Wrestling: 13 Naperville area wrestlers heading to state finals

Updated: April 2, 2012 7:30PM

Thirteen Naperville area wrestlers will be going down to Champaign’s Assembly Hall Thursday for the individual state tournament.

The top six wrestlers in each weight class earn medals.

Neuqua Valley leads all area schools with five state qualifiers, followed by three apiece from Naperville North and Naperville Central, and one from both Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley.

Juniors Luke Roth (26-14 at 182 pounds) of Naperville Central and Andrew Geers (33-4 at 285) of Neuqua Valley made state last year but, for the most part, this year’s group of state qualifiers is comprised of first-timers.

All state-bound wrestlers have similar goals.

“My goal is to get on the podium this year,” Roth said. “Last year, I qualified and didn’t place, so I have to get on the podium this year.”

He eagerly awaits the chance to best last year’s state showing while savoring his back-to-back downstate appearances.

“It’s great,” Roth said. “After making it last year, I kind of expected myself to make it this year. I set high goals for myself (and) I was able to reach it this year, so I’m really pumped about it. I’m excited to get down there and wrestle.”

Naperville North senior Nick McDonnell (31-7 at 145) represents the sentiments of many first-time qualifiers.

“I want to at least place top six, no doubt,” he said. “I can’t change my style now — it’s too late for that — just take each point one at a time, work my moves and win.”

Naperville Central junior Ryan Berg (33-6 at 195) understands the significance of qualifying for state.

“Just knowing that I get to go downstate with the best wrestlers that ever walked the mat, down to Champaign, it will be quite the adventure,” Berg said.

He said his first goal was to make state, but now that he’s headed there, he wants to wrestle his best and try to place.

Junior Austin Graham (31-14 at 132) from Metea Valley will go down in the record books as his program’s first-ever state qualifier.

“Being the first qualifier is an unbelievable experience,” he said. “Like everyone’s goal, (I want) at least to get a medal down there (and) be on the podium. …I’ve just got to wrestle well. If I wrestle well, I think I can maybe get a medal.”

Other state qualifiers are Neuqua Valley’s Matt Slavik (38-9 at 152), Connor Swier (37-4 at 170), Vince Marrone (32-10 at 195) and Casey Greenberg (37-6 at 220), Naperville North’s Eric Krieger (36-5 at 170) and Colin Goebel (26-10 at 285), Naperville Central’s Tom Mitrenga (34-7 at 160) and Waubonsie Valley’s Elton Manuel (35-10 at 160).

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