The OPRF wrestling team celebrates its third straight Class 3A dual team state championship. The Huskies beat Marmion 34-22 in the finals. (Photo by Jonna Borgdorff)

Oak Park and River Forest senior wrestler Kendale McCoy avenged being pinned and finished with his most memorable victory Saturday at the Class 3A dual team state finals in Bloomington.

Junior Deundre Garner had an emotional victory after the death of his brother days earlier.

Senior Allen Stallings again contributed to the success, even though he is set to play football at Indiana.

The overriding motivation for them was the same.

“I shouldn’t [be here], but it was also for the team,” said Garner, who lost his brother, Diamond, 23, a former Proviso East wrestler. “I wasn’t planning on coming, but I knew that he’d rather have me here than anywhere else.” 

The Huskies captured their third consecutive team title by beating Marmion 33-24 after being ranked No. 1 by IllinoisMatmen.com.

OPRF (28-3) used six seniors in the final, and the five who wrestled ended victorious. The lineup had three individual 3A state champions from Feb. 20 – senior Isaiah White (30-0) at 160 pounds, junior Jason Renteria (22-0) at 120 and Stallings (34-3) at 220 – six more top-six, all-state finishers and two additional state qualifiers.

White, Renteria, Stallings, senior Gabe Townsell (37-9) and junior Jaime Hernandez (30-8) have been in all three state team championship match lineups and senior Robert Campos (44-6) and junior Peter Ogunsanya (38-10) in two. White has gone 3-0 in addition to his program-best three individual state titles.

“It’s great. I love it. I’m just sad that it’s over,” White said. “It just flew by.”

Also in the lineup against No. 2 Marmion were McCoy (26-10), Garner (15-9), senior Michael Ordonez (40-10), juniors Rolliann Sturkey (38-7), Brian Holloway (6-8) and Christopher Middlebrooks (28-14) and sophomore Anthony Madrigal (40-2). Senior Chris Yen, junior Drew Matticks, sophomores Eddie Ordonez and Jack Fisher and freshman Eddie Bolivar were in lineups earlier Saturday, when OPRF dominated No. 10 Rockton Hononegah 45-19 and No. 6 Lockport 49-20 in the semifinals.

“It’s always special every year because it’s a new group of guys,” OPRF coach Paul Collins said. “Obviously, Isaiah and those guys have been around for all three, but they’re seniors now. Every year we talk about it, and it’s the same thing with this group. They led the way and set the tone for how we were wrestling.”

McCoy’s victory clinched the Huskies’ title by increasing their lead to 33-12. They forfeited remaining matches at 220 (Stallings) and 285 (Middlebrooks) and the celebrating began.

McCoy defeated Marmion’s Peter Capetillo 5-2 behind takedowns with 33 seconds left to break a 1-1 tie and in the closing seconds. In the dual, McCoy was pinned by Capetillo.

“That was amazing, the last match of my high-school career, so I had to win. They told me that was my match to take back,” McCoy said. “I qualified for state (individually) this year and winning one match was good enough for me, but winning this match right here, definitely my best match – definitely.”

Garner said he received strength for his preceding 182 victory from Diamond. Garner prevailed 8-5 after entering the third period tied 2-2. 

“Basically, I know he was looking down upon me and he was going to give me all of the energy and stuff that I needed,” Garner said. “Like he always told me, there’s not such a thing as unbroken focus. As long as you keep pushing, you keep pushing. Sad or not, you could out with a (win).”

“With (Garner and McCoy clinching it) back to back, we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” Collins said. “The fact that (Garner) showed up and even decided to wrestle, beat a tough opponent, that’s something much bigger than this.”

Marmion (27-6) defeated No. 3 Sandburg 29-26 at sectionals and No. 4 Montini 30-29 in the quarterfinals.

On Jan. 1, the Huskies edged Marmion 27-22 at The Clash in Rochester, Minn., without Renteria. On Saturday, the Huskies won nine of their 12 matches after going 8-6 at The Clash.

“We didn’t beat them the way we wanted. The first day we got back from The Clash, that was probably the hardest practice we ever had,” McCoy said.

“That was pretty much a turning point,” White said. “Practices started getting harder. We started pushing ourselves and it continued throughout the season.”

At 160 Saturday, White had a 19-8 major decision over Trace Carello, the 152 state runner-up. Townsell beat Anthony Cheloni 7-5 at 132 after also beating him for third at state. In their rematch from fifth at state for 145, Ordonez again topped Brad Gross, 6-4. In a state title rematch, 138 champion A.J. Jaffe beat runner-up Hernandez 4-2.

“I think with anyone we would have wrestled, we would have been just as focused,” Townsell said.

“There’s a sense of finality that I don’t have with the rest of (the titles). It’s the end of my career here. I got to go out with a win. I feel like I’m on the top of the world right now.”

After the trophy ceremonies, the Huskies were the last to leave. The moment was why Townsell returned, although his first individual state title also was rewarding.

“It’s 10 times better winning a team state title than individual,” Stallings said. “These are my brothers. These are the guys I work with all year. Even though wrestling is an individual sport, it’s really all about the team at the end of the day.”

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