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High school wrestling: 'Anything can happen' at dual team state for Harvard, Huntley, Marian Central

Marian Central's Joe Miller celebrates a pin against Deerfield's Jacob Fjeldheim at the 4:32 mark in their 195-pound bout in the IHSA Class 2A Fenton Dual Team Sectional on Tuesday. Marian won the dual, 40-26, and will wrestle in the state quarterfinals Saturday in Bloomington.
Marian Central's Joe Miller celebrates a pin against Deerfield's Jacob Fjeldheim at the 4:32 mark in their 195-pound bout in the IHSA Class 2A Fenton Dual Team Sectional on Tuesday. Marian won the dual, 40-26, and will wrestle in the state quarterfinals Saturday in Bloomington.

There’s one pin Joe Miller can’t erase from his mind.

And it’s not the good kind.

Two years ago, Niles Notre Dame’s Jackson Swinkle pinned Miller in the 152-pound match during a Class 2A dual team sectional. Miller, now a junior, was a freshman. He spent most of that season wrestling for the junior varsity, but occasionally would be called up to varsity to fill a void in the lineup.

At the time, Marian had never been to dual team state. The Hurricanes beat Niles Notre Dame, 32-24, to reach the state quarterfinals that night, but Miller knew the pin could have proved costly.

“That stuck in my head a lot,” Miller said. “I can’t repeat that ever again. Even in the offseason, I’d be up at night thinking, I can’t ever let that happen again.”

Miller now wrestles at 195. He’s frequently stuck behind Lou Gaddy in the Hurricanes lineup. When he does have opportunities, though, he tries to make the most of them. Miller pinned his opponent Tuesday in Marian’s sectional win over Deerfield.

Miller should have more chances this weekend, too. The Hurricanes will be one of three local teams competing at the IHSA Dual Team State Tournament on Saturday at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington.

“To me, it means a lot because I know that I’m finally helping us get there, I’m not letting down the team,” Miller said. “I look up to a lot of these guys on the team. It sounds weird because I’m the same age as them, but I look up to them a lot. I just never want to let them down and I always want to contribute.”

Harvard, Marian and Huntley will each wrestle in the 9 a.m. time slot in Class 1A, 2A and 3A, respectively. One dual victory will guarantee a state trophy.

“We plan on competing on the last day, on the last match of the season,” Marian coach David Silva said. “That’s going to be down in Bloomington. So we’re excited for that opportunity to wrestle.”

Marian (22-0) will begin with Aurora Christian in the quarterfinals. Aurora Christian has been a contender in Class 1A the last few years, winning a state title in 2018 and finishing as runner-up in 2019.

In Class 1A, Harvard (25-5) draws Coal City. Coal City has brought home four state trophies in the past five years, including a runner-up finish last season in 2A. The Hornets defeated Sandwich in Tuesday’s sectional.

Huntley (19-7) will face Barrington in the Class 3A quarterfinals after beating Libertyville in the sectional.

“They match up pretty well against us,” Huntley senior Sam Spencer said. “They’re strong at the upper weights. … It’s going to be an interesting match.”

Huntley’s David Ferrante and Barrington’s Luke Rasmussen met in the 170-pound state championship match Saturday night in Champaign. Ferrante won the title, avenging a loss in a sectional semifinal a week earlier. That will be the top match to watch, if they square off again.

The winner between Huntley and Barrington will likely face two-time defending state champion Montini, which just won a staggering five individual Class 3A state titles and 11 total medals in Champaign.

For Marian, should it advance past Aurora Christian, a matchup with Lemont could await in the semifinals. Marian and Lemont are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Class 2A by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. It could be a heavyweight battle, much in the same mold as last year’s Marian vs. Coal City semifinal, which Coal City won by a point.

Speaking of Coal City, the Coalers had 11 state qualifiers in Class 1A, compared to only two for Harvard. Coal City’s Daniel Jezik won the state title at 195. The Hornets are making their first trip to dual team state since 2014.

“I don’t have expectations,” Harvard coach David Schultz said. “As long as we show up to wrestle, anything can happen.”

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