Marist star wrestler Peter Marinopoulos isn’t letting his season-ending loss in the state championship define his senior season—far from it.
Marinopoulos piled up an amazing 59-2 record over his final two varsity seasons, with the two losses both coming in the state championship match. He accumulated individual and team accolades and can’t wait to head to the University of Illinois to continue his wrestling career.
Although the two losses were incredibly hard to deal with, Marinopoulos knew he had some longtime fans cheering him on in his former teammates from the Mustang Wrestling Club (MWC) in Mt. Greenwood.
“It was a hell of a two years [junior and senior],” Marinopoulos said. “I don’t want to take anything away from what I’ve been able to accomplish the last two years. It sucks the losses had to happen in the state finals, but I’m still proud of myself. I’m OK with myself that it ended like that.”
Marinopoulos wasn’t alone in terms of MWC alums starring at the state finals. Br. Rice sophomore Bobby Conway won the Class 2A state title at 126 pounds, and Mt. Carmel junior Eddie Enright Jr. finished as Class 3A state runner-up at 152 pounds.
Other MWC alums competing at state included Marist’s George Marinopoulos and Ricky Ericksen, St. Rita’s Austin Dangles and Br. Rice’s Charlie Connolly and John Fitzpatrick.
Through thick and thin, win or lose, Marinopoulos (Cassell) knew his MWC teammates were supporting him. The MWC is a longtime, local youth wrestling club based out of Mt. Greenwood Park.
The club was first formed in 1974 and has been going strong ever since.
“We always know we have each other’s back,” Marinopoulos said. “From the blood, sweat and tears [at Mt. Greenwood Park], we have a bond like no one else. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to have each other’s back at the end of the day.”
For Marinopoulos, the state championship loss was one thing, but it was how he lost. In the Class 3A 195-pound match in mid-February at the University of Illinois’ State Farm Center, Marinopoulos was battling Libertyville’s Cole Matulenko.
Just 30 seconds into the match, Matulenko managed to pick Marinopoulos up and throw him down to the ground. On impact when his head hit the mat, Marinopoulos was knocked out.
Before the referees made a call concerning the injury, Matulenko pinned Marinopoulos. On the mat, he was quickly attended to by the on-site athletic trainers.
He was diagnosed with a concussion later that night.
“I remember wrestling on our feet, and he got in on a deep double. He gets me up in the air,” Marinopoulos said. “Next thing I know, there’s a bunch of people standing around me and asking me questions. There’s nothing I can do about it. It sucks to see it. It was the worst possible thing that could have happened.”
Almost a month later, Marinpoulos is feeling fine and has no concussion symptoms.
A few hours later at the state finals, Enright lost a heartbreaker in the title match at 152 pounds. In a close matchup against West Chicago’s Nolan Allen, Enright was the victim of a fast-developing pin in the closing seconds of the second round.
Marinopoulos and Enright, though a year apart in school, have been best friends for years dating back to their days playing Mt. Greenwood Colts flag football when they were 5.
They grew up together in and out of sports, so when the duo suffered similarly emotional state-championship losses, they knew who to lean on.
“We talked about it, how disappointing it was,” Marinopoulos said. “Eddie’s still got another shot [as a senior]. It goes by so quick, so put in all the work you can. It’s over with a snap of your fingers.”
Enright (Mt. Greenwood Elementary) was stunned by the loss, but he said that texts back and forth following the defeat helped ease the emotions.
“That night, I really didn’t want to talk to too many people. I just wanted some time to myself,” Enright said. “I had my phone getting texts from everybody, but the only person I really wanted to talk to was Peter because I knew he was in the same spot as me. Talking to him helped me through it because he’s been through it this year and last.”
However, Enright had no time to dwell. Mt. Carmel was still alive in the team state postseason, eventually winning a dual-team sectional before falling in the state quarterfinals.
Enright did his best to endure an especially tough week.
“After team state, our coaches talked to us. I looked around and saw some of our seniors,” Enright said. “That’s when it kind of hit me. It was just a loss. I can’t do anything other than work harder and push myself past my limits every day.”
Enright’s dad, Ed, is a longtime wrestling coach for MWC.
As wrestlers from the club continue to make a name for themselves at the high school level, Enright can’t help but feel some hometown pride.
“When I think of the Mustangs, it’s pretty much a homegrown Mt. Greenwood team. We don’t pull kids in from all over,” Enright said. “It’s just a group of guys who have their kids training to be a better person later in life, not just from the sport. To know that we have the amount of success we’ve had, that’s really impressive to me.”
With a big Greco-Roman season ahead of him, Enright is hoping to make a college choice this year. He hopes to wrestle in the Big Ten Conference or the Ivy League.
For Conway, the state championship win was a huge exclamation point on a breakout sophomore season.
He qualified for state last year at 120 pounds but went 1-2 overall and did not medal. This year, Conway (Cassell) knew he could take a huge step forward.
“I had a goal to win state from the beginning of the year. That’s always the big goal,” Conway said. “I set up little goals in front of me before I made it to the big goal. As long as I kept stepping up the ladder, I should be able to get to the grand goal. I kept taking baby steps until I took a ginormous step at the state finals.”
Conway won a thriller at 126 pounds to win the state title, a back-and-forth match with Troy Triad’s Colby Crouch that saw some huge momentum swings.
“Just making it to the finals was all I needed for this season. Winning the finals was crazy,” Conway said. “I still can’t put it into words. It’s been a few weeks and still, I don’t have words for it.”
As for any potential bragging rights with his MWC teammates, Conway wasn’t having it. The bond between the wrestlers is too close to be busting chops on former teammates.
“It’s just respect. We respect everyone who wrestled with the Mustangs,” Conway said. “Eddie’s got me a couple times before that made me want to quit wrestling. I’m not going to brag ‘Oh, I’m better!’”
Conway said he loves seeing his MWC teammates star in high school, whether they’re with the Crusaders or across the mat as competitors.
“It’s not just the kids who made it to the finals. All these guys were on the team we had,” Conway said. “It was fun times. We weren’t just wrestling to wrestle. We were having fun with it. That brought our team together when we were at bigger tournaments. We had fun.”
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