BLOOMINGTON – With every deafening roar from the Orange-clad fans, the Marian Central bench couldn’t help but peek to its right to see what all the commotion was about. That’s where Washington was wrestling Coal City for the Class 2A state championship, and that’s where the Hurricanes had hoped to wrestle.
While the rowdy Washington fans celebrated the school’s fourth consecutive Class 2A state championship, the Hurricanes resigned themselves to the fact that they were wrestling for third.
A third-place trophy wasn’t what Marian had hoped for entering Saturday at Grossinger Motors Arena, but it still marked a new height for the program at the IHSA dual team state tournament.
“I’m so happy for the guys,” Marian coach David Silva said. “They really worked hard. We lost a heartbreaker to Coal City.”
The Hurricanes dropped their semifinal by the slimmest of margins, 30-29, to Coal City. The Coalers’ 182-pound state champion, Daniel Jezik, won by major decision, 16-5, over Marian’s Cade Bokowy in the final match, securing a one-point victory.
“Tough loss against Coal City,” Marian two-time state champion Dylan Connell said. “We just couldn’t let that bring our heads down. We had to keep going strong.”
Marian (25-1) rebounded to win the third-place dual, 44-18, against Troy Triad.
Marian came into the tournament ranked No. 2 in Class 2A by both state rankings, while Coal City was No. 3. The semifinal matchup lived up to the hype.
Lou Gaddy (195 pounds), Thor Paglialong (285), Josh Glover (106), Elon Rodriguez (113), Bryce Shelton (138), Connell (160) and Joey Fitzgerald (170) won matches for Marian in the semifinal, but collectively they came up one point short.
Any one of a number of matches could have changed the outcome. The biggest one might have been at 132, where Marian fourth-place state medalist Daniel Valeria was out with an injury. Valeria suffered an avulsion fracture and a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow during the individual state third-place match last week.
“There was a lot of things that we could have done differently,” Silva said. “Obviously, we didn’t have our 132-pounder. We don’t have quite the depth that other teams have, and that was our downfall.”
The Hurricanes were undefeated heading into the weekend. They defeated Chatham Glenwood, 49-18, in the morning quarterfinal to advance to the semifinals and assure themselves a trophy.
When Silva was named coach three years ago, Marian was coming off a 2015-16 season during which it went 10-10. Within two seasons, the Hurricanes had their first individual state champion (Connell) in 31 years, and their first trip to the dual team state meet. Now, in Silva’s third season, the Hurricanes are taking home a trophy from dual team state for the first time.
Plus, they will have all but four seniors returning next season. They return seven of their eight state qualifiers and all four of their individual medalists.
Senior Joey Fitzgerald is one of three seniors (along with Aiden McCrea and Bokowy) who wrestled all four years.
“We were sub-par,” Fitzgerald said of the team his freshman season. “We didn’t even have a full lineup. I knew [Silva] previously, before he came to Marian. He turned it around just as fast as anyone could probably ever imagine.”
Fitzgerald won all three of his matches Saturday to end his high school career. He said that three years ago he would have had a hard time imagining the Hurricanes taking home a trophy.
“I just knew that when [Silva] came in the room, everything was going to change and we were going to get the ball rolling,” Fitzgerald said. “And this is where we ended up.”