Wrestling: Shepard may be ‘toughest sectional ever’
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media February 7, 2013 10:30PM
Mount Carmel's Bryce Brill (left) and Brother Rice's Nuntrae Jackson. | File photo
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:08AM
There’s never an easy path to the state tournament, but it’s obvious certain roads are more hazardous than others. Any competitor advancing to Friday’s and Saturday’s Shepard 3A Individual Sectional can relate.
“In my 20 years of coaching, this is probably the most difficult, competitive field I’ve ever been a part of,” Shepard coach Scott Richardson said. “I’m amazed at the quality of kids and schools here.”
Mount Carmel coach John Kading and Marist coach Brendan Heffernan agreed.
“I’ve been telling people this is the toughest sectional I’ve ever seen,” Heffernan said.
In all, eight returning state finalists and a whopping 19 returning state medalists will be in the field at Shepard.
The top four wrestlers from each bracket move to the Feb. 14 through 16 state meet in Champaign. Opening bouts kickoff at 5 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, action starts at 10 a.m., with finals set for approximately 3:30 p.m.
If you can’t get out in person to watch the action, Shepard has implemented “Track Wrestling” so fans can follow the event online.
“Anyone in the country can follow our sectional at trackwrestling.com,” Richardson said. “Each individual match can be found from a computer. You can click on any division and follow the scoring live.”
Here are some other tidbits about the Shepard Sectional:
Toughest weight class
That would be 120 pounds.
The return of Sandburg’s Sebastian Pique, a two-time state finalist back from injury, bolsters a loaded division featuring six returning state qualifiers. Toss in Mount Carmel freshman Jake Tucker, the Catholic League champ whom Kading called a “pinning machine,” and at least two former qualifiers can forget about return trips to Champaign.
Stalking the division is Marmion junior Johnny Jimenez, a Class 2A state champ at 103 pounds in 2011 and 113 in ’12 who is moving up to 3A and 120. He and Pique are in the top half of the bracket, meaning a former state champ will be knocked from title contention by the semifinals.
“Being a coach, I love that Sebastian and Johnny are on the other side of Tucker,” Kading said. “God willing, we’ll meet one of those two in the finals. But Jake’s got to beat two quality kids to get there.”
In the running is Marist state-placer David Kasper, and returning state qualifiers in Geneva’s Brad Martens, Hinsdale Central’s George Tolbert and West Aurora’s Carlos Jaquez. St. Rita’s Colt Kielbasa and Richards’ Corey Willett could also make noise.
A weight to watch
Check out 160 pounds.
Sandburg’s C.J. Brucki upset Marist state medalist Peter Andreotti to win the Marist Regional. The two could meet in a finals rematch, but Andreotti has a tough passage with Brother Rice’s Nuntreae Jackson (27-1) lurking as a likely semifinal opponent. Jackson is a force and defeated St. Rita’s Tyree Lee in an exciting finals for the Mount Carmel Regional crown.
“As a running back in football, Peter is used to people focusing in on him,” Heffernan said. “There are going to be tough kids no matter where you’re at, but (Andreotti) is one of the toughest.”
Strength in numbers
St. Rita conquered the Mount Carmel Regional and qualified its entire 14-man lineup. Sandburg won the Marist Regional and advanced 13, one fewer than the RedHawks (14). State power Marmion (13) and Hinsdale Central (11) also enter with regional crowns.
Potential fireworks final
Marist junior Mark Duda vs. Thornton sophomore Kris Williams (113 pounds)
The pair collided last week in the finals of the Marist Regional. Duda, a two-time state medalist, notched an impressive 5-3 decision over the previously unbeaten Williams.
“They’re both freak athletes,” Heffernan said. “They key for Mark is wrestling his pace and style. When he feels comfortable out there, he’s dangerous for anyone. He has a lot of different ways to score points.”
Williams was upset last season at the Marist Regional by Kasper, but he went on a roll starting at sectionals en route to the 106-pound state title. The Duda-Williams rivalry seems likely to continue in Champaign and again next season.
Unbeaten Big Ten commits
Mount Carmel junior Bryce Brill and Sandburg senior Ricky Robertson are two nationally ranked and undefeated Big Ten recruits.
Brill verbally committed to Northwestern and is considered a favorite to win state at 145. Brill could see Marist’s Jakada Hull in the sectional semifinals, and either Sandburg Regional winner Alante Walker or St. Rita’s Jack Threloff for the title.
“Bryce is one of the top five hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Kading said. “He’s ferocious in the practice room, the weight room, on the track running sprints ... he does everything full speed.”
Robertson, a Wisconsin signee, is an astounding 83-1 over the past two seasons. The returning state finalist has a stout 195-pound field in front of him, including St. Rita’s regional champ Ben Threloff, Marist state medalist Josh Pruitt, Thornwood’s D’wayne Franklin and Brother Rice’s Bill Siarzega.