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Wrestling: Experience could help many local 3A qualifiers

More than a third of the area’s Class 3A wrestling state qualifiers have been through the routine before, and four have won state medals.

For the 11 individuals who will be making their second or third trip to the IHSA wrestling finals in Champaign, it’s time to reach the awards stand, or for a few, to challenge for a state title.

Providence senior Cole Smith (40-2) placed second last season and was fifth the year before. This year he’s ranked second at 160 pounds after winning the Alton Sectional title.

Another Celtic senior who will be making his third straight state trip is Dominick Ambrose (35-10), who is seeking his first medal. He lost to Marian Catholic’s Holden Heller in the 138-pound title match at the sectional.

“Each week in the postseason, coach (Keith) Healy told us the goal is to win your next match and just keep advancing,” Ambrose said. “At state, I know where I’m at and where I can be, and everything is in God’s hands since he has a plan for me and my teammates.”

Celtic junior Josh Ramos (40-6) didn’t qualify for state in 2017 after advancing in his freshman season. He finished third in the sectional at 145 pounds and also seeks his first medal.

“After not being there last year, this feels good,” Ramos said. “For my teammates who did make it, from 138 through 160, we all practice together and push each other through.”

Plainfield East senior Anthony Zamora (36-7) is hopeful that his third trip to state results in his first medal. He is coming off a third-place finish at 120 pounds in the sectional.

“Getting back feels great, but this year I have a bigger goal,” Zamora said. “I’m trying to get on the podium. That’s my main goal. It’s my senior year, so I have nothing to lose, and I’ll put everything on the mat. A lot of people are rooting for me, and I want to make my family proud.”

Lockport’s Matt Ramos and Anthony Molton not only qualified for state a year ago, but also earned spots on the awards stand. The juniors are looking to win medals again this season.

Ramos (43-5), who was fifth a year ago at state, took third in the sectional at 113 pounds, while Molton (42-7), who was fourth last year, was the sectional runner-up at 120.

“After my semifinal loss to (Noah) Surtin, I knew I had to go out there and do whatever it takes to win,” Matt Ramos said. “I should do really well at state. I felt awesome with my performance on Saturday at the sectional, so I should feel even better at state.”

Molton also feels good about his chances for another visit to the awards stand.

“Winning in the semifinals took a ton of pressure off of me and was a big relief,” Molton said. “I’ve been working really hard and I haven’t taken anything for granted. I’ve just been in a grind and it’s been paying off for me right now.”

While Lockport senior Zach Reese (30-10) returns to state after winning the 152 sectional title, Porter sophomore James Pierandozzi (11-1) took third at 138 in the sectional. Although he missed much of the season, he’s confident that he’ll do well in his second state trip.

“It’s a great feeling making it back to state,” Pierandozzi said. “I was a little disappointed with my performance since I lost a match I think I could have won.”

The area’s best title hopes is Plainfield North senior Matt Hennessey, who owns a 40-0 record after winning the 220 title in the state’s toughest sectional at that weight. After finishing sixth a year ago, Hennessey has been top-ranked throughout the season.

Plainfield South junior Enzo Silva (40-7) will make his second-straight state trip after falling to Edwardsville’s Noah Surtin 3-0 in the 113 Alton finals. He’s the Cougars’ lone qualifier.

“We’ve been practicing really hard and grinding and after training all year to get to state, now we’re here and I’m ready to go,” Silva said. “I wrestled (Surtin) really smart and he was strong. There were a lot of tough kids in this sectional, so it came down to who executed.”

Lincoln-Way West senior Kyle Quinn (34-11) earned his second-straight state trip after taking fourth place at 170. He joined four other Warriors who qualified in consolation semifinals matches.

“We knew that we’d have a bunch of tough matches and the blood round was really huge for us,” Quinn said. “We knew if we wrestled like we had the whole year that we’d punch our tickets. It’s going to be really exciting and coach is so happy for us so it will be a good week.”

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