David Rivera-Kohr knows there’s still a lot of history left for him to make for the Evanston wrestling program.
Saturday, the Wildkit junior — who already ranks third on Evanston’s career victory list — added to his impressive resume at the Central Suburban League Tournament held at Glenbrook South.
Rivera-Kohr became the first ETHS grappler to win an individual conference tourney title since 2010 and sparked the Wildkits to second place, their best team finish since CSL officials began keeping tab of official team standings back in 2011. The tournament was first conducted back in 2000.
Rivera-Kohr claimed the title at 120 pounds and teammates Derek Hunter (113), James Marshall-Davis (132), Malik Pratt (152) and Lamont Davenport (285) added second place finishes as Evanston totaled 206 points in the team standings. Deerfield, bolstered by seven individual champs, won the team crown for the third straight year with 243 points in the 12-team field.
Following in order were New Trier (153.5), Highland Park (139.5), Maine South (128), Glenbrook South (119), Niles North (95), Maine East (84), Niles West (78), Maine West (64), Waukegan (58) and Glenbrook North (31.5).
Rivera-Kohr scored a technical fall (15-point victory margin) over Maine East’s Noel Huicochea at the 4:40 mark of the championship bout, after scoring a pin and a decision in earlier matches. The slender junior lifted his season mark to a sizzling 39-1 and with 118 career wins, he trails only former greats Shannon Gillespie (136) and George Patterson (126) on Evanston’s all-time list.
One of the wrestlers he’s climbed past is Angel Sierra (104 wins) and Rivera-Kohr’s only regret Saturday was that Sierra couldn’t be there in person.
“I’ve worked with Angel since I was in 7th grade, and I know he’ll be excited when he finds out I won today,” Rivera-Kohr said. “It’s an honor for me to be among the best in Evanston’s history. When I came in here as a freshman, I didn’t know I’d be able to do that. I’m really honored, and through hard work, I did something I didn’t think I could do.
“This is only the third or fourth time this year I’ve wrestled at 120. I had some close matches at 126 and it’s not always pretty for me — but I always pull off a win at the end. And the guys I wrestled today seemed a lot smaller than wrestling (ETHS 132-pounder) James Marshall-Davis in practice.”
Even with all of those wins under his belt, Rivera-Kohr admits that sometimes he can be his own worst enemy on the mat, where stubbornness isn’t always a virtue.
“The past two weeks I’ve been disappointed with the way I’m wrestling,” he said. “Today I think I wrestled really smart. I was very selective with my (takedown) shots, and I didn’t do anything stupid. In the past, at 126, I’ve gone out there and just tried to muscle other guys. But they all want to win as much as I do, and I realized I have to wait for the right opportunity, use my head and not force anything for myself.”
ETHS head coach Rudy Salinas is satisfied that the right message is sinking in for the junior with bigger tests awaiting in the regional and sectional meets over the next three weeks.
“Today is a measuring stick for David,” Salinas said. “Today he actually said to me ‘coach, now I know what you mean about my shot selection.’ That was good to hear. His growth has been endless and I know he’s going to be a great college wrestler some day. He could wind up with more wins than anyone in our history, but he won’t be happy unless he’s on that (state awards) podium down at the Assembly Hall (in Champaign).
“I think we took a step forward as a team today. We still have some tweaking to do, but it’s nice to be able to see those sophomores (half a dozen of Evanston’s seniors were forced into starting roles as sophs and took some lumps then) through to the end of their journey. It’s nice to see them with high expectations and they’ve just been fantastic for us.”
Evanston did come up short in other title matches. At 113, Hunter couldn’t keep up with Deerfield’s Kyle Clough, who racked up a major decision with a 10-0 victory. Marshall-Davis lost to New Trier’s Alec McKenna for the second time this season, this time by a 3-0 margin, and McKenna was eventually named the Elias George Outstanding Wrestler in the CSL South this season. The award is named for the former legendary Evanston coach.
At 152, Highland Park’s D.J. Penick pulled away from Pratt in the final two periods for a 10-5 triumph, and ETHS junior heavyweight Davenport lost a 5-3 decision to Maine South’s Ibrahim Nasir after suffering a pin when the two met during the regular season.
Ben Morton at 138, Izzy Fox at 160 and Zach Warhus at 182 all bounced back from defeats in the semifinals to add third place finishes to Evanston’s total.