DARIEN–If experience counts for anything, the Minooka wrestling team has a distinct advantage heading into its Class 3A quarterfinal matchup against West Aurora.
The Indians are making their sixth trip to the state tournament over the last eight seasons, taking second in 2009 before winning it all a year ago. West Aurora is making its state-tourney debut.
The Indians (24-3) and Blackhawks (22-3) will square off at 9 a.m. Saturday in U.S. Cellular Coliseum for the right to advance to the state semifinals. The winner will face No. 7 Machesney Park Harlem or Lane Tech in a 2 p.m. semifinal.
The third-place and state final duals will start at 6 p.m.
The other quarterfinal matchups are No. 5 Barrington vs. No. 1 Sandburg and No. 4 Lyons Township vs. No. 2 Glenbard North. Rankings are courtesy of Illinois Best Weekly and www.illinoismatmen.com.
“I’m looking forward to going downstate again to see what we can do,” Minooka coach Bernie Ruettiger said.
Minooka beat Marist 27-24 and West Aurora posted a 48-15 win over Neuqua Valley at the sectional level to advance.
“They’re a tough team, and they beat a real tough Marist team to get down there,” West Aurora coach Mike DiNovo said. “We’re a tough team, too. I’m excited about the matchups. Everywhere we go, we go to win. That doesn’t happen all the time, but we’re going there to win.”
The most exciting matchup could be at 125 pounds.
Minooka junior Jake DeKlerk (26-10) is looking for revenge on West Aurora senior Nicholas Drendel (42-1).
Drendel, who is ranked third in the state, pinned DeKlerk with three seconds left in the match during the first round of the individual state tournament last weekend in Assembly Hall on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.
Drendel, who went on to finish third, wrestled up a weight at the dual sectional and won 1-0, despite being sick.
“West Aurora matches up with us pretty well,” Ruettiger said. “They match up pretty well with us at 125, 130, 140 and heavyweight. We have to win some matches at 103, 112 and 119.”
At 130, Minooka sophomore Bobby Zabel (38-9), who took sixth in the state, could tangle with No. 6-ranked West Aurora senior Miguel Venecia (31-8), who was a state qualifier.
Zabel beat Venecia 6-3 earlier this year.
“We’re focused on not giving up bonus points, working hard and getting bonus points when we can,” Zabel said.
Minooka sophomore Corbett Oughton (32-8) and West Aurora senior Brandon Walz (34-16) may go at it at 112. Both were individual state qualifiers. Oughton posted a 6-2 decision when the two met earlier this year.
West Aurora junior Greg Jacquez (37-6) and Minooka junior Leo Ruettiger (30-8) could lock horns at 140.
“I think our kids feel good about it,” DiNovo said. “I’m looking forward to a few good practices, then getting after it downstate.”
Minooka junior Kalvin Hill (27-1) won the 160-pound state title just days ago. The Indians’ other state medal winner was junior Jake Residori (39-8) at 152 pounds.
The difference could come down to bonus points.
“They are big,” Ruettiger said. “Those help a lot. That’s the difference downstate. That’s why you have to hold them to no bonus points when you lose, and our good kids have to score bonus points when they can.”