelle Sectional the following week. Barring a surprise injury to someone else, Crome’s season is over.
But he’s been showing up in the weight room every day training with Crawford, Cambier and Bode.
“It simply shows his character,” Culton said. “It’s going to be a perfect place in the military for him. He’s going to represent Sycamore. ... To be a senior and not be on varsity and be beat out by a freshman and to still come up here and make the team and the other kids better while staying up here.
“There’s kids right now that have left because we only have regionals, so it’s for varsity. Not all of them, but a lot of them. Yet he stays up here and wants to get the starters better. It’s just pure character.”
Crome said the more wrestlers competing against each other in a room, the better it makes everyone.
“Every wrestler has a different skill set,” Crome said. “You can be really bad, you can be really good, it doesn’t really matter. We push each other to be the best we can on the mat.”
As a freshman, Bode came in and won the 170-pound spot on the varsity in a preseason scrimmage against Crome. But Crome still has found some varsity action, especially early in the season when Sycamore football players were trying to make weight for wrestling.
He has gone 5-7 at the varsity level this year and is 11-0 at JV, including winning the 170-pound class, the largest, at the Interstate 8 JV Tournament last week in an event that featured some varsity wrestlers.
“When Cooper came in, he lost the wrestle-off,” Culton said. “He didn’t throw a fit. He was like, ‘All right, whenever I get back in, I get back in.’ He’s a very unselfish person.
“The military is going to get a very good kid. He’s going to represent Sycamore very well.”
Culton said he feels Crome would be a varsity starter in many other programs.
“I would say half the other teams in this state, he could start for,” Culton said. “The teams just in the surrounding area, maybe not DeKalb, but he could start for them. And he’s just so unselfish. And I’m thinking he’s going to be a state pole vaulter in track.”
Crome just missed a state berth last year in the pole vault and said he’s excited for the spring to roll around so he can finish his high school athletic career at a state tournament.
“Hopefully this year we’re going to get there,” Crome said. “It’s my last year, so I’m really excited for that too. Maybe a little more excited than wrestling.”
After graduation, Crome heads to San Diego to join the Marines. He said the past five generations on his father’s side have served, and he’s wanted to continue that tradition since he was a small child.
His father, Jon Crome, served in the Navy, but Gabriel Crome is heading off to the Marines.
“I just thought they were the best,” he said. “I’ve seen a ton of things on social media. The recruiters came to school, and they just got me.”