Caravan Wrestling Starts Strong


Liz Boersma

Caravan wrestlers take a photo at a recent event in Iowa.

While the football team tends to get the most attention at Mount Carmel, as of late the Caravan wrestling team has been extremely successful, looking to rival the success of the popular football squad.

The Caravan wrestling team is currently ranked #1 in the state of Illinois and #17 in the nation according to Illinois Matmen and MatScouts, respectively. The wrestlers have started the season very strong as they prepare for an upcoming weekend trip to Ohio to compete in what is considered by many to be the toughest tournament in the country, the Walsh-Jesuit Ironman.

23 of the top 50 teams in the country headline this weekend’s tournament, hosted by Walsh-Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls. The Ironman Tournament has four of the top five ranked teams in the country and over 60 total teams, meaning wrestlers hoping to win it all generally face a daunting six-match gauntlet sure to be filled with national-caliber wrestlers. Because of this, the Ironman is generally considered to be the toughest tournament that high schoolers compete in. There are 5 Caravan grapplers seeded in the tournament, senior heavyweight Ryan Boersma has the two seed, junior 126-lb. Sergio Lemley and freshman 106-lb. Seth Mendoza are both seeded third, and sophomores Collin Kelly and Damian Resendez are seeded twelfth at 157-lbs. and 113-lbs., respectively.

In order to get ready for such a difficult tournament, the first two weeks of the Caravan schedule have been carefully chosen by Coach Alex Tsirtsis. This past weekend, the Caravan wrestling team headed to Iowa City, Iowa to compete in its first tournament of the season. The Caravan and five other nationally-ranked teams were present at the first annual Dan Gable Donnybrook wrestling tournament, and each weight class had a handful of nationally ranked individuals. 

Prior to this tournament, the Caravan competed in five dual meets, or the equivalent of regular-season games.

In the first meet of the season, on Wednesday, November 24th, the Caravan wrestled conference opponents St. Laurence and Brother Rice, defeating the Vikings 66-6 and the Crusaders 57-9. On November 27th, Mount Carmel competed against #18 Minooka, #2 Lockport, and a tough Moline team with several high-ranked individuals. The Caravan defeated the Indians 61-10, the Porters 45-25, and the Maroons 56-23. 

At the Dan Gable Donnybrook tournament, the Caravan placed 3rd, falling to top ten nationally ranked teams Waverly-Shell Rock of Iowa and Liberty of Missouri. Mt. Carmel edged Dekalb for third place by a point and a half. 

At 106, Mendoza won his bracket, pinning his first two opponents. Resendez took third, upsetting the 2-seed in the quarterfinals. At 120-lbs., freshman Jairo Acuna placed 8th, making the quarterfinals and losing tight to a nationally ranked opponent. At 126, Lemley powered his way through the bracket, earning 3 pins, a technical fall, and a 13-4 major decision in the finals. Sophomore Eddie Enright finished 4th at 132-lbs., losing two very close matches after making the semifinal. Junior Nam Doan went 2-3 at 138-lbs., senior Marcus Milianti went 2-2 at 145-lbs., and freshman Kevin Kalchbrenner finished 1-3 at 152-lbs. At 160-lbs., Kelly finished in third, only losing 8-4 to the eventual champion Aiden Riggins of Waverly-Shell Rock, who is a top 5 nationally ranked wrestler. Senior Owen Jacobson went 3-2 at 170-lbs., and sophomore Rylan Breen went 2-2 at 182-lbs.

Three seniors anchor the heavyweight core of 195, 220, and 285. Elliot Lewis, who wrestles 195, went 4-1 after losing very close in the first round to the two seed. John McKeon, the Caravan 220, went 2-2, losing to third nationally-ranked Ben Kueter of Iowa City in the first round. Boersma pinned his way through his bracket, including an 8-second fall in the opening round. Lemley won the outstanding wrestler award for the tournament, earning 54.5 team points.

After this weekend, the Caravan still has many more important events. On December 18th and 19th, the Caravan travel to Rockford for the last tournament of the season before the conference tournament. On January 15th, the Caravan head to Detroit to dual two nationally ranked teams form Michigan in Detroit Catholic Central and Davison. 

On January 20th, the Caravan will face off with the Marist RedHawks, who are ranked 6th in Illinois. The day after, Mt. Carmel will host Crown Point, who is nationally ranked a few spots ahead of the Caravan. The Crown Point dual is senior night, since it is the only home meet for the Caravan. On January 22nd is the Catholic League tournament, which Mt. Carmel will host. 

The state series begins with individual regionals February 5th, and runs through the 26th with team state. 

The Caravan were IHSA state runners up in 2019, and IWCOA state champions in 2020. This season, Caravan wrestling will look to secure their first IHSA state title since 1994.