Ariola wins 1-0 to capture Class 3A state championship
Oak Park-River Forest's Joe Ariola celebrates his Class 3A 182-pound state title Saturday. | Jeff Cagle~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 5:42PM
CHAMPAIGN — Joe Ariola needed only one point to win the Class 3A state championship Saturday night at Assembly Hall.
The Oak Park-River Forest senior remained unbeaten this season and didn’t have to do much scoring in his 182-pound title match against Homewood-Flossmoor senior Donnie Bell. Ariola won 1-0 when Bell yielded an escape to begin the third period.
Ariola defeated Bell earlier this season by pin at Hinsdale Central’s Whitlatch Invitational in December.
The match between Ariola (46-0) and Bell (33-6) didn’t produce much action, but that didn’t matter to Ariola. With the win, OPRF crowned at least one state champion for the fourth time in the last five years. Ariola became the sixth state champion from OPRF during that period.
Ariola quit the OPRF football team this season after three years to devote all of his time to wrestling.
“It’s crazy. Coach (Mike) Powell said a big part was having the toughest schedule of anyone in Illinois,” Ariola said. “It’s a great honor to have this.”
Ariola became the eighth different state champion from OPRF, joining Powell who won a state title in 1994.
Sophomore Larry Early was the other OPRF wrestler to reach the final Saturday, but Early (45-1) suffered his first loss of the season when Marmion senior George Fisher (47-4) recorded a pin at 1:45. It was Fisher’s second state title in three years.
“He caught me,” Early said. “I know I’ll be back for the next two years. He got me today.”
OPRF teammates Ariola, Early and Davonte Mahomes (160) all entered the state tournament without a loss, but only Ariola was able to maintain his perfect record. Mahomes bounced back from his first setback to finish third on Saturday.
OPRF will return to the mats Tuesday when the Huskies face Conant in the Lake Park dual-team sectional. Early said he’s looking forward to a rematch with Fisher if the Huskies advance and meet Marmion in the state final Saturday in Bloomington.