More Hononegah wrestlers go to state than ever before


Rocco Cassioppi wins a match at the state individual wrestling tournament on Feb. 16, 2024 at University of Illinois.

Out of the eight boys that Hononegah sent to the individual state wrestling championships on  February 15-17, 2024, four returned home with a place in the top three. Freshman Rocco Cassioppi and junior TJ Silva won second place. Freshman Bruno Cassioppi and Brody Sendele won third. This was the largest group sent to state in school history. At the state tournament, Silva and junior Connor Diemel both secured their 100th career match victories.

At the 3A Barrington sectionals, both Cassioppis, Silva, Robbie Darling (sophomore), Maximus Haskins (junior), Sendele, Diemel, and Kurt Smith (junior) all placed in the top four. Bruno Cassioppi, Sliva, and Darling all placed first in their respective weight classes. Rocco Cassioppi and Sendele placed second. Diemel and Smith won third place, and Haskins took fourth.

Rocco took second place after a 7-4 decision call. He made it to the first place match with a pin in quarterfinals and a 17-2 tech fall in semifinals. His championship match was against a rival in the 106 class, Caleb Noble, whom he triumphed over in December at the Ironman Tournament.

Rocco Cassioppi at the individual state wrestling meet

Bruno won a hard fought battle to the top of the podium, not with this opponent, but with himself.

Bruno pushed through nosebleeds and so many blood time-outs that he had to have his head taped up in the championship match. He got a skillful 41-second pin in quarterfinals and won first place with a 15-3 major decision.

Silva placed first with a 12-1 major decision in quarterfinals and two pins in semifinals and the first place match. Darling won by decision in all four rounds at Barrington. His final match was won with a nail-biting 1-0 score. Haskins made it to the semifinals with an 8-0 major decision, and after his loss, took fourth in the consolation bracket with a 1:01 second fall.

Sendele tech-falled his opponent in the quarterfinals with an impressive 21-5 final score. This wrestler demonstrated an unmatched strength and determination throughout the tournament—throwing his opponents around like rag dolls multiple times per match without showing any signs of tiring. His semifinal victory was an impressive 36-second pin over Ethan Thomas of Mundelein. He lost the championship match in an upset 3-1 decision.

Diemel won quarterfinals with an 18-6 major decision. In the consolation semifinals, Diemel beat his opponent with a 4:33 second fall. He took third place with a 5-1 decision. Diemel showed his grit at sectionals after pushing through an awful-looking knee injury part of the way through the match until he came out on top. 

Junior Kurt Smith made it to the third place bout after a 2-1 tiebreaker. He won third place with a 3-1 decision.

This past weekend at the University of Illinois, Rocco Cassioppi won the first round with a quick 8-0 major decision. He breezed through quarterfinals and semifinals with decision results. The semifinal match was against returning state champion, junior Rocco Hayes of Sandburg. Hayes is already committed to the University of Virginia for wrestling. Rocco’s final match was lost in a devastating 6-5 decision to the same Caleb Noble whom he beat in December and fell to at sectionals. This match aroused many comments from the spectators as his opponent received several calls for stalling and exhibited unsportsmanlike conduct after the clock ran out.

Bruno Cassioppi won the first round and quarterfinals with major decisions. Despite the tough loss in semifinals, Bruno kept his head up and won the third place match, beaming a smile. He won the consolation semifinals with a 5-0 decision, and the championship with a 10-0 major decision.

2023 state champion, Silva, tech falled his preliminary and semifinal opponents 15-0. He displayed control all season and did not let up at this tournament. He lost the championship by a tech fall to an opponent he was simply outmatched to. It is important to note, however, that as the returning champion, Silva was the only wrestler on the team with such a target on his back.

Sendele triumphed over a sophomore, junior, and senior over the course of the tournament. He won the first round with an 11-4 decision. In the quarterfinals, Sendele tech falled his opponent 23-8. His one loss at this tournament was not a loss because of skill difference in particular, but because his opponent, senior Edmund Enright of Mount Carmel, was significantly taller than him with long arms and legs, which made it difficult for Sendele to get any hold. Sendele won third place with decisions in the consolation semifinals and final match.

Brody Sendele in action

We are so proud of the eight young men that demonstrated integrity, honor, and character for themselves, their families, and the community in their accomplishments this past weekend. After their recent victory over Hershey at team sectionals, the varsity team will be competing at the dual state tournament February 23-24 in Bloomington.

About the reporter: Natalie Fry is a member of the class of 2027 at Hononegah Community High School in Rockton, Illinois. She has had a great interest in writing since she was young. Her work also appears in Hononegah Highlights.

Tap, swipe, or click on the photo below to view an image gallery of the Hononegah athletes who went to the state boys wrestling competition.

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