BLOOMINGTON–Minooka High School features a wrestling program.
A program is decidedly different from a team.
Like a team, it competes, but usually wins, sometimes because of a mental advantage.
Programs don’t rebuild like a team will do from time to time; they reload to do the same or better than the year before.
And, they achieve excellence year after year after year.
The wrestling program at Minooka High School embodies those traits.
The No. 3-rated Indians (25-4) reached their third Class 3A dual-team state championship match, taking second place after a 31-24 loss to top-ranked Glenbard North (27-4) Saturday in U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Minooka took second in the state in 2009 and won it all a year ago.
“Minooka is going to be back,” Minooka coach Bernie Ruettiger said. “You watch. We’re tough as nails. We’ve come a long way. We’ve been in the state championship match three years in a row. That’s an accomplishment.”
“This is three years in a row we got to the finals,” Minooka senior Blake Montella said. “This year is a little different because we lost. But, we still got a trophy and I still got a medal. I’m proud to say we did it.”
“We keep getting better every year,” Minooka sophomore Corbett Oughton said. “We’re going to be even stronger next year, come back and maybe even win it.”
Minooka never led in Saturday’s finals. The Indians gave up pins at 215 pounds and heavyweight and never fully recovered.
“You have to give all the credit in the world to Glenbard North,” Ruettiger said. “That’s a heck of a program. They are top notch. We beat them the last two years to get into the finals.”
Glenbard North, making its eighth state appearance, captured its first state championship by winning eight of 13 contested matches.
Minooka finally got on the board when Oughton (35-8) beat state medal-winner Johnny Gosinski (50-5) 3-1 at 112.
It started a string of alternating wins through 145.
With the Indians trailing 28-10, Minooka’s Jake Residori (39-8) beat Glenbard North’s Brandon Heyduk (14-25) at 152 and Class 3A state champ Kalvin Hill (28-1) of Minooka posted a 17-7 win over Glenbard North’s Dan Fierro (9-20) to cut the lead to 28-18 with two matches to go.
Glenbard North’s Paul Freeman (32-16) came away with a 2-1 win over Minooka’s Josh Pullara (25-9) to, essentially, end the match.
Other winners for Minooka were Jake DeKlerk (28-11) at 125 and Montella (35-9) at 135.
Montella, Leo Ruettiger (33-9 at 140) and Kevin Akers (19-8 at 145) accounted for all the seniors on the Indians’ 23-person state roster.
“They’ve meant a lot,” Ruettiger said of the seniors. “I’ve known them since they were little kids. I’ve known all those guys since they were 5 years old. It’s been great watching them over the years. I told them last year they were going to be the first state champions in school history. This year, they got back to the final match. That’s awesome.”
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here,” Montella said. “I’m proud of this program and what we’ve done.”
“Our seniors were pretty big contributors and I looked up to them,” Oughton said. “But, I think we can come back stronger next year and do even better.”
Oughton and Montella each went 3-0 on the day as Minooka beat West Aurora 35-24 and Machesney Park Harlem 31-29 to reach the state championship match.