Evanston’s wrestling team wrote a new chapter in the school record book last year by winning 32 of 36 dual meets. With two-thirds of the starting lineup from that squad graduated, it will be difficult for coach Rudy Salinas’ current crew to approach that standard.
But at least one Wildkit can make some history of his own. Senior 126-pounder David Rivera-Kohr is just 12 wins shy of the school career record for victories currently held by 1989 graduate Shannyn Gillespie after fashioning a 46-5 mark as a junior and capturing a Central Suburban League crown along the way.
Evanston hosts a quadrangular meet against Lane Tech, DePaul Prep and Hope next Tuesday to open the season, then will wrestle 10 matches in two days as the defending team champion at the Vernon Hills Tournament Nov. 27-28.
Rivera-Kohr is poised to set that career mark and put it out of reach. He’s coming off a 2nd place finish at a preseason national freestyle tourney in October, after earning All-American honors with an 8th place finish at the Greco-Roman nationals earlier.
“He’s got all the tools and he can score from anywhere. He’s dangerous when he’s on top, on bottom or neutral,” Salinas said. “And I think he’s definitely driven by last year’s experience at State (where he lost both of his matches at the Illinois High School Association finals in Champaign). He knows he could have returned with some hardware — but he didn’t. He’s the one who’ll set the tone for us as a team this year.”
Rivera-Kohr’s 125 wins rank third right now on the ETHS all-time list behind Gillespie (136) and 1981 graduate George Patterson (126). He’s one of three returning all-conference grapplers for the Kits, along with sophomore Izzy Fox (160 pounds) and heavyweight Lamont Davenport. Two other starters, Brandon Bias at 195 and Anthoney Morris at 220, are part of the foundation ETHS will build around this winter.
Evanston’s success last winter was due partly to a core group of seniors who were forced into varsity action as sophomores, took some lumps and developed into a regional championship team.
Sophomores make up exactly half of the 38 individuals listed on the varsity roster this year, but the scenario is a little different, according to Salinas.
“This year we have some solid returning guys at the heavier weights, and we didn’t have that when those others were sophomores,” the coach noted. “I think we’ll be OK from 182 pounds on up, and we also have some exciting freshmen coming in at the lower weights. It’s the middle weights where we’ll have to find guys to fill in.”
Fox compiled an eye-catching 38-11 record as a freshman at a weight that found him picking on guys who were almost all older than him. He placed third at the CSL Tournament and 2nd at the regional and could eventually challenge Rivera-Kohr’s record for wins — whatever that number turns out to be.
“That’s not bad for a freshman, not at all, but this year he won’t have the element of surprise working for him anymore,” Salinas said. “People will know what to expect from him now. But he wants to go to The Show (state finals) and test himself down there. He just needs to make sure he has fun this year — and goes out there with a plan, too.”
Bias, a junior, and Morris, a senior, are still sorting things out in the 195-220 weight classes. Bias finished with a 21-16 won-loss record last year and is bigger and stronger. He might be more comfortable at 220 while Morris, 20-11 a year ago, moves down to 195.
Davenport also has his eyes on the ultimate prize — a Downstate trip — after he flew under the team radar with a sterling 26-8 mark as a junior.
Four freshmen, including Salinas’ son Rafael, figure to be in the mix at the lower weights. The younger Salinas is listed at 138.
“The thing that’s exciting about the season is that all of those sophomores have a chance to prove themselves, and we’ll see how quickly the freshmen will develop, too,” the coach said. “They have to learn and mature, that’s just part of the process.
“My son, the Kull boys (Dylan and Kameron) and Daniel White are the freshmen coming in from the Evanston School of Wrestling (club) and I don’t know how soon they’ll contribute. I just want my son to have fun and enjoy the sport. It’s a gift to be able to be this close to him and I want to have a good relationship with him. I also want my wife to still be talking to me when I get home.
“Right now he’s surprising me every day with the way he’s beating up on some of the other underclassmen. I was in his corner sometimes in middle school, but mostly as a consultant, not as his coach. I don’t want to push him too soon.
“For the most part, we are rebuilding as a team. The plan is still to be the best team we can be in February.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information