The Aces wrestlers took fourth place in the IHSA Class A Regional Wrestling Tournament at Walther Christian Academy last Saturday night. Senior Max Gorenstein (160) led the way with an impressive championship run to become the Aces’ only regional champion. Gorenstein, working out of the second seed, easily downed Walther Christian’s Isaiah Garnica, 10-0, in the semi-finals. In the finals, the outcome was never in doubt as Gorenstein scored the opening takedown on #1 seed Lafayette Hodges of Sullivan High School. Max never trailed in the match and secured the gold medal with a 9-3 decision.
Seniors Raphi Chernoff (138) and Joey Silverstein (170) made the finals and took the silver medal in their respective weight classes. Chernoff needed only :46 seconds to pin Walther’s Richard Borngeorno in the semis, but faced off against state-ranked #1 seed Omar Otero of DePaul College Prep in the finals. Otero, who had defeated Chernoff in last year’s final, again proved to be Chernoff’s nemesis. Chernoff ends up his career record at regionals as a former champion and a three time finalist. Silverstein cruised to a 10-1 major decision over #2 seed Tyler Jackson of Sullivan, but then faced Asher Eichert of Walther Christian in the finals. Eichert, currently ranked #10 in Illinois, repeated his earlier season success against Silverstein. Silverstein, for his part, earned his second straight silver medal.
Senior Ethan Lewis (113) came up just short in the semi-finals, losing a hard fought 4-1 decision to Walther’s Jose Rebelledo. Lewis was forced to settle for a bronze medal in a weight class which featured the #1 ranked 113 pounder in the state. Senior Akiva Goldberger (126) was upset in his opening quarterfinal match against Noah Nava of DePaul College Prep. Goldberger roared back to take third place, defeating #2 seeded Christopher Quintero of Sullivan H.S. before getting his revenge against Nava in the consolation finals. Senior Sam Bellows (145) drew the fourth seed in what was clearly the most competitive weight class of the tournament. Bellows opened his tournament with a 6-3 decision over Joe Modica of DePaul. He then faced the #1 seed, undefeated Cuba Johnson of Kelvyn Park H.S. Bellows scored on Johnson early, but could not hold the initiative, and Johnson went on to win the championship. Bellows’ night was far from over. He first wrestled #2 seeded Thang Khup of Sullivan in the consolation semi-finals and dispatched him with 2:37 pin. Bellows then wrestled for the bronze medal against DePaul’s Modica. The second time around, Bellows needed only :16 seconds to pin his opponent and ascend the medal podium. Junior Yosef Marcucci (152), wrestling in his first regional tournament, pinned Noel Gutierrez of Luther North in the quarterfinals. Marcucci then faced off against #1 seed Jermiah Canada of Walther. While Marcucci proved to be Canada’s toughest opponent of the evening, Canada still prevailed in their match. Marcucci, who had been seed fourth, then squared off against #3 seeded Carlos Valentin of DePaul. While Valentin had a better regular season record than Marcucci, Marcucci had little trouble downing him with an 11-2 major decision.
Freshman Nathan Shapiro (106) recorded two pins on the way to a 4th place finish, including a :16 fall over Michael Brown of Douglass High School. Freshman Ray Goltz came up just short of a bronze medal, losing a tense match against Sullivan’s Jeremiah McGhee, 13-11. Junior rookie Yehuda Carlsen (182) gained valuable experience, posting a fifth place finish in his weight class.
Over all, the Aces finished in fourth place out of 10 schools. Walther repeated as regional team champions, winning seven weight classes and posting a team score of 195.5. DePaul and Sullivan, both with fuller line-ups than Ida Crown, finished second and third with scores of 131 and 121, respectively. ICJA ended up just off the pace with a final team score of 110, but well ahead of fifth place IC Catholic with 77 points.
“It was a strong performance,” ICJA Assistant Coach Bill Porter commented. “With one exception, we finished at or better than our seeds. The veterans, especially, wrestled well at nearly every opportunity.”
As in the past, the wrestlers spent the Shabbat preceding the tournament in a hotel near Melrose Park, along with a Sefer Torah and meals. For over a decade, the tournament has been held on Saturday night, specifically so that the ICJA wrestlers can participate.
The wrestlers will return to the practice mats to prepare for the season finale, the Wittenberg National Invitational Wrestling Tournament over Presidents’ Day weekend in New Jersey.