Fenwick High School senior Jimmy Liston came into the IHSA wrestling Class 2A individual state finals Feb. 17-19 at the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus hoping to add another championship to his portfolio, already having won an IHSA Class 5A football title last fall as the center on the Friars’ team.
In the first round of the tournament’s 285-pound competition, Liston pinned Aurora Christian’s Braden Hunter at 2 minutes, 29 seconds. He then defeated Raymond Begay of Chicago Kennedy 2-1 in the quarterfinals and followed up with a 5-2 decision over Alex Hamrick of Chatham Glenwood in the semifinals.
For championship match, Liston faced Dillan Johnson of Joliet Catholic, who came in with a 33-0 record. It figured to be a challenge for Liston, and ultimately one he wasn’t able to overcome as Johnson pinned him at 1:30 to win the state title.
“He’s a very good opponent and you run into those people sometimes,” said Liston, who finished with a 35-5 record. “The adversity is only going to make me better in the long run and it’s a good life lesson to have.”
Overall, Liston was very pleased with his season, believing he proved a point after spending the season unranked.
“When I look back, I feel I have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “I wasn’t ranked the whole year and I wasn’t supposed to make it out of sectionals, but I found a way. Even while downstate I was predicted to go 0-2 on the first day. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished. The one match at the end doesn’t define the type of season I had.”
Having won a football title and coming so close to adding a wrestling championship, Liston says the last few months have been the best time of his life.
“The Fenwick athletic experience, I wouldn’t trade any moment of it,” he said. “I’m so proud of how far I’ve come not only as a person, but as an athlete and a student.”
Two other Friars — brothers Conor and Martin Paris — also wrestled in Champaign. Conor Paris (29-9) defeated Colin Ashley of Brother Rice 8-4 in the first round at 182 pounds, then won his quarterfinal over Caden Moore of Joliet Catholic 5-2.
In the semifinals, Conor Paris lost to Shane Moran of Crystal Lake South via technical fall, placing him in the wrestlebacks. There he lost to Lake Forest’s Charlie Heydorn 4-0 and then lost to Moe Khalil of Lemont 1-0 to finish in sixth place.
Martin Paris lost his opening-round match at 160 pounds to Brother Rice’s Nate Chirillo 14-3. But he bounced back in his first wrestleback, defeating Carbondale’s Isaiah Duckworth 4-0. In the next match, Martin lost via pin to Sterling’s Thomas Tate, ending his year with a 20-14 record.
Still, Liston was glad the Paris brothers, also part of Fenwick’s championship football team, were there with him.
“It was a cool experience having them with me,” he said. “They’re my two closest friends.”
Liston will now focus on workouts as he’ll continue his football career at Purdue University in the fall.
OPRF’s Dunson ends season 20-5
Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Jalen Dunson went 1-2 in his 120-pound matches in the IHSA Class 3A state wrestling finals to end his season with a 20-5 record.
Dunson lost his opening-round match 13-7 to Joey Maitio of Lincoln-Way Central. In the first wrestleback, he defeated Hersey’s Esteban Delgado via major decision, but then was pinned in the next round by Libertyville’s Caelan Riley to knock him out of the competition.