All-Area Wrestling: Co-Wrestler of the Year Joe Ariola and First Team
Oak Park-River Forest senior Joe Ariola is the Pioneer Press co-Wrestler of the Year for 2012-13. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
ALL-AREA WRESTLING FIRST TEAM
106 pounds: Jordan Reich (Jr.), Vernon Hills
His third place finish at Class 2A guaranteed Vernon Hills a third consecutive state medalist, following in the footsteps of Gideon Yim in 2011 and state champ Jeremy Brazil in 2012. Reich (46-6) won the Lakes Regional and Antioch Sectional before falling to eventual state champion Danny Swan of Oak Forest in the semifinals.
113: Jimmy Gallardo (So.), Notre Dame
Gallardo (35-6) led Notre Dame to the Class 3A Evanston Regional team title and won his match against a Glenbard North opponent in the dual-team sectional final. Gallardo made his second consecutive state appearance, competing at Class 2A a year ago.
120: Matthew Rundell (So.), Oak Park-River Forest
The runner-up in 2012 made a return trip to the state meet as a sophomore. He fell victim to a tough draw, dropping his first bout to an eventual state finalist. Rundell (29-8) captured titles at Hinsdale Central’s Whitlatch Invitational and the York Regional.
126: Isaiah White (Fr.), Oak Park-River Forest
The four-time IKWF champion kept winning in high school while finishing third at the IHSA state meet. White (48-3) won the OPRF Invitational and York Regional and posted a victory in the Huskies’ state dual-team quarterfinal loss to Sandburg. White led the Huskies in wins, decisions (17) and technical falls (12).
132: Larry Early (So.), Oak Park-River Forest
Early (47-1) took another step after placing third downstate in 2012. He grabbed second this year, his only loss coming when he was pinned by Marmion’s George Fisher in the state final. He won at Whitlatch, the OPRF Invite, the York Regional and the Maine East Sectional. He was all-tournament at the Clash in Rochester, Minn., and led the Huskies in two-point near falls (43).
138: Juwan Edmond (So.), Hinsdale Central
Edmond (42-10) was one of the biggest surprises at the state meet, finishing second in Champaign after taking third at the Shepard Sectional and winning the Hinsdale Central Regional. He entered Assembly Hall with the third most losses in his weight class. He was fifth at state in 2012.
145: Justin Weber (Sr.), Stevenson
The Lake Zurich Regional champion became only the sixth medalist in school history by finishing third downstate. Danny Sabatello, who claimed consecutive state titles in 2010-11, is the lone Stevenson wrestler who placed higher than Weber (42-4).
152: Kamal Bey (Fr.), Oak Park-River Forest
The second of OPRF’s Fab Five freshmen on our all-area team placed fifth in his state meet debut. Bey (30-7) won the OPRF Invite and the York Regional. His first loss downstate came against eventual champion Kyle Langenderfer of Lincoln-Way East.
160: Davonte Mahomes (Jr.), Oak Park-River Forest
Mahomes’ initial blemish of the season came in the state quarterfinals to eventual champ C.J. Brucki of Sandburg. Mahomes (46-1) rebounded to place third for the second consecutive year. He led the Huskies in takedowns (236), won the Whitlatch and OPRF invites, and posted victories at the York Regional and the Maine East Sectional.
170: Austin Koziol (Jr.), Libertyville
One of six Libertyville wrestlers to qualify for the Class 3A championships, Koziol (28-12) lost his only match in Assembly Hall, to Addison Trail’s Niko Gomez-Rocha. Koziol finished second at the Barrington Sectional and Grant Regional.
182: Joe Ariola (Sr.), Oak Park-River Forest
The Co-Wrestler of the Year took an undefeated record into the last match of his career, in the state dual-team quarterfinals. Ariola (47-1), who won the Class 3A championship, paced OPRF in pins (25) and three-point near falls (44). His other titles came at the Whitlatch and OPRF invites, the York Regional and the Maine East Sectional. He was named all-tournament at the Clash.
195: Pat Vitek (Sr.), Nazareth
Vitek (40-2) remained undefeated entering the Class 2A state meet and finished fourth to become the third state medalist in Nazareth history. A lineman for the football team in the fall, he won the Riverside-Brookfield Regional and Rich East Sectional.
220: Jacob Suter (Sr.), Glenbrook South
Suter (38-3) emerged as Glenbrook South’s first Class 3A medalist, grabbing third after losing in the semifinal to eventual state champion Tom Howell of Marist. The last state medalist from GBS was Craig Swenson, who placed second at 145 in Class AA in 1990. Sutter won titles at the Fremd Regional and Barrington Sectional.
285: Brian Allen (Jr.), Hinsdale Central
The Co-Wrestler of the Year followed the path of his brother Jack Allen by going undefeated and winning the Devils’ second individual state championship. Brian Allen (49-0) broke his older brother’s school record for wins in a season; next year he could eclipse his career mark. Brian Allen collected titles at Barrington’s Moore-Prettyman, the Whitlatch, Palatine’s Berman Classic, the Hinsdale Central Regional and Shepard Sectional.
Updated: March 21, 2013 2:23PM
College recruiters have a hard time overlooking a wrestler who didn’t lose during the regular season.
That’s why Oak Park-River Forest senior Joe Ariola’s dream of competing in college is on track to become a reality following a standout senior campaign that earned him Pioneer Press Co-Wrestler of the Year honors.
Before the season, only a few colleges were interested in Ariola.
After going 47-1, Ariola now is planning on visiting NCAA power Minnesota, Central Michigan, Old Dominion, Northern Iowa and Division II program St. Cloud (Minn.) State in the coming months. He checked out North Dakota State before regionals.
Ariola’s season-long journey led to the Class 3A 182-pound state championship in Champaign. He registered a point when Homewood-Flossmoor senior Donnie Bell yielded an escape and Ariola held on to win the title match 1-0.
He suffered his only loss a week later in the state dual-team quarterfinal in Bloomington.
“I didn’t think all of these colleges would want to talk to me,” Ariola said. “(Before the season), I expected to hear from a couple of Division II or Division III schools. Hearing from all of these Division I schools is awesome.”
The biggest boost to his recruitment came during OPRF’s trip to Rochester, Minn., in December for the Clash, a series of dual-team matches featuring top schools from across the country. Coaches from the University of Minnesota — where Ariola’s former high school teammates Nick and Chris Dardanes currently compete — talked with Ariola.
“It was awesome (meeting Minnesota coaches),” Ariola said. “They said they have been doing some scouting. I know the Dardanes (twins) have had good success there.”
Ariola’s coach, Mike Powell, was an All-American at Indiana after winning the 1994 state championship at OPRF. Powell, who went 42-0 and remains the only OPRF wrestler to post an undefeated season, felt bad when Ariola ended his career with a 2-1 loss to Sandburg senior Chris Pajak.
“I hurt for Joe,” Powell said following the bout. “He’ll beat himself up. Remember, Joe is a state champion. He has come so far. I’m proud of Joe. He’s a great kid. We got a lot out of Joe.”
Powell acts as a recruiting advisor to Ariola, who is in no hurry to make a decision on college.
“I want to take all my visits,” Ariola said. “Coach Powell told me, ‘Take all your visits. You never know which school you will like.’ ”