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The Lockport Legend 021617

44 | February 16, 2017 |

44 | February 16, 2017 | The Lockport Legend SPORTS lockportlegend.com Schilling student finishes third at national wrestling tournament Khalil, 6, brings home iconic eagle wrestling trophy Erin Redmond, Assistant Editor At 6 years old, wrestling in a prestigious national tournament can be intimidating — unless you’re Ameer Khalil, that is. The Schilling School student took third in his 22-man bracket at the 2017 FloWrestling Tulsa Nationals tournament held Jan. 20-21 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Khalil’s only loss came in the semifinals and was his first in 20-plus matches. A finals berth was just within reach for Ameer. The Homer Glen wrestler threw his opponent on his back, tying the match a 2-2 in the second period. But his opponent was able to roll out and then pinned Ameer, making his pursuit of the podium that much harder. “Honestly, it was a mistake and that’s why it broke his heart because he knew he had him,” his father Naseem Khalil said. “He’s been undefeated; he broke down big time ... but he had to bounce back because his next match was in like 10 minutes. He had to wipe the tears and come right back — and then he won the next three.” “It was good; I beat them and I was happy,” said Ameer, who is nicknamed “The Hulk” by his teammates. Ameer has been successful in Illinois, but it was the first national tournament for the young wrestler. He and his brother, 13-year-old Mohammad, wrestle for the Martinez Elite club team out of Aurora, which sent several of its older athletes to the tournament. When it was suggested that Ameer make the trip, his father thought it would be a good opportunity for him to gain some experience. Ameer took on wrestlers from all over the country, beating competitors from Texas and Oklahoma — just to name a few. While the objective was simply to gain experience on the national stage, Naseem knew his son had the potential to bring home one of the iconic eagle trophies. “You talk to any kid that wrestles and they always talk about the eagle,” Naseem said. “Our whole goal was we’re going to fight for the Ameer Khalil, a 6-year-old Schilling School student, proudly holds his third place trophy from the 2017 FloWrestling Tulsa Nationals tournament held Jan. 20-21 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo submitted eagle and I’m happy we got an eagle. “He’s very confident. I don’t think he realizes ‘oh, this kid’s from another state’ and that’s the greatest.” Ameer and Mohammad both started wrestling when they were 4 years old, carrying on the family tradition. Naseem, a Homer Glen native, wrestled throughout elementary school and at Lockport Township High School, where he wrestled alongside current Porters coach Josh Oster. He went on to wrestle in college at Mount St. Clare in Clinton, Iowa. So when it was time for his sons to get involved with sports, wrestling was the natural choice. “It’s in our family,” Naseem said. “My uncles, my cousins and my brothers, everybody wrestles. It’s just something in us, but we’ve never really traveled [to wrestle] to a national tournament — it was pretty big.” Naseem said the sport has changed a lot since he donned a singlet. In order to stay competitive, wrestlers must train and compete yearround — and that’s exactly what his boys plan to do. Mohammad used to play baseball in the summer, but this year both brothers will devote it to wrestling instead. Naseem said they plan on competing in various national tournaments around the Midwest, while continuing to practice with their club team four to five days a week. The boys log extra time with the Lemont Bears and their head coach Tom Ambrose. While neither wrestles for the team, Naseem said Ambrose has been instrumental to their success. “Coach Ambrose is a huge help to this kid. He’s not even his dedicated coach, but he welcomes him with open arms,” Naseem said. “ ... he always opens up the door for both my boys to go in there and get extra workouts in. Obviously his club, Martinez Elite, does everything for him, but this guy is right there, too.” Ameer currently vying for the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation’s Future Finalists belt, which is broken down by age group with only the Top 3 in each winning the belt. The wrestlers must win four tournaments in Illinois in order to qualify. Ameer already has two down, capturing his second Future Finalist victory Feb. 3 in Lemont. He also went 3-0 Feb. 4 at a tournament in Wisconsin. Ameer took fifth the Bantam Championship Feb. 12 at Bolingbrook High School. This tournament, Naseem said, was tougher as it’s divided up by weight and not age, meaning he could wrestle competitors up to two years old than