Fresh off an elbow injury he suffered during Greco Roman season, Mt. Carmel wrestler Eddie Enright was ready to take on his junior year.
And then, almost immediately, he was in wait-and-see mode.
Competing in the Caravan’s first tournament of the year, the Dan Gable Donnybrook in Iowa, in early December, Enright broke his right thumb.
“It was my first match there, and I was wrestling well in the second period and just tweaked it,” Enright said. “I didn’t know what it was. I came back the next day, finished the tournament, but I knew something was wrong. It was a growth plate that had a fracture, so I had to cast it up for a couple weeks. It healed up really well.”
Returning several weeks early as the thumb healed, Enright was able to get back into the lineup right before the postseason schedule. Helping host Mt. Carmel to a 51-23 nonconference dual victory on Jan. 20 over rival Marist, Enright won his match at 152 pounds via a fall in 1:37.
The Caravan won 9 of 14 matches, including 7 falls.
“It’s great being back,” Enright said. “Being a part of the lineup with the team, wrestling after guys like Sergio [Lemley], it lights a fire in your stomach. While I was out, I was a little frustrated I couldn’t be out there with them. It motivated me even more when I had the chance to get back out there.”
Enright is a Mt. Greenwood resident.
Competing the next day at the Chicago Catholic League (CCL) tournament, Mt. Carmel (251.5 points) finished second behind host Marmion Academy (262). The Caravan had four first-place finishers at the CCL meet and had a top-6 finisher in each of the 14 weight classes.
In the Marist dual, Enright regrouped from a tough loss as the Caravan battled St. Edward (Ohio), a top-five-ranked team in the nation. Leading the entire match, he was pinned late in the third round.
“It’s wrestling. You’ve got to battle through adversity,” Enright said. “I wasn’t trying to think about that St. Ed’s match. I wanted to keep that same mindset I had going in and wrestle the best I could against them for the team.”
Other winners in the Marist dual included sophomores Seth Mendoza at 120 (Fall 2:38), Jairo Acuna at 132 (Fall :47) and Kevin Kalchbrenner at 160 (Pin 1:35), senior Sergio Lemley at 138 (Technical Fall 4:50, 20-5) and juniors Colin Kelly at 170 (Fall :39), Will Jacobson at 182 (14-4 decision), Rylan Breen at 195 (Fall :22) and Alex Poholik at 285 (Fall 2:39).
Mt. Carmel and Marist are both top-five-ranked teams in Illinois.
The Caravan has dealt with a multitude of injuries through the middle portion of the schedule but have gotten healthy in recent weeks.
“The middle of December, everyone got hurt. We had 5, 6 guys out where we were all pretty worried,” Mendoza said. “Now, we’re rounding out and getting back to normal. We’re coming back strong in the last month. I think we can do pretty well at state. We can definitely win it for sure with our lineup.”
Mendoza, Kelly and Lemley are all returning individual state champions. Mt. Carmel also won the Class 3A state team title last season.
Mendoza has been wrestling at 113 all year but enjoyed the chance to compete at 120 against Marist.
“I don’t really care at all [my weight class]. It’s fun getting a challenge,” Mendoza said. “At your weight, you pretty much know everyone and where they’re ranked. You go up a weight class, you don’t know who you’re going up against. It’s always an adventure there.”
Mt. Carmel will compete at the upcoming Reavis regional with Marist and Sandburg also in the field. The team champion advances to the sectional with a bid to the state quarters on the line.
For Kelly, he thinks the Caravan has flown under the radar at times this season and not received the respect the team deserves.
“Our lineup has changed a lot with injuries and people bumping up weights,” Kelly said. “When it comes down to it, I think we’re the best team. All-around, we’re pretty solid. Guys can step up and fill in those holes and get some bonus points.”
Against Marist, Kelly won with an efficient pin in the first minute.
“I don’t think too much when I go out and wrestle,” Kelly said. “I have confidence in my preparation in the practice room. It was nice to get some bonus points on the scoreboard for the team. I’m having fun, not forcing anything and letting it come to me.”
Lemley is a three-time state champion, twice in Illinois as a freshman and junior and once in Indiana as a sophomore at Chesterton. He tweaked his left shoulder in December and sat for a week to make sure he didn’t aggravate the injury.
Now with the postseason around the corner, he’s raring to go.
“I’m taking it day-by-day. I’m really grateful to be in my position,” Lemley said. “Especially being a senior and a leader of this team, I’m not taking any moment for granted. You can’t get those memories back. There’s no pressure.”
Lemley is a University of Michigan recruit. For the three-time state champ, the shoulder issue is in the past.
“It’s a minor thing, but I didn’t want it to become a major thing [earlier],” Lemley said. “So far, so good. It’s not holding me back at all. As long as I was still practicing and in the lineup competing, I feel like I can go back-to-back-to-back-to-back.”
At the CCL meet, Lemley (138), Mendoza (120), Kelly and junior Lucas Tsirtsis (106) all finished first. Enright finished second at 152 and Poholik (285), freshman Liam Kelly (145) and Acuna (132) all took third.
Fourth-place finishers included Jacobson (195) and Kalchbrenner (160). Junior Kavel Moore (113) took fifth and senior Nick Naujokas (220), Breen (182) and senior Caleb Drousias (126) finished in sixth respectively.