CHAMPAIGN — Mount Carmel’s Jimmy Mickens has grown accustomed to playing under bright lights. The 182-pound senior reached the state podium last season and carried the rock for Mount Carmel’s state champion football team in the fall.
Regardless of those experiences, Mickens admitted to some nerves entering his Class 3A opening bout against Pekin’s Alex Bleeker. The state tournament, it seems, is a different beast.
“I was a little on edge,” Mickens said. “The first one’s always the tough one.”
To his credit, Mickens didn’t show any butterflies on the mat, taking an early lead before surviving a late push from Bleeker for a 6-4 victory. Mickens said he came into the tournament with some extra drive after placing fourth in the Hinsdale Central Sectional.
“It definitely motivated me because you hate to see three guys ahead of you — even one guy ahead of you,” Mickens said. “I’ve got plenty of motivation now.”
Lincoln-Way Central’s Bryce Gorman felt like he was in a similar boat. Despite winning the Normal West Sectional and entering the 170-pound field with the top seed, Gorman was critical of his sectional performance and wanted to take out some frustration in his match against Downers North senior Nick Bonomo. His opponent added some fuel to the fire, pushing Gorman out of bounds in the closing minute.
“That [angered me],” Gorman said. “So I decided to take him down again with 15 seconds left. It was a cocky move. I normally wouldn’t have done that.”
Gorman improved to 42-0 with his 16-6 victory. Joey Nelson (132) also moved on for the Knights.
Marist flexed its muscles with a dominant Day 1. The RedHawks advanced eight of their nine qualifiers paced by victories from Ameen Hamdan (132) and Nick Gasbarro (152). Only Oak Park-River Forest, with a stunning 11 quarterfinalists, sent more to the second round in Class 3A.
Lockport picked up fives wins and Sandburg four behind a victory from sophomore Brian Krasowski (160).
In Class 2A, a trio of Southland athletes reached the 170-pound quarterfinals. Tinley Park’s Eric Shultz and Lincoln-Way West’s Javier Montalvo, two returning state-placers, advanced alongside Oak Forest’s Patrick Kristin. Schultz (40-2) and Montalvo (36-6) could meet in the semifinals. Montalvo topped the Tinley Park sophomore 3-0 in January.
Kristin was one of four Bengals advancing, as Francis Edelen (106), Danny Swan (113) and Alan Durham (120) triumphed in opening action.
Bremen’s Javier Soto (182) continued his streak of pins to reach the quarterfinals. Soto secured a fall over Ottawa’s Paul Turner in the first period. He has yet to go the distance in postseason play with six pins to his name.