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Connor, Max Cumbee lift Joliet Catholic to state

Connor Cumbee was excited about adding to the family atmosphere of Joliet Catholic wrestling.

Connor is a senior. His father, Ryan, is the Hilltoppers’ coach. His stepsister, Grace Laird, also is a wrestler who has qualified for the girls state meet. And there has been a newcomer this season.

Connor’s cousin, Max, is a freshman who immediately made a huge difference.

“Him and I have been super close growing up,” Connor said of he and Max. “We weren’t sure where he was going to go to high school. Finally, he was like, ‘I’m going to go to JCA.’

“I was like, ‘Dude, let’s do it. We have one year together. Let’s make it special.’ It’s been pretty special. I love the kid so much.”

Connor and Max both had wins Tuesday night as Joliet Catholic surged back to state with a 46-18 victory over Lincoln-Way East in a Class 3A dual team sectional at Downers Grove South.

Max Cumbee (113 pounds), Wisconsin recruit Dillan Johnson (285), Nico Ronchetti (190), Luke Foster (106) and Jason Hampton (120) all had pins for the Hilltoppers.

Joliet Catholic will take on Mount Carmel — which routed Marmion 70-5 — at 5 p.m. Friday in a state quarterfinal at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington.

Northwestern football recruit Caden O’Rourke (215) and Kevin Byrne (144) had pins to lead Lincoln-Way East.

Joliet Catholic's Connor Cumbee wrestles Lincoln-Way East's Domanic Abuja during the 150 pound match of the the Class 3A Downers Grove South Dual Team Sectional match between Joliet Catholic and Lincoln-Way East in Downers Grove on Tuesday Feb. 20 2024. (Troy Stolt for the Daily Southtown)
Joliet Catholic’s Connor Cumbee, left, battles against Lincoln-Way East’s Domanic Abuja at 150 pounds during the Class 3A dual team sectional at Downers Grove South on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Daily Southtown)

Connor Cumbee put the finishing touches on the first trip to state in Class 3A for the Hilltoppers, who won the Class 2A state title in 2021-22 and finished second last season.

He mathematically sealed the victory with a 3-2 win at 150 over Domanic Abeja in a battle of individual state qualifiers. All the while, Cumbee wants to soak up his last week of JCA wrestling.

“I’ve been on the high school scene since I was born probably with (dad) coaching,” Connor said. “I’d always look at the seniors like, ‘Oh my god, how old are those guys, like 30?’

“Now, it’s here for me. I’m excited, though. It’s time. I’m enjoying it. Saturday night comes, I’m sure I’ll be crying whether we win or lose. I love this team, and I love the program even more.”

Ryan Cumbee appreciates his son’s passion for the team.

“Connor is not the most decorated individual athlete I’ve ever coached, but he’s somebody who loves his team so much you’ve got to make him one of the leaders,” Ryan said. “He wants success for the team more than himself.”

Joliet Catholic's Max Cumbee wrestles Lincoln-Way East's JT Theis during the 113 pound match of the the Class 3A Downers Grove South Dual Team Sectional match between Joliet Catholic and Lincoln-Way East in Downers Grove on Tuesday Feb. 20 2024. (Troy Stolt for the Daily Southtown)
Joliet Catholic’s Max Cumbee mixes it up against Lincoln-Way East’s JT Theis at 113 pounds during the Class 3A dual team sectional at Downers Grove South on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Daily Southtown)

Max, meanwhile, has had a huge freshman season, finishing fifth as an individual at state.

“It’s been great being here with my uncle and cousin,” Max said. “I’ve learned so much and have had those guys pushing me all year. Getting to wrestle for coach Ryan all season has made me so much better.”

As the older cousin, Connor has had to check his emotions.

“When he placed at state, I got a little teary, I’m not going to lie,” Connor said. “I’ve grown up with him and shown him the way a little bit, and now he’s going to make his own mark.

“I’m super proud of him.”

Joliet Catholic's Connor Cumbee wrestles Lincoln-Way East's Domanic Abuja during the 150 pound match of the the Class 3A Downers Grove South Dual Team Sectional match between Joliet Catholic and Lincoln-Way East in Downers Grove on Tuesday Feb. 20 2024. (Troy Stolt for the Daily Southtown)
Joliet Catholic’s Connor Cumbee, left, controls Lincoln-Way East’s Domanic Abuja at 150 pounds during the Class 3A dual team sectional at Downers Grove South on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Daily Southtown)

Max has had some good role models to teach him about his new team.

“Max has one year to look up to his cousin and he gets to see what we expect here at Joliet Catholic,” Ryan said. “It’s not just about the individual season. This is the time for the team.

“And Max is getting that.”

Ryan also is excited about Max’s future.

“The biggest thing this year was getting him to transition into my style of wrestling, which is a little bit different,” Ryan said. “I’ve been really impressed by how he’s handled it, mentally as well.

“I think he’s going to be one of my hammers for years to come.”

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Disclaimer: This article has been generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and may not be 100% accurate or reflect the human point of view. The published images are not generated by AI. The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. It is recommended to verify the accuracy of the data and consult experts in case of doubts or need for specific information. We are not responsible for any damage, loss or injury that may result from the use of this information.

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