MINOOKA — For the fourth straight year now at the IHSA State Finals, Minooka and Glenbard North come together on the mat. When the Panthers and Indians shake 'em up and renew acquaintances at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum at 11 a.m. Saturday, it will also mark a rematch of last year's state finals.
"We are both one of the top teams in Illinois year in and year out," Minooka coach Paige Schoolman said. "We have had to wrestle them each of the last three years at some point in this tournament, so wrestling them at team state is expected. The kids are looking forward to the challenges ahead of them this weekend."
Earlier this season, the two teams met with Minooka winning 42-21, but North's football team had just concluded a playoff run to the semifinals, and some key wrestlers in the upper weight classes were not in the lineup.
"They were missing a few kids in November, so they are a different team now than compared to then," Schoolman said.
Last year in the finals, North won 31-24. The year the Indians were champions, 2010, Minooka won 30-21 and the year before that, Minooka won 27-20.
Schoolman was asked if he thought his team was feeling any added pressure having been in the finals for each of the last three years.
"If there is pressure, I believe it's good pressure," he said. "There is a level of expectation and experience that these kids have that is beneficial to them as a team. They know the routine and what to expect out of the weekend, but most importantly, they believe in each other and this program. These kids expect to be wrestling on Saturday night."
Which would mean a win over North in the first round.
North is currently ranked third by Illinois Matmen while Minooka is eighth. Oak Park-River Forest is currently at the top of the 3A list.
The Indians are currently at 20-3 on the season with losses to Lockport, Marist and Sandburg. Both Sandburg and Lockport meet in the other quarterfinal bracket with the winner of that getting the North/Minooka winner.
In addition to the loss to the Indians, North (19-4) has also been beaten by Lincoln-Way Central, Lowell, Mich. and Sandburg. The Panthers advanced to state by beating South Elgin 74-4.
North has nine wrestlers with better than 30 wins in the lineup, including: Richard Browne at 106 (38-9), Cris Gonzalez at 112 (45-10), Jered Cortez at 120 (48-0), Jon Marmolego at 126 (43-7), Johnny Gosinski at 132 (38-9), Cody Brandle at 138 (33-17), Dan Johnson at 145 (31-13) and Jimique Davis at 160 (32-19). Browne, Gonzales, Cortez, Marmolego, Gosinski, Brian Murphy (31-1 at 152), Dan Fierro (28-13 at 182) and Dan Eldridge (29-12 at 195) were the team's state qualifiers.
Minooka has four kids with 30-plus wins and had six state qualifiers — one of which is no longer with the team.
Schoolman said that his team is excited to get down to the Coliseum and to get things going on Saturday.
"The kids are excited to represent their community and school," Schoolman said. "Each individual needs to know their role and what is expected out of them in each match. To get to the finals, we will need a complete team effort."