Wrestling: Montini edges Sandburg to claim Hinsdale Central inviteHinsdale, 12/17/11--Montini's Drew Brbenec, 138, wrestles Homewood-Flossmoor's Connor Bandy. Hinsdale Central HS hosted the 46th Annual Rex Whitlatch Wrestling Invitational Saturday. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 17, 2011 8:41PM
You’d think the best in-state wrestling tournament would be the IHSA finals a few months off in Champaign.
But that’s a three-class event where standouts from Class 2A power Montini and 3A heavyweight Sandburg, among others, would only encounter each other walking around Assembly Hall. So maybe this weekend’s Rex Whitlatch Invitational at Hinsdale Central was as good as it’ll get.
No. 2 Montini used a dominant performance in the finals to overtake No. 1 Sandburg 265-258.5 Saturday to win the two-day, 27-team event and stake its claim as Illinois’ premier program.
It was a sweet feeling for 120-pound champ KeVon Powell of Montini, who beat Sandburg’s Sebastian Pique 8-6 in overtime in a matchup of state champs.
“Year in and year out, since my sophomore year, we’re the underdogs,” said Powell (14-2), who was named the meet’s outstanding wrestler. “No one gives us the credit we deserve.”
Powell was one of five champs and seven finalists for the Broncos, who were coming off a 15th-place finish in the Ironman tournament hosted by Walsh Jesuit (Ohio) last weekend.
“That [tournament] helps every year. It makes us tougher and tougher every year,” said 138-pound champ Drew Vrbenec (11-3), who won another head-to-head matchup with Sandburg, beating Mitch Cook 6-2.
Montini also got titles from Tommy Pawelski (11-2) at 106, Jordan Laster (11-3) at 113 and Edgar Ruano (9-2) at 220, along with runner-up finishes from Chris Garcia (13-4) at 132 and Conor Winel (11-5) at 170.
But don’t think the Broncos are peaking.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re headed in the right direction,” coach Israel Martinez said. “I’d like to open the gap [against Sandburg] a little bit more. This is just one battle we came out on top of. ... We’re about 50 percent right now.”
Sandburg had a pair of unbeaten champs: Colin Holler (17-0), who dropped from 152 to 145, and Ricky Robertson (17-0), who came down from 182 to 170. Holler said he isn’t sure where he’ll wrestle in the state series, but Robertson said he will go 170.
Two other wrestlers also stayed undefeated. Joliet Catholic’s Nick Collofello (4-0) won at 182 in his season debut and Hinsdale Central’s Brian Allen (16-0) beat West Aurora’s Austin Beebe (14-1) 3-1 in overtime for the 285 title.
Other local champs were DeKalb’s Doug Johnson (9-1) at 126, New Trier’s Jack Conner (13-2) at 152, Rolling Meadows’ Joe Caprio (17-1) at 160 and Homewood-Flossmoor’s Donnie Bell (12-3) at 195.