Hinsdale Central’s Brian Allen spoke quietly and confidently just hours before he was scheduled to get on a bus and head to Champaign for the IHSA Individual State Tournament for the second straight year.
“I glorified it last year,” Allen, a sophomore heavyweight, said of the state competition. “This year it’s just another tournament.”
Allen is one of five Red Devils who will wrestle this weekend. The other four are seniors T.J. Sally (170 lbs.) and Justin Katzovitz (220 lbs.), junior George Tolbert (113 lbs.), and freshman Juwan Edmonds (126 lbs.).
The tournament begins Thursday at Assembly Hall in Champaign and runs through Saturday. Hinsdale Central head coach Jason Hayes says the state tournament is a unique atmosphere.
“The die-hard fans are there,” Hayes said. “Everyone in that arena loves wrestling.”
With the tournament's opening whistle approaching, the coach said Wednesday he wants his qualifiers to picture how they’re going to approach their upcoming matches.
“I tell them it’s all mental right now. Everybody’s trained hard physically, now it’s all the mental preparation and visualization,” Hayes said. “I’m happy for our kids but we have some work to do.”
Allen, who finished with a 41-1 win-loss record this year, said his goal this weekend is to do what his older brother Jack did last year as a senior and win a state title at 285 lbs. He has circled on his bracket DeLaSalle senior James Buss, the undefeated top seed who gave Allen his only loss in the DeLaSalle Sectional final last weekend.
“I have to win my side of the bracket first,” Allen said.
He’ll face Barrington junior Ben Calamari (33-6) in the first round.
For Sally, a senior making his first trip downstate after putting together a 27-7 record in 2011-12, the goal is more modest—win one match. He starts with Barrington senior Cameron Thomson (37-2).
“It’s the last time I’m going to step on the mat, so I want to make it worthwhile,” Sally said.
And while Allen, Tolbert, and Edmonds are qualifiers who have high school years in front of them, Sally said it’s important for every Red Devil, upperclassmen and underclassmen, to leave it all on the mat this weekend.
“They could get an injury next year and might not be able to make it back down,” Sally said. “Make this moment last. You may not get this moment again.”
Hinsdale Central will also compete as a team in the dual meet state tournament beginning next week with a meet against powerhouse Oak Park River Forest, who qualified eight individual wrestlers for this weekend's tournament.