SYCAMORE – Andy Burburija only had one thing on his mind during his 285-pound match Saturday at the Class 2A Sycamore Sectional.
Just find a way to win.
Burburija, a Crystal Lake South senior, wasn’t worried about his undefeated record or the pressure of winning a sectional title. He was tired and wanted to make sure no matter how he did it, he’d be the one with his arm raised at the end.
Once again, Burburija did just enough. He scrapped his way to a 2-0 to win the sectional crown and improve to 32-0.
“I knew my abilities and what I was capable of doing,” Burburija said. “It just came out good.”
Burburija led a group of 12 McHenry County-area wrestlers and four Kendall County-area wrestlers who advanced to the IHSA individual state tournament set to start Thursday at Champaign’s State Farm Center.
The title match at 285 between Burburija and East Peoria’s Jose Del Toro had a slow start. Neither wrestler found a way to score a point in the first two periods before Burburija finally got on the board in the third.
He took a 1-0 lead by escaping early in the period before adding another point to take a 2-0 lead. He held off a late push to pick up the win.
Burburija said he found a way to win thanks to his approach of not looking ahead. While his win number continued to climb throughout the season while his losses remained at zero, Burburija focused on himself and his ultimate goal of winning a state title after placing last season.
I knew my abilities and what I was capable of doing. It just came out good.”— Andy Burburija, Crystal Lake South senior
“We’re both human at the end of the day. Records don’t mean anything,” Burburija said. “I’ve taken down undefeated kids, I’ve had losses in the past, records don’t mean anything in my book.”
His senior teammate Caden Casimino will join Burburija after he took fourth at 175. The two have been best friends on the football team and got to wrestle together this year when Casimino returned to the team after focusing on football the past two seasons.
The duo will get one last chance to compete together in Champaign.
“To see them have and experience this together as seniors, that’s what you want to write about,” South coach Ross Ryan said.
Four Prairie Ridge wrestlers are on their way to state after placing Saturday. Senior John Fallaw took third at 215 after winning his match by fall, while juniors Jake Lowitzki (113) and Mikey Meade (126) and senior Xander York (157) each placed fourth.
York finally earned a state berth after losing in the sectional blood rounds the previous three seasons. He won 12-0 in his consolation semifinal match to punch his ticket to Champaign after he adopted a positive mindset this season that’s helped him reach new heights.
“Everyone you wrestle is beatable at some point,” York said. “I think personally, with a good, positive coaching staff and surrounding yourself around positive people, you have a positive mentality; you can beat anyone you want if you put the work in.”
Crystal Lake Central senior Alessio Pezzella (150) wasn’t going to let a broken nose stop him from reaching state for the first time. It broke a minute into his semifinal match, but he continued to wrestle, ultimately winning 8-1.
Pezzella, along with junior teammate Tommy McNeil (215), went on to take second, while junior Cayden Parks (190) placed third.
Saturday felt like a special moment for Pezzella beyond his broken nose. He had waited years to finally get over the hump and after battling some adversity, finally conquered his goals.
“It feels awesome because there’s so many years of dedication that you put into a sport, so many injuries, hours of cutting weight, so many hours of practice and blood you lose,” Pezzella said. “To finally achieve the end goal is amazing.”
Yorkville Christian senior Ty Edwards (132) led the Mustangs with a second-place finish, while juniors Aiden Larsen (113) and Robby Nelson (157) each took third.
Edwards (43-2) faced a tough challenge in Galesburg senior Gauge Shipp (41-0). He fell behind 2-0 early in his match and couldn’t come back, losing 13-4.
Edwards knows there’s a potential the two could meet again at state, so he’ll look at plenty of tape before then. But with a final chance to compete for a state title, he also looks forward to enjoying the moment of competing at state.
“It means a lot,” Edwards said. “I made it. Not many people can say that. Really, it’s just getting in, having fun this year.”
Harvard senior Riley Vest (285) took fourth to return to state, while Woodstock North senior Kaden Combs (175) took third and Burlington Central junior Jonah Chavez (165) and Plano senior Caiden Ronning (150) each placed fourth to each earn their first trip to Champaign.
The moment was special for each wrestler after years of coming close to making the cut.
“It’s just really exciting,” Chavez said. “I’ve been waiting for it for a while, and all the work I put in during the offseason really paid off.”