Gordon wrestler Justin Alonzo is hoping to advance downstate again after suffering a knee injury during his opening match in the Class 2A state finals.
“When it happened I was shocked,” Alonzo admitted on the injury which will force him to miss the football season. “It was the last thing I was expecting. I realized I was done but had one year left. I was devastated when it happened.”
“He’s going to be something special,” Gordon coach Grant Hoerr said. “He’s going to do impressive things in life not just wrestling.”
Alonzo has been working out all summer to prepare for football and wrestling. Alonzo will be ready to wrestle again in November.
Could Alonzo have won state if he doesn’t get hurt?
“I don’t know to be honest,” Hoerr admitted. “That was his first year at state. I could have seen him on the medal stand. I’m just trying to be honest.”
Hoerr won’t have the opportunity to coach Alonzo since he left the school to concentrate on an insurance job.
Pat Heffernan, who wrestled at Marist and Illinois , has replaced Hoerr.
Heffernan is looking forward to working with Alonzo and the rest of the Rams.
“There’s a lot of raw talent on the team,” Heffernan said. “They have a good work ethic. They are excited to comeback and win regional.”
Not to be forgotten is Mark Rodriguez. Rodriguez also advanced downstate last year as a sophomore.
Hoerr was pleased with the individual success of Alonzo and Rodriguez, but he was hoping the Rams would win the regional title last season. Gordon lost to Ida Crown in the state playoffs.
“We didn’t compete to the best of our ability,” Alonzo said on the regional loss to Ida Crown. “I think this year as a team we can qualify for state.”
“It’s not like we weren’t trying,” Hoerr said on the match with Ida Crown. “I liked their team. They had a lot of seniors. They rose to the occasion. We were beating guys by points and they were getting pins.”
Alonzo helped Gordon advance to the Catholic League football playoffs. The Rams (5-5) beat Leo, but Gordon was forced to forfeit for using freshmen who are ineligible to play under league rules.
“It was ridiculous,” Alonzo said on the forfeit. “We beat them. We used the freshmen for four or five plays.”
The rule has now been changed, and freshman are now allowed to participate on varsity football in the Catholic League.
Alonzo believes that the Rams can get back to the Catholic League or state playoffs despite losing several key football players.
“I think we can do just as good,” Alonzo stated.
Alonzo is looking forward to his working with Hefferan, but he enjoyed wrestling for Hoerr who decided to leave Gordon.
“He’s a nice guy,” Alonzo said. “He’s going to do a good job.”
“I love those kids,” Hoerr said on leaving Gordon. “I think they will win regional this year.”
Heffernan’s job will be to develop a team around Alonzo and Rodriguez and continue to improve the program that Hoerr built.
“I didn’t have a five year-plan, I had an eight-year plan,” Hoerr admitted after he took over at Gordon.
“You want to develop into one of the state’s best programs,” Heffernan said. “The goals for this year are to win more dual meets and win regional. I want to get four or five state qualifiers. I believe we can get four or five this year. I want to get Justin and Mark on the medal stand.”
Alonzo will spend the fall recovering from his injury by working out to get ready for wrestling season while watching the Bears.
Alonzo is undecided on college, but he has a good grade point average and a 21 on his ACT.
Alonzo appears to have a bright future on and off the field.