Discovering dual dominance
MINOOKA — After five straight seasons of making it to the IHSA State Team Wrestling Tournament, the Minooka Indians have virtually perfected the formula for making the the trip to Bloomington an annual event.
"I think a lot has to do with chemistry. A good team has a lot of people that are decent wrestlers," Minooka senior captain Danny Ruettiger said. "If you have a team with good chemistry, everybody is pumped up to win. It's how we work together and communicate."
"It takes a bunch of hard-working kids going out there and doing what they need to do so that the team will win," Minooka senior captain Corbett Oughton agreed.
What the Indians have proven over the years is that it doesn't take a lineup stacked with All-Staters to have a chance to win at state — let alone win state.
"We should have had a few more people down at state, but it just didn't work out that way," Oughton said. "We still have plenty of tough kids on the team and I am confident our abilities that we can get it done.
"Even the year we won it, we only had two sixth-place finishers in Jake Residori and Sean Kenny. We weren't like a bunch of superstars that went out there and won a state title. We were a bunch of solid wrestlers who made up a good team."
"We always have good, decent wrestlers. Not having a lot of state placers is not that big of a deal," Ruettiger said. "We know that we have good wrestlers who can go out there and wrestle."
Minooka head coach Jeff Charlebois has been a large part of establishing the winning formula going back to that 2010 championship season.
"When we won state, our two highest placing kids were both sixth. But we had 14 kids that we put out in each lineup and we knew they were going to be hard to bonus," he said. "You have to be able to put kids out there who are competitive. They may not win. They may not win their match, but they're going to stay off of their backs. They may get majored instead of teched or pinned. They are going to get decisioned instead of majored. That's how you win dual meets.
"Our success has not been predicated upon having horses. Our success as a program is predicated upon having a complete team. We're not to the level we were in 2010, or even the runner-up years in '09 and '11, but we're a solid team. That's the biggest thing about being a good dual team and being a good tournament team."
Charlebois said that there are some teams at the current State meet this year that have four or five "studs", but whose rest of the lineup is average grapplers.
"The difference between having a good team and having a good dual team is this. You can have a team with five studs and a bunch of so-so kids, but if you have five kids racking up bonus points, they can account for 30 points," he said. "If the other nine kids on the other team get decisions, that's 27 points and you win 30-27, but that's a hard thing to do for a team."
This is the eighth time that Minooka has been to the team state finals since 2004. The first six came under current assistant coach Bernie Ruettiger, and last year, the Indians qualified under coach Paige Schoolman. Four times the Indians have gone to state, including last year after a 36-24 loss to Glenbard North. That, combined with a current dual record of 14-7, has many throughout the state thinking that the locals just might be ripe for the picking.
"I think our record and the way that we performed at several tournaments and several duals, not to mention guys we've had injured and stuff like that ... I think people think we're not as good as we really are," Minooka senior captain Mike McNalty admitted.
Still, after winning the Oswego East Sectional on Tuesday by a 48-9 count over Waubonsie Valley, Minooka is quietly confident about going down to U.S. Cellular field on Saturday morning.
"I think we are coming off a really good dual (at sectional) and that was a confidence booster," McNulty said. "Everyone seems to be healthy and wrestling well. It will be a good dual on Saturday."