Lyons Township High School junior wrestler Gunnar Garelli finished last season’s IHSA Class 3A individual sectional with concern as much as celebration over his first state berth.
During his final match for third place, Garelli tried to block a shot and broke his left thumb. It affected his state performance, where he was 1-2 at 126 pounds to finish the season 34-12.
“It was a little rough to wrestle. I was trying to keep it back and I had to tape it up and some kids were kind of grabbing it,” Garelli said. “Those [qualifying] results did motivate me, but I kind of want to improve on those. Seeing all of the other wrestlers in Illinois and all of their accomplishments and watching the state finals, that’s really something I want to get a hold of, that state title.”
The Lions have the potential for several individual state qualifiers and possibly advancing to the team sectional by winning their first regional since 2015.
Most of their second-place West Suburban Conference Silver lineup returns.
“All of those guys have another year of experience and maturity and some of these young kids have a lot of wrestling experience,” LTHS coach Griff Powell said. “This could be a pretty good team, but you never really know until you start competition.”
The season begins Nov. 23 at home against Riverside-Brookfield High School followed by an early test at the 32-team Barrington Invitational.
Powell expects the WSC Silver to be its strongest in roughly a decade when all teams were ranked among the state’s top 25.
“Those Thursday and Friday night duals are going to be very competitive,” Powell said.
Garelli and graduated Cooper Schodrof were the lone 2021 individual state qualifiers.
Senior captain Cooper King (10-7 at 195 pounds) leads four other returning sectional qualifiers.
King came one victory from state even after undergoing knee surgery in December and an injury to his other knee.
“I hope I can get down to [state],” King said. “That’s my No. 1 goal, get on the [awards] stand. But it would be really cool to get my team down to team state.”
Juniors Kellan Knop (14-16 at 182) and Sam Costello (21-19 at 285) were 2-2 at sectionals and senior Calum Rogers (14-16 at 152) was 0-2. Senior Jackson Garelli (5-18 at 120) and sophomore Claudio Rodriguez (4-18 at 132) came one regional victory from advancing to sectionals.
Lineup depth will help. Other returning starters are sophomore George Webster (113 or 120 this season), senior Mark Calzada (170/182) and junior Ricky Cavaliere (220/285), who hopes to return from surgery around the end of December.
Other lineup hopefuls are seniors Charlie Campbell (160/170) and Roland Connelly (138/145) and Eric Marquez (160/170), sophomores Jack Kutchek (120) and Roger Martinez (113) and freshman Griff Powell (106), the coach’s son.
Gunnar Garelli, King and Cavaliere have received pre-season individual rankings. Garelli has grown since sophomore year and will move up to 145 or maybe 152 pounds after qualifying for offseason nationals in freestyle at 138 and Greco-Roman at 145.
King’s grandfather, Mark King, will be honored on Nov. 23 on his 50th anniversary of coaching at LTHS.
“It’s awesome to have him coaching me. I love having him at my side,” King said. “Literally, he’s always been in my chair since I’ve started wrestling, ever since I’ve been 6.”