FRANKLIN PARK – After losing a wrestle-off at the beginning of the year to a sophomore, Jacob Bretz started the 2013-14 season on the JV team.
Little did the Wheaton North senior know at the time that he would end the campaign as a state qualifier.
On Saturday, Bretz completed his unlikely story by placing second in the 120-pound weight class at the Class 3A Leyden sectional and advancing to the IHSA state meet.
“I can probably say that this is one of the single best moments of my life,” Bretz said. “It’s been seven years of hard work. I’ve dedicated most of my free time to this and it finally paid off.”
Bretz notched a pin, a major decision and a 3-2 victory to reach the final, where he lost to Gabe Townsell of Oak Park.
“I ended up winning the Batavia tournament a month or so before this,” the senior said, “and after I won that, I thought, oh wow, maybe I have a shot. Everything just came into place and I peaked at the right time.”
Joining Bretz downstate will be longtime friend Anthony Yanan, who placed fourth at 220.
“Anthony is one of my best friends,” Bretz said, “and we’ve been talking about this since eighth grade, about wanting to make it to state. It’s surreal him and I both making it down.”
A third Falcon will be competing in Champaign as sophomore Dylan Thurston came in second place at 126, falling to Glenbard North four-time state qualifer Jon Marmolejo in the championship match.
“It’s an amazing accomplish to have three first-time state qualifiers, with two seniors and a sophomore,” Wheaton North coach Travis Cherry said. “This sectional is tough and it’s a great opportunity for our kids. And the guys who didn’t make it out of the sectional will learn from this.”
Devin Donovan (138), Micah Volle (152) and Chris Royer (195) also wrestled at the sectional.
Cole Cunningham will represent the Spartans at the IHSA state meet after placing third in the 285-pound weight class at Saturday’s Class 2A Lakes sectional.
Cunningham went 5-1 on the day, which included a first period pin in the third-place match.
Matt Humes (113) and Michael Andelbradt (220) also participated in the tournament. Andelbradt was one win away from qualifying for state.
A trio of Warriors competed at the Class 1A Byron sectional Saturday but none advanced to the IHSA state meet.
Alex Budzisz finished the winter with a record of 37-5 after winning one match at 152 pounds. Josh Dutton also won a match at 195 while Chris Williams wrestled at 220.
Emmanuel Garcia (106), Adrian Smiley (160) and Jonathon Garcia (195) competed in the Leyden sectional but did not advance to state. Emmanuel Garcia was fifth at 106.