Led by head coach John St. Clair, Lemont High School’s wrestling program knocked off a four-time defending state champion to win its first state title. Lemont outlasted Washington, 30-26, to capture the 2020 IHSA Class 2A Dual Team State Championship at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. The victory capped a season to remember for Lemont, which closed the year with a 32-2 record and set a school record for wins.
The wrestling team joins the school’s baseball and cheerleading squads as the only programs in school history to win team state titles. The baseball team won the IHSA Class 3A State Championship in both 2014 and 2016, while the cheerleading squad has the IHSA Medium Division State Championship six times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2018).
The title match was close throughout as expected. Lemont jumped out to a 9-0 lead thanks to wins by seniors Grant LaDuke (152) and Kyle Zator (160) and sophomore Alex Tagler (170). Washington got on the board with a win at 182 pounds, but Lemont responded in a big way. Sophomore Tyler Wilms (195) won by decision, junior Apollo Gothard (220) posted a first period pin, and junior Mo Jarad (285) earned a victory by decision, which pushed Lemont’s lead to 21-3.
Washington tightened the match to 21-17, posting a forfeit win at 106 pounds, a win by decision at 113, and a technical fall at 120 pounds. Senior Drew Nash (126) put an end to the momentum, pinning his opponent in just 10 seconds to push Lemont’s lead to 27-17. Washington stayed alive with a victory at 132 pounds, but freshman AJ Heeg (138) clinched the state title with a 10-5 win.
Lemont’s victory not only put a halt to Washington’s run of four IHSA Class 2A State Championships, but also avenged a 40-31 loss in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 IHSA Dual Team State Finals. Lemont had previously reached the dual team state finals in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019, winning trophies in 2010 (3rd) and 2011 (4th).
Lemont advanced to the championship match with a pair of convincing wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. In the opener, Lemont rattled off the match’s first 49 points on its way to a 58-7 win over Mattoon. Tagler, Wilms and senior Kyle Schickel (145) all posted victories by fall, while Nash scored a technical fall. LaDuke and sophomore Evan Schiffman (120) added wins by major decision, while Heeg, Zator and junior Tyler Bentley (106) won by decision.
Lemont started quickly again in the semifinal against Aurora Christian, scoring the first 22 points of the match before coasting to a 46-19 victory. Jarad, Nash, Schickel, Tagler and Zator all were victorious by fall, and LaDuke won by major decision. Bentley and Gothard each posted victories by decision.
Lemont earned the program’s seventh dual team state finals berth by defeating Chicago Noble/Comer, 69-3, at the IHSA Class 2A Evergreen Park Sectional on February 25. Lemont collected 10 wins by fall, as Bentley, Gothard, Heeg, Jarad, Schickel, Kyle Zator, sophomores Cole Brannigan, Mo Khalil and Jake Zator, and freshman John O’Connor all posted pins.
Lemont won the IHSA Oak Forest Regional on February 8 to earn its team sectional berth. Prior to that, it posted a perfect 13-0 record in South Suburban Conference matches and won the SSC Meet.
Five wrestlers finished the season with 40 or more wins, including Gothard, who closed the season with a spotless 49-0 record and broke his own single-season school for wins in a season. Jarad’s 47 victories rank second on the school’s all-time single-season wins list. Kyle Zator added 42 wins, while LaDuke and Schickel each posted 41. Schickel is the first in program history to record 40 or more wins four straight years. He closed his career with a school record 169 victories.
From February 20-22, Lemont enjoyed the most fruitful individual state finals in program history, setting a single-season school record with three state championships. Gothard (220), Jarad (285) and Nash (126) all won state titles, while LaDuke (152) and Schickel (145) posted state runner-up finishes. Schickel became the program’s first four-time state medalist by earning his fourth state runner-up finish, while Gothard and LaDuke each earned their third state medals and Nash picked up his second. Heeg (138), Kyle Zator (160), Schiffman (120), Tagler (170) and junior Ray Hernandez (132) also were part of a school-record contingent of ten state finalists.