When it comes to winning Central Suburban League tournament wrestling championships, it’s a case of been there, already done that for Evanston senior Ramin Abraham.
It’s a bigger deal for teammates like Dylan Kull and Collin Olla-Chatman, who earned their first career titles and led the Wildkits to a third place team showing at the CSL Tournament held at New Trier High School Saturday.
Abraham because the first Kit grappler to claim 3 tournament crowns, ruling with a pair of decisions at 220 pounds, and Kull (132) and Olla-Chatman (285) scored breakthrough victories in their respective weight classes.
The start of the tournament was delayed 3 hours due to bad weather conditions that limited travel. ETHS placed 3rd in the team standings with 194.5 points at the 12-team meet that combined both the CSL South and North divisions, and trailed only Maine South (237) and Deerfield (234.5).
Glenbrook North (173), Glenbrook South (149), Maine West (117), Niles West (106.5), Vernon Hills (98), Maine East (84), New Trier (64.5), Highland Park (59.5) and Niles North (30) followed in order.
Coach Rudy Salinas’ squad advanced 9 individuals to the semifinals but only 5 of them made it to the title bouts. That’s the most champs that Evanston has crowned since the tournament was created back in 2000.
Abraham, ranked No. 1 in the state of Illinois at 220, disposed of challengers Trent Williams of Glenbrook North (9-4) and Jake Bellizzi of Maine West (3-1) and improved to 39-0 on the season. He picked up his 100th career victory via forfeit in the quarterfinals.
Kull pinned Deerfield’s Ben Shvartsman in 1 minute, 33 seconds in the finals at 132 and Olla-Chatman stuck Zyia Biram of Niles North in the title match at heavyweight in a quick 41 seconds.
The Wildkits also counted runnerup finishes from Walker Witt at 182 and Ricardo Salinas at 160. Salinas’ older brother, Rafael, placed 3rd at 170 and the Kits got 5th place contributions from Jacob Vice (120), Max Morton (152) and Ulysses Alva (195).
For seniors Kull and Olla-Chatman, Saturday was a last opportunity to claim a conference crown and their victories put them in a prime position for regional competition that will be held in a couple of weeks.
Kull, who now ranks 3rd on Evanston’s all-time wins list but hasn’t enjoyed much postseason success, believes this year will be different and is aiming at his first trip to the Illinois High School Association state finals.
He’s qualified for the sectional three years in a row but hasn’t cleared that hurdle yet.
“I’ve been in the finals (of the CSL tourney) three straight years so it feels great to finally win one,” said Kull, who improved to 32-3 on the season. “My hard work finally paid off today.
“Wrestling is such a mental sport and the last 2 years I’ve struggled with my nerves (in the postseason). I was really unsure of myself. This year I’m feeling much more confident and that’s made me a more effective wrestler. I’m growing and maturing, and at the end of the day I want to leave the mat telling myself I put in everything I had.
“I think I’m a more patient wrestler this year. I used to be way too eager to get points early, but now I’m able to wait and see openings when they come, and then try to take advantage of them.”
Kull opened his bracket action by pinning Glenbrook North’s Sam Ryabov, then defeated Isco Isuf of Maine West 7-2 in the semifinals. He has climbed the career list for victories at ETHS to 3rd with 143 and now trails only David Rivera-Kohr (157) and teammate Rafael Salinas (148) after passing Izzy Fox (142) in his last bout.
“I’d say this is my biggest win yet,” added the senior standout of his triumph in the finals. “I knew he (Shvarstsman, a freshman) was a ‘big move’ guy and that he would come out swinging. I also knew I could finish the match early and work my moves on top if I got on top. I think this year I’m finally putting it together more in the high stakes matches.”
“Confidence is a tricky thing, because you can lose it, or you can find it at different times,” pointed out ETHS head coach Rudy Salinas. “For Dylan to finish on top like he did today is a testament to his courage and his resolve. He didn’t get distracted and he kept climbing the mountain. He’s a fighter, through and through.”
The ultra-aggressive Olla-Chatman climaxed a big week with consecutive falls against Zach Williams of Deerfield (22 seconds), Charlie Tomsheck of Glenbrook South (1:30) and Biram. He committed to play football at Quincy University just two days ago and improved to a sizzling 16-1 on the season, with 14 of those wins coming via pins.
“I’m very happy with my results,” he said. “I was confident today and I made sure to wrestle every match like it was my last match. I want to finish off my senior year strong in every sport (he’s also on the track team) and I think this year I’m paying more attention to my technique than I used to.”
Abraham made a bid to be selected the Outstanding Wrestler in the South division with his third straight title, but coaches instead voted that honor to Maine South’s Jon Halvorsen, who scored a technical fall against Witt in the championship match at 182.
Abraham ruled a bracket that included 4 others ranked in the top 10 in the state but that fact didn’t sway the voters.
He admitted that it’s getting tougher for him to keep beating such familiar foes, but also relishes the challenge.
“I felt like I dominated today, even though the matches were close,” Abraham confided. “I never felt like I was in danger of losing even though these are all state-calibre guys. By now they know my style so well, so it’s hard for me to score and I have to work through that. That’s fine with me. I’ll face that type of strategy in the playoffs (postseason) where other guys will sit back just hoping I’ll make a mistake.
“Winning it again is a good accomplishment. I was solid today. In the finals, I knew he couldn’t take me down and I never felt like I was in danger. This is one goal I can check off now. Now I’m ready for the really big goals.”
Evanston’s other finalist, sophomore Ricardo Salinas, was pinned by the state’s No. 2 ranked grappler at 160, Brock Emmerich of Deerfield, in 1:24.
“We had a good team showing today,” summed up Coach Salinas. “It’s a little bit of a letdown that Ramin wasn’t the Outstanding Wrestler, because he won his 3rd in a row against the toughest weight class here. I thought he was in control against some good competition.
“There’s a bullseye on him and guys are taking shots and trying different things against him. He’s found a way to stay undefeated and that third title is really well-deserved.”