By Marty Farmer
Fresh off a dominant regional performance, the Oak Park and River Forest High School wrestling team picked up right where it left off at the Leyden Sectional on Friday and Saturday. The Huskies obliterated the competition with 10 champions, a pair of consolation champs, and a 43-6 overall record (87.75 winning percentage) at the sectional. Jaime Hernandez (126) and Adam Lemke-Bell (285), who both recorded solid regular season performances, were the only OPRF sectional qualifiers who won't be moving on to the IHSA Individual State Tournament this weekend.
Courtesy of their historic showing at Leyden, the Huskies will send a school-record 12 wrestlers to the IHSA Individual State Tournament (held Feb. 20-22) at the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus.
Freshman Jay Renteria (38-1) set the tone by winning his 106-pound championship bout over Glenbard East's Carlos Fuentez via an 18-6 major decision. He's the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class per illinoismatmen.com.
"I've worked all year to go down to Champaign," Renteria said. "This season has been fun for me especially as a freshman because I know I have three more years of it. From being in the Ironman finals [Ohio tournament] to being undefeated at the Clash [Minnesota tournament] it's fun taking on a national schedule."
The Huskies' other No. 1 wrestlers according to illinoismatmen.com also earned titles as Isaiah White battled his way to a 7-5 win over Isaiah Vela of St. Charles East in the 138-pound title bout. The rest won via major decision as Larry Early defeated Josh Martin (Maine South) 18-5, Kamal Bey bested Tom Brewster (Maine South) 20-9 and Michigan-bound Davonte Mahomes turned away Niko–Rocha Gomez (Addison Trail) 17-6. Last year, Mahomes and White finished third in the state at 160 and 126, respectively. Bey earned fifth in the state at 152 last year.
"At state, I know who I'm wrestling and what to do so I'm going to go out there and let it rip," White said. "I think the other guys are approaching it the same way. It's been a fun year but I'm going to miss our seniors a lot."
Alex Madrigal (29-8,113) Gabe Townsell (27-4, 120), Matthew Rundell (37-8, 152), Allen Stallings (17-6, 182) and Andre Lee (40-3, 195) also claimed sectional championships on Saturday. Savonne Bennette and Emonte Logan placed third at 132 and 220, respectively, to round out the Huskie's impressive and extensive list of state qualifiers.
"I think the entire team wrestled very well and we all pushed the pace," Renteria said. "We're all excited to be sending almost everybody down to Champaign."
To a man, the Huskies are hungry for the ultimate success at the state finals.
"I think I wrestled better at sectionals than regionals," Rundell said, "but I have some work to do before state. At this point, anything can happen regardless of how good a wrestler is in comparison to his opponent.
"Honestly, I can't speak to how satisfying this season has been because it hasn't ended yet. We still have a lot of goals we have haven't achieved yet."
OPRF finished the regular season with a 25-1 record, including a 6-0 mark in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. The Huskies cruised to their own Invite title, along with unofficial regional and sectional championships over the past few weeks.
www.oprfwrestling.com contributed to this story