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Oak Park's Ariola, Early advance to finals

02/16/2013, 1:00am CST
By George M. Wilcox gwilcox@pioneerlocal.com

Oak Park-River Forest senior Joe Ariola and sophomore Larry Early are both undefeated and heading into the finals at the Class 3A state wrestling tournament in Champaign on Saturday.

Oak Park River-Forest's Larry Early III squares up with Plainfield Central's Ryan Holzrichter during the IHSA State wrestling tournament at Assembly Hall in Champaign on Friday, February 15, 2013. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

CHAMPAIGN -- Two of Oak Park-River Forest's three undefeated wrestlers have advanced to Saturday night's Class 3A state finals.

Senior Joe Ariola (45-0) and sophomore Larry Early (45-0) were the only semifinalists to advance among four OPRF wrestlers Friday night at Assembly Hall.

The Huskies advanced two wrestlers to the finals for the second consecutive year. The championships begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Early will compete against Marmion's George Fisher (46-4) in the 132 final and Ariola will face Homewood-Flossmoor's Donnie Bell (33-6) in the 182 final. Fisher won the 119 title in Class 2A in 2011.

Early beat Plainfield Central's Ryan Holzrichter (41-9) 4-3 to reach the finals.

"I got to ride him out," Early said. "That is something I'm not supposed to do, but it happened. Fisher is the guy I wanted too."

Early placed third last year at 120. OPRF had two wrestlers in last year's finals when Sam Brooks won at 182 and Matthew Rundell placed second at 106. Rundell lost both of his matches this year when eventual state finalist Sebastian Pique beat Rundell in Thursday's opener and then Joliet Central's Treyvon Zabala defeated Rundell in Friday's wrestlebacks.

Early missed a possible matchup against Fisher earlier this year when OPRF defeated Marmion Jan. 24 in a dual meet in Aurora. Early stayed behind that day while suffering from the flu.

"I know he's tough on the top. I'm better on my feet," Early said. "That's basically it. I believe as long as I'm up on top, I'll win."

Ariola avoided a takedown with 20 seconds remaining in his match against Joliet Central's Sharod Wilson (43-4) to win 3-1.

"I was really nervous," Ariola said. "(Coach Mike) Powell told me to wrestle hard and have a strong mindset. I kept my cool. I didn't let any mental problems overcome me."

All three of Ariola's matches in the state meet were won by two points.

"This is so exciting. I have been thinking about this since the first day of wrestling (practice) this year," Ariola said. "It's crazy."

Two of OPRF's five freshmen in the state meet lost their semifinal matches Friday night. Isaiah White at 126 lost 3-1 to Harlem's Jordan Northrup. Undefeated Kyle Langenderfer of Lincoln-Way East pinned Kamal Bey in 3:05 to win at 152.

OPRF's other undefeated wrestler to enter the state meet, junior Davonte Mahomes at 160, lost in the quarterfinals earlier Friday, but has advanced in the wrestlebacks for third place.

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