Rudy Salinas can’t wait until next year.
And it’s not often the Evanston wrestling coach feels that strongly coming out of the postseason.
The Wildkits’ postseason run ended with a thud at Saturday’s Class 3A Leyden Sectional individual tournament as none of Evanston’s seven sectional qualifiers stayed alive for a trip to the Illinois High School Association state finals.
But Salinas had no trouble seeing the glass half full as ETHS competitors did account for a combined 8 victories in 22 matches before they were eliminated.
And six of those wrestlers will return next season as 170-pounder Raven Ahrens was the only senior in the sectional lineup. Another senior, 182-pounder Cardrail Cannon, had to default after suffering severe asthma attacks while qualifying through the regional last week.
“Last year we had three (sectional) qualifiers and only got one win between them, so this was a big improvement for us,” Salinas said. “I’m so proud of the way they kept their heads up and wrestled tough. Of those 14 losses, 12 were to state qualifiers. We didn’t lose to anyone we ‘shouldn’t have’, and there will be a lot of state champions coming out of this sectional.
“I know a guy like David Rivera-Kohr (2-2 at 113 pounds) is heartbroken that he didn’t reach his goal of getting to State. But he’s only a sophomore and after going 0-2 at the sectional as a freshman, this is a big step for him.
“Six of these guys now have sectional experience coming back. So next year when I’m yelling at them in practice about something, at least six of them will be nodding their heads because they know what it takes to get this far.”
Rivera-Kohr, James Marshall-Davis (126) and Ben Morton (138) all took the same paths in their respective brackets, with two victories in their first three bouts before they were eliminated.
The other ETHS wrestlers to score wins were Ahrens, who finished 1-2, and Malik Pratt, 1-2 at 145. Also competing for the Wildkits were Anthony Morris (285) and Arrhian Monroe (195).
Rivera-Kohr pinned Geneva’s Steve MacDonald in 5 minutes, 46 seconds in his first round matchup, then was pinned by Kyle Peisker of Conant in 1:52. In the consolation bracket, Rivera-Kohr eliminated Maine South’s Connor Schaul with a major decision (9-0), and only trailed Anthony Rubino of St. Charles East 3-2 going into the third period before bowing out with a 10-2 defeat.
He finished his sophomore season with a sterling 37-11 won-loss record.
At 126, Marshall-Davis scored decisions against Marcus Williams of Conant (8-0) and Mikey Perz of South Elgin (8-3). He was knocked out of the consolation bracket with a 2-0 overtime defeat versus Elgin Larkin’s Duke Bogicevic. Marshall-Davis finished 34-5 overall.
Morton’s split of four matches at 132 left him with a final mark of 28-6. He tripped Maine West’s Brendan Lowe 5-1 in his debut, and after suffering a first period pin against Paul Selman of Glenbard West, rallied to tip Nate Romero of Elgin 1-0. Oak Park-River Forest’s Savonne Bennett outscored Morton 4-2 in his last bout.
Pratt’s win at 145 came with an 18-7 romp of Taft’s Ben Garland, and Ahrens accounted for the other ETHS triumph against another Taft wrestler, 5-2 versus Gibson Arlasky.