By Mark Gregory
CHAMPAIGN — Coming into Bolingbrook High School four years ago, Isaiah Herrera was not an athlete.
On the suggestion of friends, he attended the Raiders’ open mat and the rest is history.
“I had some friends that were wrestling and they told me to come to open mats and I didn’t know because I wasn’t very athletic,” I was in the middle school playing in band and I am still in it – but I became athletic.”
So, while he has not given up the French Horn, Herrera has added another line to his list of accomplishments — IHSA Class 3A state qualifier at 195 pounds.
“I am a state qualifier now. It is with my name and I have a helluva heart,” he said. “It was intense. I pushed through all my abilities and had dogfights. I feel that if people were talking crap, I showed them.”
While earning a medal was his ultimate goal, Herrera knows what he did was an accomplishment – especially coming from where he started.
“This is an unbelievable experience and I got to live it. I go to be on those mats, under those lights,” he said. “I had to embrace the grind and I came a long way.”
Herrera opened the tournament with a 13-7 win over Dalton Hambrock of Machesney Park Harlem. He was then defeated by eventual state champion Patrick Brucki of Sandburg 12-2.
Herrera advanced through the opening round of wrestlebacks via medical forfeit over Michael Milito of Maine South before falling 4-3 to O’Fallon’s Kobey Bosworth, leaving him one match shy of earning a state medal.
The other state qualifier for Bolingbrook was junior Dylan Burnoski at 126.
Burnoski fell in the opening round 6-0 to Trevor Chumbley of Marmion Academy.
As Herrera leaves the program, he is hoping the young Raiders follow his path to the state finals.
“A loss is hard, but you can always recover from it and not worry about the what-ifs,” he said. “I want the young kids to enjoy it and have fun with it. This is the most fun you are going to have in high school. The only time you should ever beat yourself up is at practice – other than that, have fun. If you are not having fun with it – you shouldn’t be doing it.”