Ramin Abraham won’t fall into the trap some unbeaten high school wrestlers can fall into midway through an unblemished season, where they wrestle NOT to lose and try to preserve an exalted state ranking.

The Evanston senior had his closest call of a so far perfect season Saturday, but captured the 220-pound championship at the Rus Erb Tournament hosted by Glenbrook South with a 5-4 trimming of Lake Park’s DeMarco Lee in the title match.

Abraham and classmate Rafael Salinas (170 pounds) both earned titles for the Wildkits, who placed second in the team standings by a narrow 171-167 margin behind champion Batavia in the 18-team field.

Salinas, who moved up a weight class this season, pushed his own perfect season record to 22-0 by scoring a major decision (9-0) against Sycamore’s Zak Kozumplik in the finals at 170. Also scoring top finishes for Evanston were Dylan Kull, 2nd at 132; Collin Olla-Chatman, 2nd at 285; Walker Witt, 3rd at 182; and Kameron Kull, 5th at 152.

Abraham was taken down for the first time this season and actually trailed Lee 4-3 after two periods Saturday — at least according to the scoreboard.

But both Abraham and head coach Rudy Salinas knew the score was wrong, leading to some drama with 15 seconds left in the match when the score was corrected by the officials. Abraham then fended off Lee for the final ticks of the clock and improved to 20-0 on the season.

He reached the finals by scoring a technical fall (18-2) over T.J. West of Buffalo Grove and a fall in 1 minute, 33 seconds against Josh Kreutz of Loyola Academy.

Lee was a tougher nut to crack, moving up from the 195-pound class where he is ranked 4th in the state in Class 3A by Abraham dealt the Lake Park grappler his first loss of the season.

“I was really pushing the pace and I knew I got a stalling point (in his favor) in the second period, and the body lock they called against him should have been a point,’ Abraham said. “So I knew the score was wrong. I wasn’t worried when I was down, though, because my cardio is better this year than it was last year and I knew I could push it and push it at the end.

“I won, but I am sad because I never should’ve given up that (first) takedown. He is the toughest guy I’ve faced this year. But I don’t ever look at the rankings because I don’t believe in them. I’m ranked No. 1 — so what, everyone’s beatable. You’ve got to keep working hard and you’ve still got to prove it on the mat.

“I just trust the process and I always go out there and wrestle to win.”

Salinas’ patience was tested watching from the sideline as it appeared that Abraham might suffer an upset, but the veteran ETHS coach knew that the posted score was wrong, too.

“I was waiting for a break in the action to talk to the officials, and it took a long time to get to that break,” he said. “Then I was able to make it right. I have a lot of respect for that Lake Park kid — he’s a very talented and very unorthodox young man — and we’ll probably see him at the sectional and at State again this year.

“Ramin can definitely wrestle better than he did in that match. He has a good offensive mindset and he still has a lot of improving to do. He has to enjoy the moment — I wouldn’t tell anyone to back away from that No. 1 ranking — but he knows he still has room to improve.”

Coach Salinas admitted to mixed emotions, ranging from the joy of watching his older son (Rafael) dominate the 170-pound class to the disappointment that younger son Ricardo had to miss the competition due to a case of bronchitis.

Ricardo Salinas took 2nd place last year at the tourney at 152 and almost certainly could have helped ETHS make up the 4-point deficit in the team standings. As it turned out, the Wildkits could have prevailed had Olla-Chatman managed to score a fall in the heavyweight championship bout, instead of dropping a 3-0 decision to Jack Brunati of Lakes Community.

“I think Ricardo would have been good for 18 or 20 points for us,” said the Evanston coach. “But this is still the best team finish we’ve had since I’ve been head coach.

“It was a dream come true for me to give that championship plaque to my own son. I haven’t had any other wrestler place here four times in the last 20 years, and for him to win it his senior year was really special.”

Rafael Salinas’ special performance included back-to-back pins against Ben Umansky of Wheeling (3:07) and Norbert Crecan of Glenbrook South (5:54) before turning in a shutout effort to take the crown.

Against Kozumplik, Salinas struck for takedowns in the early stages of all three periods to secure the crown.

“I knew I had to use my quickness and hit him with my best stuff early, before he hit me,” said Salinas regarding his match strategy. “I just caught him in good positions every time.

“I feel like I worked really hard for this and I’m kinda putting it all together now. My confidence has definitely shot up this year even though I chose to move up a class. I’m getting good on my feet and I’m trying to minimize the amount of time I’m on the mat. That’s much easier said than done, but my smart technique has gotten a lot better.”

Olla-Chatman, Dylan Kull and Witt all endured their first defeats of the season at approximately the midway point of the year. Kull, now 17-1, was locked in a scoreless tie with Christian Valadez when the Mundelein Carmel junior turned him in the blink of an eye and registered a pin in 3:22 in the finals at 132.

Witt’s loss, by a 5-4 margin in the semifinals versus a physical Dominee Daniels of De La Salle, ended the ETHS grappler’s win streak at 22  in a row. But he bounced back and only needed 14 seconds to pin Jimmy Clancy of St. Patrick in the third place bout.

Kameron Kull earned 5th place for the Kits, edging Vince Plowman of St. Patrick 1-0 in his last match at 152.

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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