What coach said: Boys wrestling state edition

OPRF's Ogunsanya places first

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By James Kay

Sports Editor

In this week's edition of What Coach Said, we are highlighting boys wrestling.

Fenwick and OPRF's wrestling teams have had their ups and downs this season, but both programs saw their best wrestlers turn out strong performances at the 2A (Fenwick) and 3A (OPRF) IHSA state finals. On Feb. 23, Fenwick's wrestling head coach Seth Gamino and OPRF's assistant coach Jamil Smart reflected on the success of their wrestlers. Here is what they had to say:

After spending his first four years as an assistant coach at Fenwick, Seth Gamino took over the reins of the Friars' wrestling program. Here is what he had to say about his first trip down to state as a head coach and how his group of state qualifiers went at it against Illinois' best wrestlers.

On Zuber's fourth place finish at 2A 160 lb class…

"Matt Zuber placed that high because he is Matt Zuber. He worked his butt off all year and I can't tell you how many nights we would end practice and tell him, 'Hey buddy, you have to get going because I have to go to work [at Gamino's other job] because you can't be here without me.' There are a lot of athletes and wrestlers who wonder why they don't accomplish their goals but don't ask themselves if they put in the work. I can attest to Matt Zuber putting in the work."

On Zuber bouncing back after initial loss…

"Matt [Zuber] faced an opponent from Crystal Lake and he had wrestled [Crystal Lake wrestler Caden Ernd] earlier this year but [Ernd] got the better of us and lost the decision 5-1. The good thing is down state it is double elimination, so we weren't too discouraged after the loss. [Zuber] came back Friday on fire. He was focused, loose, and wrestled some of the best matches I have ever seen from him and I've coached him for four years."

On sophomore Jimmy Liston's performance at state (placed eighth in 285 lb class)…

"It's hard because everybody wants to win when they go to state but I try to keep the kids focused and centered and tell them, 'Hey this is a huge thing qualifying for state as a sophomore.' Usually at his weight, there are a lot of juniors and seniors who have chest hair [laughs] and are bigger. He did amazing and wrestled very well down at state but big seniors are hard to overcome. I told Jimmy afterwards, 'Now that we have state out of the way, next year you have experience and know what it's like being under the lights.' He was excited about wrestling as well as he did."


After a dominant performance at sectionals the week before, OPRF saw more of the same success in Champaign with Joshua Ogunsanya placing first in the 3A 145 weight class. His teammates Joe Chapman (152 lb. weight class) and Daemyen Middlebrooks (195 lb. weight class) placed third in their respective classes. Fabian Gonzalez also placed and finished eighth in the 285 lb. weight class. Here is what assistant coach Jamil Smart had to say about how the four wrestlers did at state:

On Ogunsanya dominates despite MCL injury…

"The beautiful part about Josh's performance is that, at the state meet, he didn't give up one offensive point. He didn't get taken down and didn't get turned. It was truly a dominant performance from him. What stood out most for me this season was that knee injury he had. He had a knee injury right before the Doc B Invitational, and that was a tough time for him because we weren't exactly sure what we were going to do with him. Do we rest the knee? Do we test it and see how it respond? Ultimately, he decided to push through it and see what he could achieve, and I knew at that point he was ready to take on any adversity he was going to face."

On Jacob Rundell's third place finish…

"It's tough for him because he had his eyes set on a state championship and that's the only thing he has been training for and the only thing he has ever wanted. For him to lose a semi-final match and comeback and win a third-place finish in the state was profoundly mature of him. We are really proud of our seniors because they have shown that when they face adversity they can focus and dial it back in and still achieve an amazing performance. Jacob did that for us."

On Daemyen Middlebrooks' resilience…

"Daemyen is a special kid. We have a phrase in wrestling where we say, 'When you are on, you're on' and he just gets in that zone where no one can touch him. What was special is that he had to face the No. 1 kid in the state, who had an undefeated record, and he dropped that match 5-3. He pushed it to the brink and worked as hard as he could but just couldn't secure the victory. When he walked off that mat, he wasn't broken or defeated. He was so focused and the first thing he said was, 'I am coming back for third [place].' That's exactly what he did and he pinned his next two opponents." 


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