Undefeated Oak Park and River Forest High School sophomore Anthony Madrigal was a wrestler of distinction at Hinsdale Central’s 50th annual Rex Whitlatch Invitational Friday and Saturday.
Madrigal didn’t realize that he was the only returning member from the Huskies’ 2014 invite championship lineup – but he remembered finishing third at 106 pounds very well.
“I came in motivated. I wanted to win it because I came up short in a last-second match (4-3 in semifinals),” Madrigal said.
On Saturday, Madrigal (13-0 at 126) and seniors Allen Stallings (12-0 at 220) and Rolliann Sturkey (14-4 at 170) captured individual titles and the Huskies finished a strong second to Sandburg in the 24-team field — even with their four returning 2015 Class 3A all-state wrestlers missing from the lineup.
Juniors P.J. Ogunsanya (11-4 at 106) and Christopher Middlebrooks (12-5 at 285) were second. Seniors Robert Campos (14-4 at 120) and Michael Ordonez (15-4 at 145) were third, sophomore Jack Fisher (10-2 at 138) and freshman Eddie Bolivar (13-6 at 113) were fifth, junior Drew Matticks (9-7 at 152) was sixth and senior Kendale McCoy (5-2 at 195) was seventh as the Huskies had 11 place-winners overall.
Madrigal took advantage of his opportunity in the finals. He defeated Sandburg sophomore Robbie Precin (16-2) 1-0 on an escape with 1:52 left.
“It was my closest win (this season) but I think I could have wrestled better. I’m just happy about getting the win,” Madrigal said. “Last year, coming short, it’s a good tournament to start off the season with, just like a good confidence booster.”
Opportunity was the word for several Huskies. Coach Paul Collins said five to six regulars sat out for a “plethora of things,” including seniors Isaiah White and Gabe Townsell and juniors Jaime Hernandez and Jason Renteria. A two-time state champion, White won last year’s Whitlatch title at 152.
OPRF (240 points), the 2014 invite champ with 294 points, still was second to Sandburg (319.5) and its five firsts and four seconds. Lyons Township (203.5) was a distant third.
“When you’re not at 100 percent, we were just kind of hoping to have a good showing and show great effort,” Collins said.
“This is a very good, well-run tournament. We were able to give some guys opportunities but there were still some tough matches for our higher-end guys as well. If we do need to rest a guy, we can slide one of our lower-level guys in there and they can still have success.”
Sturkey topped previously undefeated Sandburg senior Brian Krasowski (16-1) 3-1 with a takedown 22 seconds into sudden-death overtime. Sturkey qualified for state last year but at 182 rather than his usual 170.
“I felt ready (for overtime). I know these dudes don’t train like we do,” Sturkey said. “I’m ready to compete for a state title this year, do some work on the 170 weight class.”
Stallings dominated LTHS senior Frank Walsh (15-5) 13-6 after a bye and two pins but still was smarting for allowing a late takedown.
A three-time state qualifier, Stallings was injured the past two Whitlatch Invites after taking sixth as a freshman.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Stallings said. “Definitely (this season I’ve improved) conditioning, strength, keeping my weight up because a lot of our practices are so hard I lose a lot of weight.”
Ogunsanya and Middleboro both lost to undefeated opponents.
Brother Rice sophomore Hassan Johnson (16-0), a 2015 3A state qualifier, topped Ogunsanya 3-2 in overtime on a reversal with 23 seconds left. After the match remained tied 1-1 after the sudden-death overtime, Ogunsanya took a 2-1 lead in the second overtime.
“I think I just need to work a little more on my setups. And work a little bit more of my strength training,” said Ogunsanya, last year’s 106 backup to Madrigal. “I was like 98 pounds last year. (Madrigal) helped me get better a lot.”
“Last year, he was little for the weight and I see him improving his size, his skills. Practicing with him, knowing that I helped him, makes me feel good,” Madrigal said.
After back-to-back overtime victories, Middlebrooks lost 9-2 to Hinsdale Central senior Matt Allen (18-0), the 2015 3A state runner-up at 285.
“I made a lot of strides,” Middlebrooks said. “This tournament means a lot because I beat some high-ranked guys, which gives me a starting point for how I’ll be in the state tournament.