Lyons Township High School senior wrestler Cooper Schodrof already was at the IHSA Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional when he received an interesting voicemail on his cellphone.
“An unknown number, but it came from Washington, D.C.,” Schodrof said.
It was U.S. Rep. Marie Newman informing Schodrof that he had received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“It was one thing to have my mind clear and getting in West Point, so I was able to wrestle with a clear head,” Schodrof said.
On Feb. 12, Schodrof joined sophomore teammate Gunnar Garelli in earning their first trips to the IHSA individual state meet. Both placed third to advance with top-four sectional finishes.
“It feels great. This is probably the best week of my life so far,” Schodrof said. “I’ve got to enjoy it while it lasts.”
At 126 pounds, Garelli (33-10) earned third with a 3-1 victory over Marist’s Jesse Herrera (23-12), No. 10 in the Illinois Wrestling Coaches Association and Officials state rankings.
Schodrof (25-5) finished third at 170 pounds after an injury default by Marist senior and No. 5-ranked Jake Liberatore (18-2), who beat Schodrof 5-0 in the semifinals.
Garelli and Schodrof are rated honorable mention in their weight classes for those on the verge of being ranked top 10. LTHS coach Griff Powell sees them both as contenders for all-state honors in Champaign.
“[Garelli is] poised, confident. This weight at this sectional is extremely competitive. You make it out of this, you’re right in the mix,” Powell said.
Schodrof is perhaps more of an underdog after missing about a month recovering from a hand injury.
“Cooper’s one of the best guys in the state and I think he’s going to prove that,” Powell said. “He’s hard working, great student, great character, the type of kid you want in your program.”
Trying to reach the third-place match with a state meet bid on the line, Schodrof defeated Oak Lawn’s Hani Odeh 6-2 behind a six-point first period.
“[State] was my ultimate goal so I was happy I was able to do it,” Schodrof said. “I’d say [the goal is] just have fun. This is my first chance and my last chance.”
Schodrof has been wrestling since 2010. While training with Izzy Style Wrestling five years ago, he listened to visiting Army coach Kevin Ward and developed his interest to attend there.
“It feels crazy to go to the school of my dreams,” Schodrof said. “My grandpa was a Marine. That kind of finalized my interest in going to West Point when [Ward] spoke about all of the things they had to offer.”
Garelli advanced to the third-place match with a 6-4 victory over Marmion’s Christian Favia (26-13), opening a 5-1 lead with 1:32 left before Favia had a last-second takedown and conceded escape.
Garelli’s three sectional victories were by three or two points.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking being a really close match. Even before the match you kind of know, but you’ve just got to keep focused,” Garelli said. “We’ll see how [state] goes. I’m trying to win a couple of matches, get into the place round.”
Among LTHS’ other sectional qualifiers, junior Cooper King (10-7 at 195) came one victory from state after undergoing knee surgery in December and an injury to his other knee. King was pinned by Downers Grove South’s Noah Rapinchuk in 3:36.
Sophomores Kellan Knop (14-16 at 182) and Sam Costello (21-19 at 285) were 2-2, senior Willy Takash (10-8 at 160) was 1-2 and senior Ben Zeman (25-15 at 145) and junior Calum Rogers (14-16 at 152) were 0-2.