him. “He’s the man at his weight, at his age, but now when you add two years to that same weight, those kids are a little bit stronger, a little bit more mature,” Naseem said. Ameer won his first match, but lost the next two by fall. He bounced back and notched an 8-0 major decision over Elijah Wilson of the Will County Warriors in the fifth place match. Homer Jr. High cheerleaders end successful season third at state Submitted by Homer Community Consolidated School District 33C Hard work and perseverance have paid off for the Homer Jr. High School cheerleading team. On Jan. 23, the team took third at the highly competitive IESA State Championship. Homer Community Consolidated School District 33C Athletic Director Amanda Monahan said the cheerleaders performed “an amazing routine” and worked through various setbacks and obstacles, also noting the tough and competitive division the team is in. The team is coached by Kelly Klosak and Morgan Curry. In the course of the successful season, Homer Jr. High earned second at Bradley-Bourbonnais High School, fourth at Lincoln- Way East High School, third at Andrew High School and first at Oak Forest High School. Monahan added Homer has some of the most talented athletes in the state. She pointed to the fact the school scored in the Top 3 at state for eight consecutive years, with the team working hard throughout the year and making a big time commitment to achieve the success. The team is comprised of sixth-graders Mary Bresnahan, Gianna Kosi, Megan Mecher, Emma Soderberg and Keila Vasylionis; seventh-graders Hayley Barron, Hannah Boetscher, Shelby Gloss, Emma Mackin, Emma Motykowski, Brinda Parikh and Bianca Stillo; and eighth-graders Isabella Giertuga, Emma Harris, Fiona Heeney, Emily Jungheim, Morgan Lavery, Abbi Lewis, Marissa Pasco and Kaycee Siears. RIGHT: The Homer Jr. High cheerleading team came in third last month at state — its eighth consecutive finish in the Top 3 there — to wrap up another season. Photo submitted

lockportlegend.com SPORTS the Lockport Legend | February 16, 2017 | 45 Homer Glen man bowls perfect 900 series in Lockport Becomes only second bowler in IL, 32nd in country to achieve mark Erin Redmond, Assistant Editor Strike and Spare II was packed with bowlers Feb. 3, yet it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop — 10 of them actually. The silence was deafening for 26-year-old Sam Esposito as he stepped up the lane for his 36th and final frame. With two perfect games under his belt already and the series of “Xs” lighting up the monitor overhead, he took a deep breathe, reeled back and, to his horror, watched his ball veer slightly right. But the bowling gods smiled upon him, and his ball curved back to hit dead on for the strike, causing him to fall to the ground in celebration and relief. That final strike made Esposito just the second person in Illinois and the 32nd in the country to bowl three consecutive perfect games for a 900 series, according to the United States Bowling Congress. “You know all those eyes are looking at you and you’re just trying not to mess up,” the Homer Glen resident said. “The 36th one for 900 was ... one that I was really worried about because I got it a little right off my hand and I was lucky enough that it came back and it struck and it carried.” With the ever-changing lane conditions, Strike and Spare II General Manager Mike Gorman said it takes a lot talent — and a dash of luck — to achieve what Esposito did. He said he was thrilled to have such a historic event occur in his bowling alley and that Esposito was the one to do it. “It’s a rare occurrence and we’ll probably never see it again in this bowling alley,” Gorman said. “It’s unbelievable, really. You’ve got guys that are shooting 800 series and that’s rare air, but to shoot a 900, that’s amazing. Sam Esposito poses for a picture after bowling a 900 series Feb. 3 at Strike and Spare II in Lockport. Photo submitted “It happened to a great kid; it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” But Esposito’s perfect night almost didn’t happen. After being swamped at work Friday, he didn’t think he’d make it to the alley on time for the start of his Friday night league. He caught a lucky break, however, and was even able to squeeze in a few practice shots before kicking off what he thought would be a routine night of bowling. Esposito, who has been bowling since he was 12, already held two sanctioned 300 games prior to his 900 series, but had struggled to repeat perfection in recent years. So when he was closing in on his first 300 game of the night, he had to tell himself to keep calm. “Probably about the eighth or ninth frame of the first game, I looked up and I had all strikes,” Esposito recalled. “It was like ‘don’t screw up again on 300.’ After the first one, I just started bowling the second game and started to chit-chat. I looked up again and it was eighth or ninth frame again and I was like ‘am I going to do this twice in the same night?’ “After I got the second one, I was like ‘let’s just get the first couple and just shake some of the nerves.’ From there, every time I threw the ball and it struck, I just took a deep breathe and just said ‘thank God.’” While bowling a 900 series was always a goal for Esposito, he never believed it would come to fruition. In fact, he and his buddy once joked they would retire from the sport if it ever happened, but Espositio said he’s not ready to hang up his bowling shoes just yet. “[My friend] text me the Saturday morning after it happened and said ‘are you quitting now?’ But no, I enjoy the sport too much,” he said. “I’m just going to keep doing it because I love it.” Esposito isn’t expecting to bowl a 900 series again anytime soon, but was hoping to tally at least 600 pins at his next league game — but he might need someone to pinch him first. “I can’t believe it,” Esposito said. “I never thought it would happen. I’m still actually waiting to wake up from a dream. I’m still on Cloud 9.” Girls basketball Lockport plays with heart, energy in final regular season game Seven seniors applauded prior to loss against Lincoln-Way East Randy Whalen, Freelance Reporter As far as a game goes, last week’s matchup between Lincoln- Way East and Lockport Township will not be put in a time capsule. In the last regular season game for both teams, East emerged victorious with a 38-28 win over the Porters in a SouthWest Suburban Blue matchup before a senior night crowd Feb. 7 at LTHS’s Central Campus. While the Griffins (18-10, 7-3) missed too many shots and Lockport (16-12, 4-6) turned the ball over too many times, both teams took something out of the game. East reached the 18-win mark for the 10th straight season and hopes to reach 20 victories for the ninth time in that span with another regional title as the Class 4A playoffs open this week. “A win is a win,” East senior guard Sam Nair said. “We all have off nights. We have time off [until the regional], and we just have to keep practicing and work hard. We have to tighten things up.” East shot 16-of-51 (31 percent) from the field and 3-of-8 (38 percent) from the line in the game. Griffins coach Jim Martin chalked it up to one of those nights. “It was just one of those things,” Martin said of his team’s shooting. “We didn’t shoot well in our last two games [including a 56-37 loss to Marist Feb. 4]. We’ve got to get better and put the ball in the hole.” Junior guard Carolyn Waleski (11 points), Nair (10 points) and senior forward Anna Power (9 points) led East, which jumped out to a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter and led the entire way. Ahead 8-5 after the first quarter, Waleski scored six points in the second quarter, and the Griffins led 20-11 at halftime. Nair scored five points in the third quarter, including a layup for a 31-17 lead with 3:20 left. The Griffins led 31-21 after three. Lockport committed 30 of its 37 turnovers in the first three quarters. “When we pressure the ball, we’re really good at it,” Nair said. Power scored on a layup with 6:09 to play for a 38-23 lead. But East, which committed eight of its 17 turnovers in the fourth quarter, did not score again. Lockport — which lost to the Griffins 52-51 Jan. 17 in the teams’ first meeting this season — had their last victory over East with a 60-51 win on Dec. 15, 2005. The Porters are guaranteed to finish with at least their most wins since going 16-11 in the 2010-2011 season. But they also wanted to advance to a regional title game for the first time in a decade this week. “I was proud of how everyone played and showed how much they care about each other,” Lockport coach Dan Kelly said. “That’s one of our core values, and it was great to see everyone sacrifice for each other. “I don’t care what the scoreboard said [last week against East]. We were winners.” Before the game, the Porters honored their seven seniors: Melissa Calvo, Kayla Janssen, Madalyn Kennedy, Laurel Kucharski, Hailey Ledbetter, Kaleigh Schmutzler and Elena Woulfe. But even after the seniors were honored, the team made a special presentation to Kucharski, who was on the varsity all four years. “Laurel sacrificed a starting position, and they wanted to thank her for everything,” said Kelly, who started an all-senior lineup. “I was proud of the energy we brought.” Kucharski, who has committed to play next season at the University of Mary in North Dakota and missed a month this season with strained ligaments in her right thumb, was surprised at the gesture. Please see basketball, 43

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