A skeptic might look at the fact that Jason McDermott twice lost wrestle-offs to Evanston Township High School teammates this season and decide that the senior co-captain just wasn’t good enough to crack the starting lineup.

Evanston’s Jason McDermott, top, in a Dec. 10 meet against Eisenhower High School. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Not Evanston coach Rudy Salinas, who almost always sees the glass as half-full.

Bumped up two weight classes in an effort to help the Wildkits fill out their lineup, McDermott fell one win short of advancing to the Illinois High School Association state finals at 138 pounds after competition Friday and Saturday at the Class 3A Conant Sectional tournament.

McDermott and Marco Terrizzi (126 pounds) were near-misses at a tourney where the top four finishers automatically advanced to the state finals in Champaign. They will be regarded as alternates for further competition in the (unlikely) event that injuries prevent other qualifiers from competing at the state finals.

Two captains in the same weight class

McDermott, who began his senior year weighing 123 pounds, in effect took one for the team if you ask Salinas.

“It’s tough when you have two captains in the same weight class,” said the ETHS coach after McDermott split four sectional matches and concluded his final season with an outstanding 31-14 record.

“He went to 138 from 126 so he could help us fill a spot in our lineup. He lost a wrestle-off to Marco at 126, and then he lost to (sectional qualifier) Eren Atac in a wrestle-off for 132. So what did he say to me? He said if there’s a spot open, I’ll go at 138. So that’s what he did. And he came back today (Saturday) and beat the Elk Grove [High School] kid he lost to in the regional finals. That was a big win for him.”

McDermott’s unselfishness almost paid off. But he couldn’t quite extend his season another full week, losing via fall (in 53 seconds) to Finn Merrill of Lane Tech College Prep High School in the consolation semifinals.

After losing 8-2 to Schaumburg High School’s Aiden Ploski, the Evanston senior advanced past Leo Rosas of South Elgin High School by injury default, then eliminated Elk Grove High School’s Niko Thanopoulos by a 6-4 margin in the consolation bracket.

At 126, Terrizzi broke out to a 5-0 lead over The Maine South High School sophomore Luke Morrison, but Morrison turned the tables on the ETHS junior and scored a pin in 3 minutes, 58 seconds. That loss ended Terrizzi’s season at 30 wins and nine losses.

Terrizzi, whose talent is unquestioned, is starting to acquire a reputation as a grappler who gets burned every time he makes a mistake on the mat. It’s a dilemma that Salinas hopes he can solve between now and next season.

“Last year he didn’t advance because he couldn’t hold on to a lead, so he worked on that,” said the Evanston coach. “He got off to a good start against that Maine South kid, but now he’s fallen short for the second year in a row. There are some quirks, some glitches in there that still need more work.”

Atac (28-16) scored a 5-3 triumph over A.J. Quevedo of Schaumburg High School in the first round, then was pinned by No. 1 seed Mikey Dibenedetto Jr. of Glenbard North High School in 2:59. He bowed out in the next round, pinned by Hudson Ikens of DeKalb High School in 3:33.

Evanston’s other entrant, Thomas Jackson, was knocked out of the 195-pound bracket with losses to C.J. Robinson of Oak Park-River Forest High School (11-6 decision) and Elmer Olascoaga of Addison Trail High School (fall in 1:15). Jackson finished 26-9 on the year.

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