Ricky Ericksen’s freshman season at Marist was full of successful scenarios, but it’s the moments where he came up just short that have fueled his preparation for sophomore year.
Ericksen won a match at state last season but fell two victories short of a medal. Over the summer, he performed well at the Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, but twice fell one win shy of All-American honors in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
This season, he has no intentions of simply coming close.
“It’s just the constant disappointment of not getting where you want to be,” Ericksen said. “It really drives you to want to be the best. I feel like I’ve really started believing in myself.
“I lacked confidence last year coming in as a freshman. This year, I’m feeling great. I’m ready to go.”
Ericksen made a strong early season statement by winning the 160-pound championship Saturday at Joliet Central’s McLaughlin Invitational, helping Marist capture the team title.
Ericksen was dominant throughout the event, recording four pins and a major decision in his five matches. He pinned Wheaton North’s Devin Medina, who is ranked No. 6 in Class 3A at 160 by Illinois Matmen, in the finals.
“It feels pretty good,” said Ericksen, who is ranked No. 4 at 160. “I came in here and tried to do my thing. I feel like I put on a show for everyone.”
Last season, Ericksen got past some early freshman struggles to finish 36-11. He gained the valuable experience of wrestling at both the individual and team state finals.
“That has helped me so much, wrestling in all those big matches,” he said. “I know what to expect now.
“Losing at state, there’s nothing compared to it. It was horrible. I never want to feel that again. I trained hard over the summer, played football, then came back to wrestling just excited for it.”
Marist coach Brendan Heffernan is confident Ericksen has big things ahead of him.
“We are looking forward to him dominating this year,” Heffernan said.
After dropping a 34-33 heartbreaker to Lockport in a team state quarterfinal last season, Marist has big goals. Ericksen hopes to help the RedHawks accomplish them.
“Last year’s ending was disappointing,” he said. “Nobody wanted it to end that way. We really felt like we could have won it all. This year, we’ve got a fire under our butts.
“This is definitely our year to win the whole thing.”
Rampaging Raptor: As Rich Township senior Nasir Bailey chases a fourth state title, he knows everyone is aiming to take him down.
But Bailey’s mindset is not to protect his throne. He still approaches matches like he’s the challenger.
“I just continue to try to hunt people down instead of being the prey,” Bailey said. “Every time I go out there, I’m the lion and I’m going for the kill.”
Bailey, a Little Rock recruit, is 12-0 after winning the 138-pound championship at the McLaughlin Invitational.
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After four straight pins, he got tested by Marist’s Will Denny in the championship match, winning 8-5.
“That was a great match for me,” Bailey said. “It prepared for me the Ironman next week.
“I train with Will Denny, and I knew coming into it that it was going to be a battle. I’ll see him again this year.”
Porter power: Lockport’s girls won the team championship at the inaugural Niles West Girls Invitational, which featured 22 schools.
Senior Caitie Cassello (110) and freshman Claudia Heeney (125) won individual titles.
The Porters’ girls also competed at the Dan Gable Donnybrook Tournament in Iowa, finishing 10th in a field of 29 teams from across the country.
Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.