By Mark Gregory
When the Homer Junior High wrestling team won the Illinois Elementary School state title in 2013, it did so with six members of its team now on the Lockport High School varsity roster.
At the time, Porters coach Josh Oster knew he may have something specials in that group.
“We knew coming in that this was a group that could win something depending how things shook out and it shook out right,” Oster said.
What shook out for Lockport was a 33-20 win over Montini Catholic to claim the Class 3A IHSA state title and sew up an undefeated 29-0 campaign.
“This is a special team and a special year and this was a great day,” Oster said. “Montini is awesome – they wrestle hard and have fun. I couldn’t imagine a better atmosphere for this dual. There was no tension between teams. The kids love wrestling and hats off to them for wrestling their asses off. Coach Izzy [Israel Martinez] had them ready and it was a fun dual.”
Senior Abdullah Assaf said the Porters’ title and record should be enough to shut the book on the season.
“We are undisputed, undefeated champions,” he said. “Teams can talk all they want, no one has beat us and no one will beat us this year. We won by 13 points in the final. If you want to dispute that we are the best team in the state, Class 1A, 2A, 3A, you can come find us at Lockport and we will wrestle you. I don’t know what else we can show you to prove we are the best.”
In the finals, Montini jumped out to a lead over the Porters, taking a 7-0 lead after the opening two matches and 145 and 152 pounds.
Then, Lockport turned up the heat.
Individual state champion Trevell Timmons, who also won an individual title for the Homer team in 2013, defeated Montini’s Matthew Ortiz 7-4.
“We are so excited,” Timmons said. “We won it all. I got two titles now, the individual and the team. The best way to end it is with an undefeated state title. All the schools that said we would be upset – we showed them. We proved that we are No. 1.”
Nicholas Dado (170) then defeated Anthony Geraci 12-5 and Chandler Proszek (182) beat Peter Christiansen 4-2.
It was then when the Porters brought out the big boys.
Lockport earned three straight pins from Payton Fernandes (195) over Patrick Peters (1:45), Yousif Salah (220) over Christian Pirog (2:38) and Ronald Tucker (285) over Michael McNicholas (2:50).
“We knew they were super tough 106 to 170 and we knew that we needed to make some hay up top,” Oster said. “It is hard to predict pins in the state finals, so we were counting on major decisions from Payton, Yousif and Ronald, knowing that if we got pins from all of them we would be in the drivers’ seat and they came through with that.”
Tucker said the guys at the top weights understood their roles.
“The key to our success this year has been 160 and up. We haven’t really had the bigger guys, but this year we did,” Tucker said.
After Tucker, Montini earned three straight wins, but only earned one bonus point.
Then at 126, Brendan Ramsey, who was also part of the Homer state team, sealed the match for the Porters with a 14-7 win over Devin Hoovel.
“I went out there and did what I needed to do and make my team happy,” Ramsey said. “We have been working our tails off all year and this is the greatest feeling ever.”
The Porters reached the state finals by defeating Marmion Academy in the quarterfinals and beating Lincoln-Way West 50-9 in the semifinals.
Montini beat Deerfield 41-27 in the quarters and upset two-time defending champions Oak Park-River Forest 29-26 in the semis.
“When Montini upset OP-RF, not only did it help us, but with all the trash talking OP-RF had been doing, it wasn’t a good look for them,” Tucker said.
The team trophy was the third in a row for Lockport as it took third last season and fourth the year before.
Assaf, a champion on the 2013 Homer squad, said he is happy to earn a state title for the program and his head coach.
“I wouldn’t be the wrestler, I wouldn’t be the person. I can’t thank these guys enough. I love our wrestlers and our coaches, everyone has helped me – even if it has been the smallest little piece,” he said. “Especially Josh, he has been like a father to me and I am so happy we could get that title for him. I know he has wanted it just as bad as I wanted my individual one and if I couldn’t have mine, I am happy we got him his.”