The wrestling season is underway. Here are previews of teams in the Kane County Chronicle coverage area.
Coach: Scott Bayer
Top athletes: Cael Andrews, jr., 145; Kaden Fetterolf, jr., 138; Ino Garcia, so., 106; Aidan Huck, so., 113; Jackson Tonkovich, sr., 182.
Outlook: Batavia is hovering near the top 20 in the wrestling coaches’ poll (IWCOA) after opening the season with a one-sided win over traditional state power Oak Park-River Forest and suffering a heart-wrenching one-point loss to highly regarded Naperville Central. Andrews, Fetterolf and Tonkovich are all ranked in the coaches’ poll. Garcia and Huck, part of a deep sophomore class, advanced to the championship matches of the frosh-soph state tournament sponsored by IWCOA in the absence of the IHSA holding a sanctioned tournament in the spring. The DuKane Conference will have plenty of firepower this season as both Glenbard North and St. Charles East are widely viewed as potential state trophy winners. “The kids we have in the room are going to compete with them individually,” Bayer said.
Coach: Vince Govea
Top athletes: Sayf Afeef, sr., 145; Nicholas Casillas, jr., 152; Nathan Kim, sr., 170; Austin Lee, fr., 120; Doug Phillips, so., 126; Ryan Wustefeld, jr., 160.
Outlook: Govea is back at the helm of the Rockets’ wrestling program for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Kim and Phillips are the Rockets’ top returnees. Each won 14 matches during the abbreviated spring season earlier this year. “We are a young team looking to gain experience,” Govea said. “The kids are motivated and driven to work hard.” The Rockets will be sorely tested in the Fox Valley Conference as a Class 2A program. League 3A powers Huntley and defending champion Jacobs await Burlington Central this season. There is no conference tournament. The champion is determined by dual-meet results.
Coach: Tom Chernich
Top athletes: Dylan Konkey, jr., 145; Nicky O’Keeffe, sr., 138; Dylan Schlegel, sr., 120; John Schmidt, jr., 195; Joey Sikorsky, jr., 106.
Outlook: Chernich is banking on the sport returning to its traditional time slot to improve the Vikings’ fortunes this season. The pandemic wrought havoc on the number in the practice room in the spring. “My big thing is trying to put 14 (varsity) guys on the mat,” Chernich said. The veteran coach has one desire if that condition is met. “That every kid competes the best they can,” he said. Schmidt is the Vikings’ one known commodity. He advanced to the IWCOAC-sponsored individual state tournament in the spring. Konkey is an athlete who shows promise. With the notable exception of Schmidt at 195, the strength of the Geneva lineup resides in the lower to middle weights.
Coach: Kenneth Paoli
Top athletes: Nathaniel Diaz, sr., 285; Caden Grabowski, jr., 126; Cameron Phillips, sr., 113; Lane Robinson, jr., 160; Diego Serriteno, sr., 182.
Outlook: The Knights rested over the extended Thanksgiving holiday. But Kaneland has earned a lofty Class 2A status in the eyes of the IWCOA. The coaches voted the Knights as No. 6 in the first poll of the regular season. Phillips and Robinson will be the unquestioned leaders and workhorses for the program this winter. The former ranked No. 6 and the latter checks in at No. 8. Grabowski is in the honorable mention category at 126 pounds. The Interstate Eight almost certainly will be decided between the Knights and No. 15 Sycamore.
Coach: Nate Fitzenreider
Top athletes: Tyler Aters, jr., 126; John Conover, sr., 145; Jameson Garcia, so., 113; Jack Lesher, so., 182; Danny Pigoni, so., 106; Santino Scolaro, jr., 138.
Outlook: Naperville Central ended the Cadets’ seven-year Class 3A regional title run two seasons ago, but Marmion is determined to regain its hard-earned status as one of the top programs in the state. Marmion made a major statement over the holiday weekend with a stunning triumph at the two-day Barrington Invitational. Garcia is the latest in a long line of state champions for the Aurora school. Despite wrestling only eight matches during the truncated spring season, Garcia bested all comers to win the coaches’ state tournament. Garcia is ranked No. 1 at 113 pounds in the coaches’ first regular-season poll. Scolaro, Antlers and Conover also are returning state qualifiers. Lesher and Pigoni both advanced to the frosh-soph state championship match, with the former bringing home the top prize.
St. Charles East
Coach: Jason Potter
Top athletes: Elijah Chiaro, sr., 170; Ben Davino, so., 120; Tyler Guerra, so., 132; Brandon Schwartz, so., 182; Max Sztuk, sr., 145.
Outlook: Only a sophomore, Davino could be the face of the Saints’ program this season. Davino was a revelation during the spring season. He vanquished all 32 foes he faced en route to the IWCOA-run unofficial state tournament. Moving up to 120 pounds this winter, Davino is the consensus No. 1 athlete in Class 3A. The Saints have perhaps their deepest team in program history. St. Charles East is ranked No. 10 in the coaches’ poll. Sztuk is the Saints’ senior leader. Potter is adamant the Saints can cover all 14 weight classes with quality athletes. “It is a long way to February, but I can’t wait to see what this team can do,” Potter said.
St. Charles North
Coach: David Drews
Top athletes: Colman Gonella, sr., 220; Nate McLoughlin, fr., 152; Zae Neary, jr., 145; Liam O’Brien, fr., 126; Drew Surges, jr., 182.
Outlook: Drews is in his first year as the North Stars’ new boss. St. Charles North has been bedeviled by low numbers for the past decade, but Drews is confident the sport returning to its customary winter slot will invigorate the number of bodies in the practice room. “I see definite improvement there,” Drews said. Surges and Gonnella will constitute the heart and soul of the program. The former is a returning state qualifier who has proved to be the North Stars’ top point earner at major competitions. Gonnella is a three-year starter.
Outlook: In an email, St. Francis athletic director Dan Hardwick said, “We have suspended our wrestling program for this winter season as I was unable to hire a new coach. We will try again for the 2022-23 season.”