CHAMPAIGN – It might have taken a little longer than hoped, but in the end, Jered Cortez joined select company.
Taken to overtime by Lincoln-Way Central’s Joey Nelson, the Glenbard North senior emerged with a 3-1 victory Saturday in the 132-pound state championship match at the IHSA Class 3A individual state meet.
The state title was the fourth of Cortez’s high school career, a feat that only 13 other wrestlers in Illinois have accomplished.
“I’ve seen it done before and it’s always been my dream since I was a little kid,” said Cortez, who went to Marmion as a freshman before transferring to Glenbard North. “It hasn’t really hit me yet [being a four-time champ], but I’m not done. I want to be a national champion, world champion and Olympic champion. All those come with time, but you have to want to do it now.”
Making the accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that Cortez was wrestling with a partially torn MCL in his left knee, an injury suffered at the DVC meet Feb. 1.
“This state title was definitely the most challenging one physically and emotionally,” Cortez said. “Emotionally, it was hard to get up every morning and you can’t move your knee, you can’t bend your knee, and all the pain I have to deal with.”
As he received his medal, many things were going through his head.
“Just all the support I’ve had,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without my family, I wouldn’t be here without God. It’s a blessing in my life to have all these opportunities.”
Teammate Jon Marmolejo nearly joined Cortez atop the awards podium, instead settling for second place at 126 pounds. The senior dropped a 5-1 decision in the title bout to Johnny Jimenez of Marmion, who happens to be another four-time state champ.
Marmolejo’s only two losses of the season came to Jimenez, with the first occurring at the Dvorak tournament.
“The only consolation is this will give me more drive to win a national title this summer,” Marmolejo said. “I’m already looking forward to winning another title of any kind.”
Freshman Austin Gomez capped off his debut season with a third-place finish at 113. He lost to eventual state champ Brian Rossi of Lockport 7-1 in the semis.
Junior Kirk Johansen was fourth at 106. Pat Augustyn (120), Colton Wegner (170) and Luke Greenberg (195) also competed.
Glenbard North, which won its 14th straight team regional title this season, returned to the mats Tuesday at the Conant team sectional and lost 27-26 to the host Cougars. The match actually ended in a tie, but Conant was awarded the win based on criteria. The Cougars advance to take on Oak Park-River Forest in Saturday’s Class 3A quarterfinals while the Panthers failed to qualify for state for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Cortez did not compete because of his knee injury.