The ETHS boys wrestling team entered nine competitors in the Rus Erb Tournament Dec. 16 and 17. Credit: ETHS

The Rus Erb Tournament serves as a midterm season test for the participating wrestlers, and the 57th annual event held Friday and Saturday at Glenbrook South provided just that challenge for Evanston Township High School.

Now the Wildkits have to cram for the finals – otherwise known as the Illinois High School Association state tournament series – over the next few weeks.

Four Kit boys earned top six finishes and Evanston placed 10th in the 20-team field with 69.5 points, a solid showing considering that head coach Rudy Salinas’ squad wasn’t at full strength due to injuries, illness and some academic issues. ETHS only entered nine grapplers in the competition.

Evanston counted a fourth place finish from Marco Terrizzi at 132 pounds, a fifth from Declan Glascott at 145, and a couple of sixths from Eren Atac (138) and Jaden Pagues (285).

Batavia breezed to the team championship with 209.5 points and crowned five champions overall.

Evanston coach Rudy Salinas gives some feedback to his wrestlers at a Dec. 10 meet. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

“We had a good first day [on Friday], and we competed well today. But it’s about finishing strong and we lacked that good finish today,” Salinas said Saturday. “As a midterm grade? Considering we only had nine guys here, I’d give us a B-minus. That’s where we are, but it’s also about where we want to be and what we’re capable of” in the second half of the season.

“When you don’t have a full team, it becomes more of an individual tournament. We wanted to improve and that’s what we did. This is a good experience for some of our first-year varsity wrestlers. We’ve just been grinding as a team, and we’ll be the better for it. You just have to embrace the grind.”

Terrizzi, likely the Kits’ best hope to make enough progress to become a potential state
qualifier at the end of the season, has homework to do after suffering a pair of defeats
Saturday. That homework will include (A) finishing what he starts and (B) a better performance when he’s on his back on the mat.

Terrizzi, a junior who entered the third week of December with a perfect won-loss record, lost to Glenbrook South’s Max Brown by a fall in a dual meet on Thursday, then got pinned again by the GBS standout in the third place match on Saturday.

In between, he racked up a fall, a technical fall and a major decision at the tourney and
improved to 17-2 overall.

“I’m giving up a lot of weight (he’s a natural 126-pounder), but I don’t have any excuses,” Terrizzi said. “Today’s matches really opened my eyes on what I need to work on for state. I’m particularly bad on the bottom, and I need to keep my tenacity up when I have the lead. I have to finish better and keep up the right tempo, even when I want to be conservative.

“I’m hoping to go at 126 [in the state tournament series] once the 2-pound weight allowance kicks in. We have coaches who have gone the distance themselves and they’re the inspiration for me. They’ve been working with me nonstop, and I know Coach Salinas will analyze all of our styles and put us where we’ll do our best.”

Evanston’s boys wrestlers break the huddle during the Wildkits’ quad meet at Willie May Field House on Dec. 10. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Terrizzi opened the tournament with wins over Brayden Hedquist of Oswego (fall in 1 minute, 35 seconds) and Tony Hinojosa of Mundelein Carmel (technical fall, second period) before Jordan Rasof of Deerfield caught and pinned the ETHS junior at the 4:21 mark of the semifinals. Terrizzi erupted for eight first-period points in that semi and still led 8-2 in the third period when Rasof, the eventual champ, turned the tables on him.

He bounced back to eliminate Iverson Cortes-Apolinar of Schaumburg with an 8-0 triumph in the consolation bracket before losing to Brown for the second time in three days. Terrizzi’s loss to Brown in the dual meet came after he built a 5-0 lead in that matchup.

Salinas compared Terrizzi’s losses to the season heavyweight Jeffrey Brown had when he won a state championship for the Wildkits back in 2010. A loss to New Trier marred what would have been a perfect season for Brown. It also fueled the fire for a brilliant second half that culminated in a state crown.

“If Brown doesn’t lose to that New Trier kid, I don’t think he wins state,” said the veteran coach. “That was a driving force for him the rest of the year and he wrestled with a chip on his shoulder.

“Today Marco did five things right in those matches and one thing wrong, and that’s all it took for him to lose. He got baited into a bad situation in the semifinals [and made a move he didn’t have to attempt] and it wasn’t necessary. But we can fix that. His work ethic and dedication are right on point, right where they need to be. He’s a good leader, a phenomenal team captain, and I think whichever weight he wants to go at, he can be a state qualifier.”

Glascott triumphed via falls in his first two matches against John Scanlon of Wheeling (1:09) and Will Steen of Lakes (4:54), dropped his next two bouts, and earned fifth place via forfeit over Steen.

Heavyweight Pagues is starting to make the most of his opportunities after replacing injured starter Destiny Ekwebelan in the lineup about a week and a half ago. He was pinned in his first tourney match, versus Cesar Alvarez-Cuatepi of Schaumburg, but recovered to reel off consecutive falls against Dom Davi of Oswego (2:26), Luke Marsden of Oswego (3:41) and Leonardo Arroyo of Wheeling (1:20).

He finished his first varsity tournament with back-to-back losses via falls, but proved that the practice room at 285 could produce an interesting dynamic once Ekwebelan returns to health. Both competitors figure to be challenged by an up-and-comer in freshman Jeremy Marshall in the battle for a spot in the postseason lineup.

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