Setting a school record is certainly a good thing, but Loyola Academy wrestling coach Matt Collum is not satisfied.
The Ramblers are sending a program-best five boys and two girls to the state finals thanks to their sectional performances on Saturday, Feb. 11, in Barrington; however, Collum believes the number could have been higher.
“It was good, but in other ways, we could have gotten more (through to state),” he said. “I thought we left a lot of points out there. We gotta get better and get ready for the weekend.”
Collum’s drive for success is emblematic of the program’s growth over the past three seasons.
Last season, the Ramblers had their first state finalist in Massey Odiotti (120 pounds), and this year, they have recorded the boys program’s most sectional qualifiers (8). Loyola also finished with eight place winners in the powerful Chicago Catholic League meeting and it claimed fourth as a team.
Progress is important, but Collum has bigger things in mind.
“I certainly didn’t come here to continue on the path Loyola was on,” he said. “The plan was to take over and move it forward. I thought it would be quicker to winning state titles, but that’ll come.”
Senior Odiotti and freshman Kai Calcutt (220) both earned sectional championships in dominant fashion.
Odiotti — considered one of the state’s best wrestlers — won 16-0, 14-2 and 17-4 in his three sectional matches, while Calcutt notched two pins and a 9-5 victory in the title bout.
“He’s a stud,” Collum said of Calcutt. “He’s wrestled his entire life. I think he’s the best guy in his weight class and he needs to go and wrestler like he’s the best guy. He works hard and is strong, athletic and very skilled.”
Other qualifiers include senior Patrick Zimmer (126), who placed second; junior Quinn Herbert (182), who took third; and freshman Gavin Pardilla (113), who finished fourth.
The five move on to the IHSA Class 3A championships Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 16-18, at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center in Champaign.
Two Ramblers girls will also wrestle in the state finals — the second year for the female version.
Sophomore Harlee Hiller continued her dominant season by winning her three matches by pin en route to a title at 105 pounds at the Evanston Sectional. Hiller took third in the inaugural state finals a year ago and is looking for a championship.
“She’s a more complete wrestler this year,” Collum said. “… I’m very excited for her next weekend. She has to show up and wrestle, but I don’t think any there’s any girl at her weight class that can beat her.”
Senior Alexia Vasilopoulos (120) will also represent Loyola at state after claiming second.
Other local girls advancing include New Trier junior Clara Ugaz, who finished second in her weight class; and Highland Park sophomore Jillian Giller, who placed fourth.
Highland Park senior Dmitry Derbedyenyev is also headed to state thanks to a fourth-place finish in the 152-pound division.
Derbedyenyev began his tournament with a win by pin before a loss in the semifinals. He responded with a 5-3 victory over New Trier sophomore Tagg Miller in the wrestlebacks to earn his state qualification.
Miller was one of two Trevians to compete at the sectional. Junior Eli Polacek won his first consolation match but could not win a second to keep his season alive.