Wrestling: Marmion’s Johnny Jimenez battles back to claim state title

Story Image Gage Park's Chris Ballard (left) battles Carmel's Jake Cochrane (right) during the 2A third place match of the IHSA individual state wrestling tournament in Assembly Hall Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, in Champaign. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: February 18, 2012 11:58PM



CHAMPAIGN – Johnny Jimenez was in a bad spot physically, but a good one mentally.

Tied 2-2 with Rock Island’s Barlow McGhee late in the third period of the Class 2A 113-pound final Saturday at Assembly Hall, Jimenez seemed on the verge of being taken down.

But that’s not how the Marmion sophomore saw it.

“I knew when he got my foot in the air [that] I worked too hard to be taken down,” Jimenez said. “I just knew I was going to be a state champion. I knew there was no way he was going to get [the takedown].”

Not only did Jimenez avoid giving up the points, he got a takedown of his own with one second remaining to earn a 4-2 decision and his second consecutive state title.

“I fought so hard to get my leg out and I came out on top,” Jimenez said.

So did several other returning champs in Class 2A.

Fenwick senior Matt Garelli, the Class 3A 103 winner last year, beat four-time finalist KeVon Powell of Montini 2-1 in overtime to take the 2A 120 championship.

“I was really tired, I could hear the fans screaming and it really got me going,” Garelli said. “I gutted it out and rode him out. ... I just had to stay strong and not give anything up.”

Crystal Lake Central senior Gage Harrah (41-1), whose only loss was to unbeaten 195-pound 3A champ Brad Johnson of Lockport, beat Grayslake Central’s Joey Valdivia 6-2 to win his second title.

Richmond-Burton’s Jack Dechow, who led the Rockets to a state runner-up finish in football a few months ago and was a state finalist in wrestling each of the past two seasons, finally came out on top. He pinned Bloomington’s Steven Rudicil in 1:53 in the 182 final.

“I wanted to dominate this whole bracket,” Dechow said. “[The last two years] I took second, it was a heartbreaker for me. I wanted to go out with a bang.

“It’s awesome being in the state finals for football and wrestling, but I wasn’t taking second again, that’s for sure.”

Marmion, which had five champs last year, had a second winner this season in Angelo Silvestro, who beat Crystal Lake Central’s Clayton Lutzow 7-3 in the 145 final.

Montini’s Tommy Pawelski edged Rich Central’s Nkosi Moody 6-5 for the 106 title, while teammate Chris Garcia lost 4-2 to Carbondale’s Zane Richards in the 132 title bout.

Also taking firsts were Austin Culton (35-4) of Sycamore at 152, Marian Catholic’s Nate Jackson (39-1) at 170, Nazareth’s Malcolm Watson (38-4) at 220 and Vernon Hills’ Vernon Brazil (45-1) at 285.

One state champ who didn’t repeat was Mamion 126-pounder George Fisher, who lost 6-3 to Civic Memorial’s David Pearce.

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