Wrestling: Fenwick’s Matt Garelli, Marian Catholic’s Nate Jackson prove ready

Story Image Champaign, IL 2/17/12 The top high school wrestlers in the state met up in Champaign in the quarter final round of the IHSA State Meet. class 2a bout 165 @ 285 pounds - Vernon Hill's Jeremy Brazil, left, works to take down Normal Community West's Kyrin Tucker. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: February 17, 2012 10:36PM

CHAMPAIGN – Matt Garelli and Nate Jackson have already gone toe to toe with the big boys.

Garelli was the Class 3A state champ at 103 pounds as a Fenwick junior last season, while Jackson took fifth in 3A at 152 pounds last year for as a junior at Marian Catholic.

With the IHSA dropping the private-school enrollment multiplier for some schools this school year, Fenwick and Marian Catholic are now down in Class 2A. But Garelli and Jackson haven’t taken their foot off the pedal.

Both will be wrestling for state titles in their new class Saturday at Assembly Hall after dominant performances on Friday. Garelli (22-0) beat Chatham Glenwood’s Sam Butler 7-0 in the 120-pound semifinals and will face Montini’s KeVon Powell (29-3) for the title. Jackson (38-1) scored a 24-9 technical fall over Burlington Central’s Omar Awad in the 170-pound semis and will meet Lemont’s Eric Kirkman (42-6) in the final.

Garelli, who is hoping to become Fenwick’s first two-time champ, is just happy to be back on the mat after sitting out a good chunk of the season with an injury.

“My knee is actually, I would say, 100 percent now,” he said. “It’s feeling awesome. [And] my conditioning is is starting to kick in; I’m outlasting guys.”

Garelli admits he was bummed when he first heard he wouldn’t be able to compete in 3A again this season.

“But at least I didn’t leave any unfinished business,” he said. “And you know. there’s really a lot of tough competition in 2A. ... It may not be as deep [as 3A], but you still have your studs in every weight class.”

Jackson has noticed the same thing.

“There’s as many talented guys in 2A this year, especially at my weight class,” he said.

Now Jackson is one win away from becoming Marian’s third state champ. “I’m peaking at the right time,” he said. “I want to take this momentum into [Saturday].”

Montini and Marmion both have three finalists in Class 2A. Tommy Pawelski (42-5 at 106) and Chris Garcia (38-6 at 132) join Powell as Montini’s title-seekers, while Marmion advanced Johnny Jimenez (22-1 at 113), George Fisher (36-6 at 120) and Angelo Silvestro (41-4 at 138). Jimenez, Fisher and Crystal Lake Central’s Gage Harrah (40-1 at 195) all are seeking to repeat as state champs.

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