BLOOMINGTON — From the opening draw to determine which weight would start the IHSA State Finals, it looked as though fate was against the Minooka Indians. The meet started at the 120-pound class, and though the bouts are ultimately determined in the circle, sometimes a slow start can dictate what happens between a wrestler's ears.
Minooka got two of Marmion's state champions in the first four weights, watched the Cadets bolt to a 14-0 lead and then cruise past the Indians by a 39-14 score in the quarterfinals.
"Starting at 20 obviously put them in a better position than us," Minooka coach Jeff Charlebois said. "But I tell the kids that they are only supposed to focus on themselves and the six minutes they are out there. Still, you're talking about 15-18 year old kids, and when they come out and see a couple of their buddies going down like that, they start thinking 'oh boy'."
Not only did Marmion have that going for them, coach Ryan Cumbee elected to bump up the first four weights, as well, and it paid off.
"They have good backups at those weights and can shift guys around," Minooka senior Corbett Oughton said. "I don't know if starting there (120) hurt us, but they do have depth there. The thing is that we're supposed to worry about our own matches at the time."
At 120, freshman A.J. Jaffe beat Shane Mart 3-0 and state champion Johnny Jiminez beat Bret Miller by technical fall 18-1 in 3:28. At 132, Jake Field beat Danny Ruettiger 7-4 in overtime and at 138 state champion George Fisher beat Mike McNulty 5-1.
"We were down at the beginning, but you're supposed to look at your opponent and do what you have to in order to win," Ruettiger said. "Yeah, they had tough wrestlers at the beginning, but I thought we did a good job of not giving up bonus points."
It was a point of emphasis for the Indians coming in.
"Giving up bonus points will get you," Oughton said. "We didn't give up a lot of bonus points, but we also needed to win some swing matches."
Ruettiger's swing match loss was tough because both wrestlers fought hard and two of the senior's OT points allowed came in the waning moments in the next to last 30 second period.
"We've harped on the kids about not giving up bonus points and they did well with that today. What did we give up, two bonus points in the first four weights?" Charlebois asked. "The overtime loss hurt. Winning swing matches was huge coming in too and that's what got us."
Ruettiger feels he let one slip away in the extra sessions.
"I should have stayed in a better position. If I could have pulled that out, it very well could have changed the momentum at the time," Ruettiger said. "I think the team wrestled pretty good today, though some of the matches could have gone better. But we wrestled tough and did what we could."
Carson and Corbett Oughton got Minooka on the board with its first points. Carson beat Trace Carello 4-1 and Corbett beat Matt Ferraro by tech fall 17-2 at 5:37. Just two more wins remained in the cards for the Indians, however, as Nathan Gunn beat Nathan Traxler 7-3 at 182 and at 220 Erik Velazquez beat Raul Jaimes 6-1.
Jeff Klank (160), Chris Hiscock (170), Josh Bouie (195), David Newman (285), K.J. Minor (106) and Andrew Potts (113) were also in the lineup, though suffering losses.
The Indians lose three seniors after this year to graduation in Ruettiger, McNulty and Corbett Oughton.
"We pulled through at the end of the year," Ruettiger said. "We regrouped and had a lot of people pick up the slack. We got stronger and made it back to the Elite 8."
After five straight trips to team state, it's now a goal the Indians have every year.
"We lose the three seniors, but when you look at our lineup, we had three freshman, four sophomores and four juniors out there today," Charlebois pointed out. "Now it's about getting back to work and letting these kind of disappointments fuel you next year."
Minooka finishes the dual season with a 14-8 record.
"I've had four great years with the team. This year we started with some injuries and things like that, but once we got everything settled, by the end of the year we were tough," Corbett Oughton said. "I look for this team to be back again next year. I'll be back with the team next year and be down here when they qualify for state again."