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Marmion's Johnny Jimenez (left) ties up Sandburg's Sebastion Pique during the 3A 120-pound championship bout at the IHSA State wrestling tournament at Assembly Hall in Champaign on Saturday, February 16, 2013. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Johnny Jimenez and George Fisher already had made history as Marmion’s first three-time finalists before they competed in Saturday’s IHSA state wrestling finals.
But the two Cadets standouts had much bigger plans on their minds as they stepped onto the Class 3A title mat at the Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Jimenez, a junior, was looking for a third straight championship while Fisher, a senior, hoped to bounce back from a finals loss a year ago to claim his second title.
Although both individuals felt good about their chances, they also faced difficult obstacles in their quest to capture another championship.
Sandburg’s Sebastian Pique, a state champion in 2011 and a runner-up a year ago, faced Jimenez. Fisher took on Oak Park-River Forest’s unbeaten Larry Early.
Jimenez kicked things off in the 120 finals by grabbing the early advantage and prevented Pique from scoring as he claimed a 3-0 win to improve to 48-2 on the season.
That was the same score he beat Richmond-Burton’s Cameron Kennedy by in the 2011 Class 2A 103-pound finals. A year ago he won 4-2 over Rock Island’s B.J. McGhee at 113 in 2A.
“It feels amazing knowing that all of my hard work this season paid off,” Jimenez said. “I wrestled him I like I would any other kid, but beating him last week helped and gave me the advantage. He’s a great wrestler and it’s awesome that I got to compete against him. Winning my third title feels really great. I’m definitely going to keep working hard for the fourth one.”
Fisher beat Sandwich’s Alphonso Vruno 5-2 for the Class 2A 119-pound title in 2011, but fell 6-3 to Civic Memorial’s David Pearce a year ago at 126 in 2A.
There would be no need for him to go the distance in the 132 finals, however, as the 47-4 Fisher got Early on his back quickly and pinned him in 1:45.
“This means a lot and shows how much I’ve improved,” Fisher said. “After I lost last year, that’s all that I thought about the whole entire year. I could have given a lot more and I didn’t, so this time I was going to give it my all. I thought it would take a full six minutes but I caught him in the front end of a cradle and it happened, and I’m really happy about that.”
Now the pair of champions can join fellow placers Anthony Bosco (4th at 106) and Alex Fritz (6th at 285) in helping the Cadets to accomplish more history.
Marmion qualified for this weekend’s dual team state meet for the second time and hopes to complete the season by earning its initial trophy in the sport.
Cadets coach Ryan Cumbee, who won a state title at Providence Catholic in 1999, coached state champions as an assistant but his first two as a head coach are special.
“I don’t have the control that I did when I wrestled, so I get to watch them do it and they are so good,” Cumbee said. “It’s no coincidence that those guys won since they worked hard. They had to wrestle like they knew how to and if they did, I knew they would win. They’re the hardest-working kids that I’ve seen and don’t take anything for granted. I’m so happy for them.”