Boys wrestling: Yorkville’s Luke Zook has big hopes for state, leads six Foxes to Champaign

Foxes’ junior took third at state last year, takes 44-4 record into the weekend

Yorkville's Luke Zook (right) shoots the legs of Oswego's Cooper Wynn in a 175 pound match during a wrestling meet at Oswego High School on Thursday, Dec 14, 2023.

Luke Zook is the fusion of the speed and scramble skills of a small wrestler and the strength and frame of a big one.

It’s what makes the Yorkville junior awfully difficult to beat.

Zook, third place at Class 3A 170 pounds last season, was always one of the smallest wrestlers on his team at a young age. He learned how to wrestle quick and fast, and scramble. As the years went by, Zook put on muscle and progressed into the upper weight classes. But he never lost those small wrestler skills.

“That is one of the reasons I succeed,” Zook said. “At my weight class you get a lot of guys who are strong and slow, and want to throw you around. They’re not used to wrestling fast guys like that.”

That unique skill set has Zook carrying a 44-4 record into the Class 3A state tournament this weekend in Champaign, and one of the favorites in the 175-pound bracket. He’s one of six Yorkville wrestlers at state, the program’s most state qualifiers since 2012 when the Foxes wrestled at Class 2A.

Strong and tough, Zook has coaches coming up to Yorkville coach Jake Oster and saying he looks like a 215-pounder, or coming down from 195.

Also a football star at Yorkville, Zook has grown quite a bit. Oster estimated that he didn’t think Zook broke 100 pounds until the seventh grade.

“He has a lot of experience wrestling as a little guy, those scramble skills, skill sets those bigger guys don’t have,” Oster said. “He is a combination of a little guy’s mat awareness and skills and a big guy’s strength and stature. It’s a hard combination to wrestle against.”

And Zook appears to be peaking at the opportune time.

Oster said that he dropped a couple matches early on that the coach maybe didn’t expect him to, but said that Zook is a guy that can turn it on. After taking third at the Illini Classic in January, Zook won conference, regional and sectional championships leading up to state.

“Sometimes all it is flipping the mental switch,” Oster said. “I wouldn’t want to be wrestling Luke Zook the next couple days.”

Zook admitted that it took some time for him to transition from football season to wrestling mode, but he’s here now.

“As the season starts to narrow down, I feel like this is where my wrestling is at its best, building on each week and matches going into state. I feel I’m in a good spot,” Zook said. “The last 3-4 weeks all I’ve been thinking about is this tournament and all I’ve been training for is this weekend and to have a clear mindset of what it means to get it done.”

If brackets hold, Zook could get a state rematch with Libertyville’s Matt Kubas in the semifinals. Zook lost to Kubas in the Dvorak last year, but came back to beat him twice at state, in the quarterfinals and a major decision in the third-place match.

On the opposite end of the bracket is 39-1 Mount Carmel defending state runner-up Colin Kelly, who beat Zook in the semifinals last year, as well as St. Charles East’s Brody Murray, who handed Zook two of his three losses this season to in-state opponents.

“Last year, it was a great experience, it set the bar high for this year,” Zook said. “You have to top it off and do better than that. My goal is to do better than that third place.”

Meanwhile, Yorkville defending 220-pound state champion Ben Alvarez (42-5) is back at 215 pounds, joined in Champaign by Dom Coronado (144), Jack Ferguson (150), Ryder Janeczko (157) and Luke Chrisse (215).

All but Coronado and Chrisse are returning state qualifiers, and Coronado has state experience with the IWCOA as a freshman and Chrisse at fresh-soph state last year.

“We know the kinds of kids we got; all these guys have been in a situation like this,” Oster said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have six medals on Saturday. We have shown the last couple years that we got guys who can perform on the big stage.”

Yorkville Christian Ty Edwards, left, goes head to head with Washington wrestler Timmy Smith in the 132 weight class during the 2A sectional meet on Saturday Feb. 10, 2024, held at Sycamore High School.

In Class 2A, Yorkville Christian has three wrestlers competing in Champaign this weekend – Ty Edwards, Aiden Larsen and Robby Nelson. The Mustangs have had tremendous success in recent seasons at the 1A level, but are up at 2A this year.

“Perception-wise it definitely does make a difference,” Mustangs coach Mike Vester said, “but I try to tell the kids and the ones I knew from club that I never trained them to be a small-school wrestler. I trained them to just wrestle kids. That work ethic transcends things.”

Edwards (43-2), in the 132-pound weight class, is a two-time state runner-up in Class 1A. Edwards is on the opposite end of the bracket of Galesburg senior Gauge Shipp (41-0), the defending Class 2A 138-pound champion who is unbeaten the last two seasons.

“That is what we are hoping for, is to get there. I like Ty’s path,” Vester said. “Ultimately the goal is get back to the finals, and hopefully that is against the state champ. That is a tough kid but we have always been good at making adjustments. I would love to see him back in the match. He’s earned it.”

Vester is likewise hopeful to see returning qualifier Larsen (35-3) in the 113-pound final.

“Aiden should have been in there last year. He lost a really tough match in the semifinals and then came back in wrestlebacks and broke his nose,” Vester said. “He should have been in the top three, if not make the finals. It’s fate where he is right now he will get to that Grand March.”

In Class 1A, Sandwich has three state qualifiers.

Freshman Cooper Corder (32-3), a two-time IESA champion who is coming off championships at the Plano Regional and Byron Sectional at 138, opens with Cumberland senior Brayden Olmstead (43-7). Senior Miles Corder (144, 38-9), who went 3-0 to win the regional title at Plano, then finished third at the sectional in Byron after a thrilling blood-round win, will take on Peotone sophomore Micah Spinazzola. Freshman Colten Stone (113, 29-17), who won a regional title and finished fourth at sectionals, begins with unbeaten Carlyle freshman Preston Waughtel.

“Cooper has a decent draw,” Sandwich coach Derek Jones said. “He has a first-round opponent that we need to focus on our attacks against. Miles has a kid who is tough, but he has the experience of age in this matchup, and hopefully he can wrestle tough. Colten has a very tough first-round matchup, but we’ll see what happens.”

-- Brian Hoxsey contributed to this story