Freshmen rally OPRF past Montini
Montini's Anthony Ferraro tries to take down Oak Park-River Forest's Malik Brumant in the 220 lb. weight class on Jan. 23, 2013 in Oak Park . | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 5, 2013 10:07PM
OAK PARK — Oak Park-River Forest’s freshmen aren’t being treated like rookies anymore and they’re not wrestling like newbies, either.
Freshmen Isaiah White and Kamal Bey both beat returning state placers to highlight a stunning comeback for the Huskies Wednesday night against Montini.
Down 14 points after nine bouts, No. 2 Oak Park swept the final five matches to earn a hard-fought 34-29 victory. It was Montini’s first loss to an Illinois opponent since the Broncos lost 30-21 to Sandburg in the Class AA state final in 2007.
Johnny Gahagan, whose decision clinched the Huskies’ victory over No. 3 Sandburg on Jan. 12, put Oak Park ahead for good with a 3-1 overtime decision against Luke Fortuna at 145 pounds. Then Bey won 9-5 over Michael Sepke at 152, holding off Sepke’s bid for a tying takedown on a scramble at the edge of the mat with less than 40 seconds left and getting the clinching takedown in the last five seconds.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Bey said of having the match rest on his shoulders. “But when I see my team and how much they want it, I realize that I can do anything.”
Gahagan saw his win as a kind of redemption after he gutted out a one-point win over a Sandburg backup in his last big dual match.
“This one feels a lot better than the last one,” he said. “I wrestled real sloppy in the last one. I took a lot of bad shots, got myself in a little bad situation at times [against Fortuna]. But I kept pushing, taking shots, stayed on offense the whole time.
“I knew going into overtime we had it. I trusted my conditioning, trusted what we do in the room.”
Oak Park’s comeback started with White’s 3-1 victory over Jordan Laster at 126, making it 29-18. Sophomore Larry Early won 11-3 over Jose Champagne at 132 and Jake O’Mara pinned Chris Garcia in 2:44, cutting the deficit to 29-28 and setting the stage for Gahagan and Bey.
The Oak Park freshmen came in with plenty of hype based on their exploits in age-group wrestling, and they haven’t disappointed.
“They’ve matured,” Huskies coach Mike Powell said. “I think about Christmas time, we told them they’re not getting treated like freshmen anymore, they’re going to get yelled at just like everybody else. And they’ve responded. They’re tough, resilient kids.”
Those words have long described the Broncos, who have won five consecutive state titles and 10 since 2000. But Montini coach Israel Martinez thought the Huskies had a little more in the tank than his wrestlers.
“They had more fire at the end of matches,” Martinez said. “Our guys were spent. ... They’re a great team and they have some competitors on their team. Our guys just didn’t compete like they could have today.”
Oak Park also had pins from Davonte Mahomes (160) and Joe Ariola (195) along with a decision from Robert Campos, who beat Jimmy Pawelski 6-0 at 106.
Montini had a fall from Edgar Ruano (285), technical falls from Xavier Montalvo (170) and Anthony Ferraro (220) and a major decision from Jake Turk (182). Tommy Pawelski beat Gabe Townsell 3-0 at 113 and Vince Turk won by forfeit at 120 to push Montini’s lead to 29-15.