Matt Reyes earned his own part of Mt. Carmel history.
The 285-pound wrestler for the Mt. Carmel Caravan, earned a 3-2 decision victory in the finals of the Kaukauna Cheesehead Invitational tournament in Wisconsin, earning only the second Caravan individual championship in the 18-year history of the Cheesehead.
Reyes’ championship helped the Caravan earn their first ever team title at the Cheesehead, and are only the second team from Illinois to win the team title. Montini Catholic is a two-time Cheesehead champion, earning titles in 2007 and 2014.
“The thing I love about my team is we are not a team; we are a family,” Reyes said after taking a team photo with their newly earned championship trophy. “I live with these guys; a lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into our family. Everything just came together for us.”
Reyes defeated T.J. Rayam of Thompson High School (AL) in the final. Thompson is a two-time defending 7A state champion, ranked #1 at 285 pounds in Alabama, and is fielding offers from numerous schools as a football player, including NCAA Football Sub-division runner-up Jacksonville State.
“The difference was I have wrestled a lot of guys that only want to do upper body, and that is what he wanted to do,” Reyes said. “He did have a strong defense and a stronger upper body, but I had a wider range of moves that attacked the legs and that helped me in the finals.”
The Caravan had a total of 11 wrestlers finish in the top 6 in their weight classes at the 27-team tournament, including a 2nd place finish from Jake Tucker, was dropped a 5-2 decision to Griffin Parriott of New Prague (MN). Parriott is ranked 3rd in the country and Tucker #19 according the Intermat Website. Mt. Carmel also got 3rd place finishes from Yahya Thomas at 126 pounds, Cameron Lopez (160), and David Riojas (170).
“How we wrestled is a true testament to the character of the team that we have,” Caravan head coach John Kading said. “These guys are absolutely just ferocious workers. While their all their friends were at home enjoying their Christmas break, they were doing doubles and working their tails off. It truly showed here with how they grinded some matches out.”
With eight of the top 50 teams, and 21 individuals ranked in the country, the Cheesehead is one of the top tier tournaments in the country. Carl Sandburg of Illinois finished in second place in the team standings, with Kasson-Mantorville, St. Michaels Albertville, Apple Valley, all of Minnesota, rounded out the top five.
Three wrestlers came into this year’s Cheesehead with a chance to record their third individual titles. Beau Breske of Hartford (WI) and Austin O’Connor of St. Rita (IL) both earned those titles, while Ethan Andersen of 2015 team champion Southeast Polk (IA) fell short in his attempt.
Breske, who will be attending Nebraska and is currently ranked #3 in the country, earned his third straight Cheesehead title with a 3-2 decision over Lucas Jeske of St. Michaels Albertville. All three of Breske’s titles were at 170 pounds.
O’Connor, who was also named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament, grappled to a pin fall victory over Ethan Karsten of Platte County (MO) in the 145-pound final. O’Connor, currently ranked #3 in the country at 145 pounds, won his first title in 2014 at 106 pounds, and his second at 132 pounds in 2015.
“It feels good each year to keep getting better and better results here,” O’Connor said. “First year I had a pretty tough match; second year I earned a pin and with the last match of the tournament, I like the spotlight. Any chance I get to perform in a front of a lot of people, I do better.”
Andersen lost to the #1 ranked wrestler in the country, Gabe Steveson of Apple Valley, 10-3 in the 220-pound final. His two titles were also at 220 pounds.