Ariola, Early advance to Class 3A championship
Oak Park River-Forest's Joe Ariola reacts after his semi-final win during the IHSA State wrestling tournament at Assembly Hall in Champaign on Friday, February 15, 2013. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 5:42PM
CHAMPAIGN — Two of Oak Park-River Forest’s three undefeated wrestlers advanced to Saturday night’s Class 3A state finals.
Senior Joe Ariola (45-0) and sophomore Larry Early (45-0) emerged from the four OPRF semifinalists Friday night at Assembly Hall. The championships begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Early will compete against Marmion’s George Fisher (46-4) in the 132-pound final. Fisher won the 119 title in Class 2A in 2011. Ariola will face Homewood-Flossmoor’s Donnie Bell (33-6) in 182.
Early beat Plainfield Central’s Ryan Holzrichter (41-9) 4-3 to reach the finals.
“I got to ride him out,” Early said. “That is something I’m not supposed to do, but it happened. Fisher is the guy I wanted, too.”
Early placed third last year at 120. He missed a possible matchup with Fisher earlier this year when OPRF defeated Marmion Jan. 24 in a dual meet in Aurora. Early stayed behind that day with the flu.
“I know he’s tough on the top. I’m better on my feet,” Early said. “That’s basically it. I believe as long as I’m up on top, I’ll win.”
Ariola avoided a takedown with 20 seconds remaining in his match against Joliet Central’s Sharod Wilson (43-4) to win 3-1.
“I was really nervous,” Ariola said. “(Coach Mike) Powell told me to wrestle hard and have a strong mind-set. I kept my cool. I didn’t let any mental problems overcome me.”
Ariola won all three of his matches downstate by two points.
“This is so exciting. I have been thinking about this since the first day of wrestling (practice) this year,” Ariola said. “It’s crazy.”
Two of OPRF’s five freshmen at state lost their semifinal matches. Isaiah White (126) lost 3-1 to Harlem’s Jordan Northrup. Undefeated Kyle Langenderfer of Lincoln-Way East pinned Kamal Bey in 3:05 to win at 152.
It is the second year in the row that the Huskies will have two finalists. Last year, Sam Brooks won 182 and Matthew Rundell placed second at 106.
Rundell lost this year to eventual state finalist Sebastian Pique in Thursday’s opener and to Joliet Central’s Treyvon Zabala in Friday’s wrestlebacks.