Gunnar Garelli

Lyons Township High School junior Gunnar Garelli returned to the IHSA Class 3A boys wresting individual state meet more motivated, bigger and healthier.

He left with his first top-six, all-state medal and even more motivation.

Garelli (41-11) became the Lions’ first all-stater since 2017 on Feb. 18 after finishing fourth at 160 pounds, a weight he moved up to the final month of the season. Garelli already had jumped to 152 from 126, where he was 1-2 at the 2022 state meet, battling a broken left thumb suffered at sectionals to finish 34-12.

“I’m content with it. It’s really nice to look back at it, being the fourth best in the state,” Garelli said. “I’m also not totally satisfied with it but it’s a really good feeling knowing that I’m in that top-five, top four range. Hopefully it sets me up to win it next year.”

Garelli won his opening match 4-3 and then captured three wrestleback matches after losing 15-4 in the quarterfinals to nationally ranked Conant senior Ethan Stiles (32-0), the state champion.

Garelli won his consolation opener 11-1 and then 2-0 over Stevenson senior Thomas Schoolman (39-7) in the match for top-six, all-state status. Garelli won by default to reach the third-place match, where he was pinned in 1:37 by Quincy junior Owen Uppinghouse (44-2).

Because of his late move to 160, Garelli wrestled none of his opponents during the season.

Garelli’s match over Stevenson senior Thomas Schoolman (39-7) to clinch all-state was a strong one. Garelli fought off a shot and got a late first-period takedown for the only points of the match. Garelli was down but never turned the entire second period and rode Schoolman the third period.

“I felt relieved almost. It was nice,” Garelli said. “I wouldn’t say I was the favorite in that match. I knew it could have gone either way. I was relieved I get the job done.”

Experience and health also worked in Garelli’s favor.

“Definitely being there before helped get rid of some of the nerves. After I got that first match under my belt (Friday), I felt pretty good,” Garelli said. “I noticed a big difference in my performances so it was nice to be healthy.”

RBHS wrestlers don’t advance at state

Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Joe Midona had the same result in his second straight trip to the Class 2A boys wrestling individual state meet but with a greater sense of accomplishment and enjoyment.

“Having the past experience, it made it all feel a little less nervous. It was a little more of a fun experience I think,” Midona said. 

Midona, who first joined wrestling as a junior, shared this state trip with senior Devontae Givens, who became a varsity regular after also joining as a junior, and junior Josh Gonzalez.

Midona (31-8 at 220 pounds), Givens (30-18 at 285) and Gonzalez (31-16 at 138) all lost their two matches. 

Midona significantly improved upon his 2022 season of 21-18, also at 220. 

“I don’t think I would have made it anywhere close to where I did if it wasn’t for my partner [in practice Givens],” Midona said. “He was always there and one of the toughest people I faced even with all of my hard matches. At practice, he always beat up on me, and me on him. I think it was a pretty good pairing to help us get pretty far.” 

Gonzalez lost his matches 9-5 and 11-0. Sectional and regional champion Midona and Givens were pinned twice.

“Joe is the person that really pushed me to reach my goal,” said Givens after sectionals. “It was most definitely a true blessing to have a partner who is like a brother to you and can push you. It’s like a brotherhood really.” 

A football player, Midona said he wasn’t interested in even trying wrestling until being convinced by assistant football coach Brad Vojcak. Now Midona is considering the martial arts.

“I’m pretty happy where I made it [in wrestling]. The only thing I wish is I had more time, started earlier, but with the time I had, I did pretty good,” Midona said. “I talked to a few guys on the football team. I was the same way before. I didn’t want to do it freshman and sophomore year. Anyone who wants to try it or has any idea to start, they should just go for it.”