Oak Park and River Forest senior wrestler Christopher Middlebrooks often recalls last season’s third-place regional match at 285 pounds.

With a sectional berth at stake, he lost 2-1. The decisive point came on a controversial call for using locked hands.

“It’s motivated me a lot because last year, I was really heart-broken. Very,” Middlebrooks said. “It gave me a certain hunger that I just had to win.”

Now at 220 for the Class 3A Leyden Individual Regional Saturday, Middlebrooks was among the Huskies’ 11 champions and 13 qualifiers for the Conant Individual Sectional with top-three regional finishes.

Seniors Jaime Hernandez (11-0 record at 138), Drew Matticks (27-7 at 170), Jason Renteria (34-2 at 132) and Tariq Thurman (20-9 at 182), juniors Tony Madrigal (32-2 at 126), P.J. Ogunsanya (29-5 at 113), Eddie Ordonez (11-6 at 152) and Elijah Osit (21-14 at 195), sophomore Eddie Bolivar (18-6 at 120) and freshman Nico Bolivar (25-5 at 106) also were regional champions. Senior Brian Holloway (26-7 at 160) and junior Jack Fisher (10-4 at 145) finished second.

Renteria is the defending 3A individual state champion at 120. Madrigal and Hernandez were 2016 state runners-up at 126 and 138, respectively.

“It was a great day. We’ve talked a lot over the last couple of weeks of what we can control and getting our guys to wrestle Huskie style, which is an unrelenting pace no matter what the score is,” OPRF coach Paul Collins said.

OPRF, ranked No. 2 in 3A by IllinoisMatmen.com, also began pursuit of its fourth straight team championship by winning the regional 264.5 to 216.5 over No. 11 Wheaton North, which won the DuPage Valley Conference to end Glenbard North’s streak at 18 straight.

In the finals, the Huskies beat the Falcons in eight of 10 head-to-head matchups.
“It was almost like a dual meet in those finals,” Collins said. “It’s always good to have good competition. Some of those guys we see all offseason (training with our program).”

In the finals, Eddie Bolivar won 6-5 in his first meeting with previously undefeated Glenbard West senior Charlie Faber (37-1), an all-state fifth at 113 last season.

In the third period, Faber tied the match 4-4 with an early escape but Bolivar gained control and got the winning takedown with 23 seconds left.

“My first regional. I won and I guess that feels pretty good,” Bolivar said. “I practice with (Faber in the offseason) a little bit. It shows me that I can do better. I’m probably going to see him at sectionals.”

“(Faber is) a strong 120-pounder and for Eddie to step up, that’s big time,” Collins said. “That (victory) was awesome. He’s a gamer. He’s a competitor.”

Matticks won by pin in 5:19 after two previous first-period pins. Hernandez had 13 takedowns in a 27-12 technical fall and Renteria, Madrigal and Nico Bolivar won major decisions.

Thurman, Osit, Holloway, Fisher and Nico Bolivar also made their individual regional debuts. Thurman won 5-0 and, as the No. 2 seed, Osit edged Wheaton North’s Bo Neidballa 3-1 on a takedown with 20 seconds remaining.

“My arms are a little tired. But winning a regional title, it’s pretty cool,” Osit said.

Interestingly, Middlebrooks (23-2) won only one match, a 26-second pin in the semifinals. He had a first-round bye, and his finals opponent forfeited.

“(I found out) while I was warming up,” Middlebrooks said. “It was real bittersweet because I came here and only wrestled one match. It felt good to win but I still wanted to wrestle more than one match, at least show what I’m made of.”

It was quite a contrast to 2016 regionals, when Middlebrooks finished behind the eventual 285 fourth- and fifth-place state finishers.

“He was in arguably the toughest bracket of any regional in the state,” Collins said. “(Not advancing) was something that really hurt. His last couple of weeks have probably been his best of practice.”

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