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Column: Injuries. Adversity. Then resilience. Brother Rice brings home state trophy. ‘Just makes it even better.’

BLOOMINGTON — On Jan. 11, Brother Rice’s tumultuous season reached a low point when the Crusaders lost 68-0 to rival Marist.

Fast forward to Saturday, and the Crusaders were bringing home the first state trophy in program history with a fourth-place finish in Class 2A.

Resilience was the word of the weekend for Southland wrestling teams, particularly three who all overcame their own adversity to win state trophies.

On the boys side, Mount Carmel brought home the Class 3A state championship. Lockport finished as the state runner-up, making history as one of the first girls teams to earn a trophy in the first year of team awards.

No team, though, fought through more roadblocks than Brother Rice.

After winning the Class 2A 126-pound state title last winter as a sophomore, star wrestler Bobby Conway suffered an injury that kept him out for the entire season for the Crusaders.

Gambino Perez, a fourth-place state finisher last season, and Mac Murzyn, who was in the midst of a strong season, were both injured during the season and never returned.

“It’s kind of like, ‘What if? What if? What if? Would we have been in that (championship dual) if we had all those guys?'” said Brother Rice coach Jan Murzyn, Mac’s father. “I don’t know, but you can’t help but have that in your mind.”

The Crusaders pushed through, made it to state and prepared for Friday’s quarterfinals with Mahomet-Seymour.

Two seasons ago, Brother Rice made it to the dual team state meet for the first time, only to fall to Mahomet-Seymour in the quarterfinals.

The Crusaders got their revenge this time, winning 36-27.

History-making state trophy secured.

And the adversity?

James Bennett, a key senior for Brother Rice, felt the adversity actually paid off.

“I think that stuff just makes it even better,” Bennett said. “You get over the hard stuff and it makes it easier. We’re a good group of guys. We’re all friends. We’re close. I think next year will be even better.”

It was a well-deserved moment for a program that’s been building back up for the last several years under Murzyn.

“In 2017, we got the money together, out of nowhere, to build a wrestling room at Brother Rice,” he said. “As soon as everything got approved, I came home. My wife gave me the biggest hug and said, ‘We did it.’

“This feeling is the same. We did it. We got to the show. Now, can we build off that show?”

With 12 underclassmen in the lineup this weekend, the future sure looks bright for Brother Rice.

Oh, and about that embarrassing score against the rival RedHawks?

“Let me just say, I’d much rather be in our position right now than where Marist is,” Murzyn said.

Sticking with the comeback theme, let’s turn to Mount Carmel senior Eddie Enright.

The Northwestern recruit lost 5-2 to Warren’s Aaron Stewart in the 157-pound championship match of the Class 3A individual state meet. It was his second straight runner-up finish.

A week later, Enright went from heartbreak to jubilation as his pin of Yorkville’s Cameron Peach clinched the Caravan’s state title.

“It’s awesome to go out this way with this team who I kind of grew up with and became a man with,” Enright said. “This is all I could ask for.”

Enright said he was still dealing emotionally with his defeat at the individual state meet, but he pushed through to go 3-0 for his team.

“It definitely takes time,” Enright said. “I still think about it now and have that feeling running through my head. But when I’m in the room and see these guys, that feeling goes away.

“I feel like myself. These teammates are like my brothers.”

Mount Carmel coach Alex Tsirtsis was thrilled to see Enright go out on such a high note.

“I told him, ‘Everyone’s heartbroken about what happened last week, but every kid on this team is a state champ,'” Tsirtsis said. “They’ll have that for the rest of their lives.”

Treasure it, Caravan.