The Northwest Herald wrestling preview will appear in print Nov. 22 with info on every local team. Until then, here are five storylines to watch for the 2023-24 season.
Will McHenry County have another individual state champion?
The McHenry County area has been one of the best in Illinois when it comes to wrestling over the past decade.
The county has featured a state champion each of the past 10 seasons, including 2021 when there was no IHSA state tournament. Marian Central’s Dylan Connell won the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Boys Open State Championships during that year.
Now the major question is who’s next and how many will win this season?
There are plenty of wrestlers to choose from. Marian Central transfer Anthony Alanis won the Class 2A 106-pound state title with Grayslake Central last season while Richmond-Burton’s Emmett Nelson (126), Marian’s Vance Williams (132) and Marian’s Brayden Teunissen (106) finished runner-up in their respective classes. Teunissen competed for Belvidere North last season.
Huntley’s Janiah Slaughter took third (100) last season, Crystal Lake Central’s Cayden Parks (170), Crystal Lake South’s Andy Burburijia (285) and Richmond-Burton’s Jasmine McCaskel (140) each finished fourth, while Marian’s Max Astacio placed fifth.
Can Marian Central win it all?
With the addition of Alanis and Teunissen to an already talented roster, the Hurricanes are considered one of the best teams in the state entering the season.
Three Marian wrestlers – Alanais (113), Williams (132) and Astacio (165) – are ranked No. 1 in the preseason Class 1A Illinois Matmen rankings. Four other Hurricanes, Josiah Perez (No. 2 106), Teunissen (No. 3, 120), Andrew Alvarado (No. 6, 120) and Jimmy Mastny (No. 4, 157) are also ranked.
Co-coaches Jordan Blanton and Ryan Prater also have put together one of the best schedules in the state. Marian will compete against Marist, Mount Carmel, Joliet Catholic and St. Charles East in duals as well as some of the best tournaments in the country like the Donnybrook, the Detroit Central Catholic Tournament, the Al Dvorak Invitational and the Clash Tournament.
Marian last won a team state title when it took the Class 1A title at the IWCOA tournament in 2021. The Hurricanes could have their best chance to try to win another this season.
Who will win the Fox Valley Conference?
Huntley has controlled the FVC for the past seven seasons, winning five conference titles during that span. Jacobs won the Spring 2021 conference title while McHenry won the FVC last season with an undefeated record.
Can the Red Raiders get back to the top of the FVC? Huntley will be one of the top teams to watch in the conference race along with Crystal Lake Central and McHenry.
Each of the three teams have experienced leaders with rosters that traditionally have depth. Markos Mihalopoulos will lead the Red Raiders, Pedro Jimenez, Jesse Saavedra and Ryan Hanson come back for the Warriors while Parks and Payton Ramsey will be strong leaders for the Tigers.
Is Richmond-Burton the favorite to repeat as Kishwaukee River Conference champions?
The Rockets were dominant last season on their way to a KRC championship. Can they do it again?
Nelson returns experience, as do Brody Rudkin, Clay Madula, Kyan Gunderson, Dane Sorensen, Alex Reyna and Colin Kraus. Plano and Sandwich join the conference this season and other schools like Harvard should present some issues, but the Rockets could be sitting well heading into the season.
Can girls wrestling continue its exponential growth in McHenry County?
Girls wrestling has been one of the fastest growing sports in not only Illinois but the country. McHenry County has been part of that growth, with more full teams in the area forming with their own coaches and schedules separate from the boys team.
Seven McHenry County-are wrestlers competed in the inaugural IHSA Girls State Meet in 2022 and eight made it to state last season. That number could potentially double as the sport continues impressive growth this season.