By: John Nee '93
Wrestling in arguably one of the toughest individual sectionals in the state, St. Rita Wrestling Coach Mike Boyd '01 knew that it would be tough to get anyone through other than senior Austin O’Connor; but besides O’Connor two other St. Rita grapplers punched their ticket to Champaign by finishing in the top four in their respective weight classes.
Junior Tommy Russell (113 lbs.) notched the upset of the sectional in the semi-finals when he pinned #1 ranked Joey Melendez from Montini. Trailing 11-5 midway through the third and final period, Russell turned the tables on Melendez and pinned him setting off a frenzy throughout the large sectional crowd at Downers Grove South. Russell then lost a hard-fought match to the #3 ranked wrestler in the state at 113 lbs., but his second place finish was good enough for a chance to compete in Champaign this weekend.
Senior Austin O’Connor, the #1-ranked 152 lb. wrestler in the country, pinned his way to his fourth-consecutive individual sectional championship. By pinning all three of his opponents, O’Connor sent the message again to the entire state that he’s primed to become a four-time individual state champ and ultimately one of the most decorated wrestlers in the history of Illinois state wrestling.
Senior Pat Larkin was the third Mustang to punch his ticket to Champaign at 160 lbs. Larkin finished fourth in the sectional by going (3-2) in the tournament.
The individual state championships will begin in Champaign on Thursday as Tommy Russell (22-8) will battle Reese Durlacher (40-7), a sophomore from Mundelein H.S. Pat Larkin will wrestle Dylan Geick (39-1), a senior from Stevenson. Austin O’Connor will take on Jack Damenti (37-5), a senior from Libertyville.