This weekend’s Rex Whitlach Invitational at Hinsdale Central should be memorable for two key reasons:
1. The tournament field is the toughest in its history … maybe even tougher than the landmark Al Dvorak Memorial Invitational next week at Rockford’s Harlem High.
2. It will be the only on-the-mat meeting this season between Sandburg, ranked No. 1 in 3A by the Illinois Best Weekly, and Montini, ranked No. 1 in 2A.
The two schools established quite a rivalry in the last decade, when they regularly squared off against each other at the Dvorak and in the Clash National Duals in Rochester, Minn. That rivalry reached its peak in the 2007 Class AA dual-team state final, back in the days of the two-class system, when the Eagles beat the Broncos–in what many considered an upset–to earn the last of their three straight state titles.
But neither of those showdowns will take place this place. Sandburg pulled out of the Dvorak last year, and Montini decided not to travel to The Clash this year, opting for Hinsdale Central instead.
In fact, the Broncos are the only team that will be competing both at Hinsdale Central and in the Dvorak. All that on the heels of their annual appearance last weekend in what might be the nation’s toughest tournament, at least individually: the Walsh Ironman Invitational in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where they finished 15th.
Talk about your basic three-week gauntlet.
As for Sandburg, they made their usual short work of the field at the Wheeling Invitational last weekend, scoring 246 points (runnerup Lane Tech had 163) and crowning seven champions: Jim Pellegrino (106), Jim Panozzo (113), state champion Sebastian Pique (120), John Pellegrino (132), two-time state placewinner Colin Holler (152), Cadet National champion Ricky Robertson (182) and still-unbeaten Bill Gore (195).
The message boards were hoping for a match between Holler and Lane Tech ace Max Schneider, but the match never took place. Schneider dropped to 145 instead, earning the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award in the process.
Holler could join him this weekend as the Eagles bring several wrestlers down to their certified weights for the tourney. Expect to see the same thing throughout the area and the state over the next week or so.
A couple of key weights at Hinsdale Central are 106 and 120. The pressure will be on Montini’s Tommy Pawelski and Sandburg’s Jim Pellegrino to score big points at 106, and state champions Pique and Montini’s KeVon Powell could meet in a 120-pound final with more than just pride on the line.
The team noise will be primarily made by Sandburg and Montini, but there are nearly 30 other teams competing at Hinsdale Central–and their performances will dictate the team fortunes of the top two. It’s an extremely intriguing field this year. Virtually every team competing in the Whitlatch has one or two individuals who will make noise … but none likely have the numbers that will be needed to challenge the top two.
And that’s why every match … in every round … will be key. Don’t leave your seat. You’re bound to miss something important.