PHOTO: Joey Giurini (left) and Olsi Rama are among the top high school wrestlers in Illinois. They've qualified for the IHSA state finals, which take place Feb. 15-17. Scroll down for updates from their matches .
Giurini (33-4) qualified for state in the 126-pound weight class by placing second at the Class 2A sectional meet held Feb. 9-10 at Grayslake Central. This is the second year in a row that Giurini has made it to state.
Rama (7-3) qualified in the 220 class by finishing third at the Grayslake Central sectionals. This is Rama's third consecutive trip to Champaign as a state qualifier.
Matches in 14 weight classes in 1A, 2A and 3A will continue Friday, Feb. 16, and conclude Saturday, Feb. 17. The complete tournament schedule is available here. Every match will be streamed live on the NFHS Network via www.IHSA.tv.
FEB. 15 UPDATE: In the 2A 220-pound prelims today, Olsi Rama won by decision over Pontiac's Liam Melvin. In the 126 prelims, Joey Giurini lost by decision to Bloomington's Ryan Gardner.
FEB. 16 UPDATE: In the 2A 220-pound quarterfinals today, Olsi Rama lost to Urbana's Luke Luffman by fall. But in the first round of consolations, Rama defeated Tinley Park's Ezekiel Childs by fall, setting up a second-round consolation match against Darael Dugar of Thornridge.
FEB. 17 UPDATE: In the second round of 2A 220-pound consolations, Darael Dugar of Thornridge won in sudden victory over Olsi Rama, ending EPHS's appearance in the state tournament.
PHOTO: Joey Giurini takes a break during a recent practice. D401 photo by Dave Porreca.
For Giurini, the return to Champaign means a chance to draw on the experience he's accumulated during his stellar final season at EPHS.
"This year I've learned a lot more," he said. "I know more about my body, and I have more knowledge about the sport now."
Giurini plans to continue wrestling next year at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, an NCAA Division III school where he will major in secondary education.
PHOTO: Olsi Rama at practice this week. D401 photo by Dave Porreca.
For Rama, his third trip to state might be his sweetest, given the medical obstacles he had to overcome to get there.
He tore his meniscus in September during the fifth week of football season, leading to surgery and a two-and-a-half-month layoff.
When Rama was finally cleared to wrestle in mid-January, it didn't take long before he dislocated his shoulder, forcing him to wear a brace.
"This year it just goes to show that nothing is promised," said Rama, who has been accepted to the University of Illinois, where the state tournament will take place.
"You never know when your last meet is or when your last game is. So this year it means a little bit more. I’m making the most of it."
Congratulations again to Joey and Olsi, and to head coach Neil Posmer. Good luck at state!
PHOTO: Joey Giurini (left) brings a 33-4 record at 126 pounds into the IHSA state tournament. Olsi Rama has a 7-3 record at 220 after overcoming several injuries before and during wrestling season. D401 photo by Dave Porreca (click image for a larger view).