Two Loyola wrestlers will be seeking spots at the state tournament when the Class 3A Barrington Sectional starts tonight.
Senior Andrew Gonzalez and sophomore Aidan McKeag both qualified for the sectionals for a second consecutive season. Gonzalez (27-9) wrestles DeKalb’s Niels Lewrentz in the first round at 195 pounds, while McKeag (26-16) goes up against Cary-Grove’s Wally Marsh at 126 pounds.
The top four in each weight class earn trips to the state tournament. Both Gonzalez and McKeag are looking for their first invitations to the State Farm Center in Champaign.
“I know this isn’t going to be easy,” said Gonzalez, a four-year varsity wrestler. “This is the second round of the state series, so everybody there knows what they are doing. I will do my best to win as many matches as I can.”
Gonzalez got to this point by taking second place at the Wheeling Regional last weekend. After losing to New Trier’s Jake Lowell in the final, Gonzalez asked his coaches as many questions as he could.
“I always want to know what I did wrong,” he said. “It’s the little details that make a difference. If you don’t talk about how you lost, it won’t do you any good in the future. As much as losing stinks, there is a lot to learn from it.”
That’s something that has impressed Joe Haney, Loyola’s first-year head coach.
“He’s never satisfied,” Haney said. “He’s always trying to do better, always wondering what he’s missing, what his missteps were. That’s what drives him. He’s very much a leader by example.”
McKeag beat Fremd’s Jack Reimer by fall in the third-place match at the Wheeling Regional to secure his spot at the sectional tournament. While he’s in a tougher weight class than he was as a freshman at 113 pounds, McKeag has the temperament to compete at a high level, according to Haney.
“He’s gritty, never quits,” Haney said. “He’s constantly going and keeps fighting. Even if he’s thinking it’s not going well, he stays after it and sometimes turns it around.”