Lyons Township High School senior wrestler Ben Zeman brought a lot of preparation to the IHSA Class 3A Downers Grove South Individual Sectional on Feb. 5.
“I’ve been wrestling for like 14 years now,” Zeman said. “I started in kindergarten. I love it.”
Zeman enjoyed one of his finest accomplishments by being among the Lions’ three champions and eight individuals who advanced to the Hinsdale Central Individual Sectional on Feb. 12 with top-three regional finishes.
Junior Cooper King (9-5 record at 195 pounds) and sophomore Gunnar Garelli (30-9 at 126) also won titles.
Seniors Willy Takash (9-6 at 160) and Cooper Schodrof (20-4 at 170) were second, and junior Calum Rogers (14-14 at 152) and sophomores Sam Costello (19-17 at 285) and Kellan Knop (12-14 at 182) were third.
One victory from advancing were fourth-place senior Patrick Jesse (14-10 at 113), junior Jackson Garelli (5-18 at 120) and freshman Claudio Rodriguez (4-18 at 132).
Top-four sectional finishers advance to the individual state finals. None of the Lions has previously qualified for the state meet.
“Overall, I thought it was a great team performance,” LTHS coach Griff Powell said. “Any time you can get 11 guys [out of 14] all in a position to qualify, that’s a great thing. We got eight through and three champs. We always like regional champs.”
Zeman (25-13), who won the 145-pound title, is the son of Matt Zeman, a 135-pound all-stater for the Lions in 1991-92, and grandson of RBHS coaching legend Otto Zeman.
Ben Zeman pinned Downers South’s Connor Kelly in 4:46 for the title following an uplifting semifinal. Zeman pinned Hinsdale Central’s Aaron Perez in 38 seconds after previously losing twice to Perez by scores of 13-11 in overtime and 10-9.
“That [semifinal] was a big win for me,” Zeman said. “I felt more relaxed [in the final match]. I went out there and just wrestled how I wrestle and overall I felt a lot better, not nervous.”
In their finals, King pinned Downers North’s Griff Keown in 1:25 and Gunnar Garelli defeated Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Cooper Lacey 8-2.
“I wanted to win by a little more but it’s always a good start to get first place in the regional and get some momentum into sectionals,” Garelli said.
King hoped to win regionals like older brother Griffin, now wrestling at Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but had just returned to competition Jan. 21 after tearing his left meniscus Nov. 27 at the Barrington Invite. Helping with his recovery was his grandfather and LTHS assistant coach Mark King.
“He’s been keeping me in shape the whole year. I’ve been kept up with conditioning,” King said. “I’m ready to go [for sectionals]. I feel really confident.”
Schodrof was edged by Downers South’s Will Schuessler 3-2. In his third-place match, Rogers never trailed in winning 6-4. Knop (9-3) and Costello (7-1) captured third by six points each.
“I’m not even a true heavyweight. There’s some people that are 220 to 285. I’m 214 and took on some 265-pound kids so that’s amazing,” Costello said. “I’ve evolved to become a way better wrestler than freshman year.”