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Sandburg's C.J. Brucki reacts during his match with Brother Rice's Nuntreae Jackson (not pictured) during state wrestling at Assembly Hall Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 in Champaign. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
It's been one emotional ride for C.J. Brucki this season and it's not over yet.
The Sandburg senior says a prayer before every match for his great-grandmother, who died earlier this season. Now, he and his Sandburg teammates wear a patch on their uniforms in honor of the school's late athletic director, Bruce Scheidegger, who died last weekend.
A couple weeks ago, Brucki probably saved the Eagles' state title hopes when he rallied in the third period to beat Marist's Peter Andreotti in the Marist Regional 160-pound final.
And on Saturday, Brucki avenged three earlier losses to unbeaten and nationally-ranked Davonte Mahomes of Oak Park-River Forest by scoring a 9-4 win in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Assembly Hall. Brucki then beat Brother Rice's Nuntrae Jackson 8-6 in the semifinals and now he's one match away from a state title.
The adrenaline rush he felt in the semifinal was something else.
"Coming off that mat, I couldn't even stop moving," said Brucki (40-6), who meets Hersey's Hunter Rollins (42-2) in the final. "I was looking for things to do even during the match. I was trying to find ways to get myself tired. But I just had too much of a gas tank. I couldn't do it."
It's a common trait for the Eagles. Teammate Sebastian Pique (15-2), out much of the season with a dislocated elbow, won his second straight overtime match in the quarters (6-3 over Joliet Central's Trayvon Zabala) before getting past Marist's David Kasper 5-2 in the semis. Three wins over returning state placers (he beat 2012 runner-up Matt Rundell of Oak Park-River Forest Thursday) have earned Pique a Saturday showdown with Marmion junior Johnny Jimenez (47-2). Jimenez is going for his third consecutive state title, first in 3A.
Pique is going for his second title after winning in 2011 for Hinsdale South and losing to Glenbard North's Jered Cortez in last year's 120 final.
"I've had some tough matches so far," Pique said. "I haven't felt my best, but I'm going out there and competing. That's all I can ask for. ... Last year was rough. I got beat up in the finals but hopefully can change that this year."
The junior Jimenez, meanwhile, is looking for more of the same in his quest to become the state's 12th four-time champion.
"I just wrestled [Pique] last weekend," he said. "We've been wrestling all summer, too. It's going to be a really fun match. I'm looking forward to it and I'm not accepting any losses."
Neither was Montini's Michael Sepke (37-9), who needed a takedown with 12 seconds left to edge Ridgewood's Sam Karim 8-7 in a Class 2A semifinal at 145.
"I made a mistake early but I just kept with it, kept my pace up [and] just wore him down till I got to my shots and finished him," Sepke said. "We go to the best competition in the nation: Ironman, Dvorak, Cheesehead [tournaments]. We're in this position all the time. It doesn't always go according to plan, but I'm happy with the result."
Montini dominated Class 2A qualifying, sending eight wrestlers to the finals. Sandburg's four finalists — Brucki, Pique and unbeatens Colin Holler (47-0, 170) and Ricky Robertson (47-0, 195) led 3A.
Other local returning champs in the 3A finals are Thornton's Kris Williams (19-1) at 113, Glenbard North's Jered Cortez (47-0) at 126 and Lincoln-Way East's Kyle Langenderfer (42-0) at 152. Also seeking to repeat in 2A are Montini's Tommy Pawelski (41-6) at 113 and Sycamore's Austin Culton (43-0) at 152.