Grant’s Ayane Jasinski comes off the mat after winning the 110-pound match at the Illinois High School Association 2023 girls state wrestling championships.
Put Grant High School students and siblings Ayane and Vince Jasinski in a competitive situation, like a wrestling mat, and you’re asking for trouble.
“We don’t let them wrestle each other because it usually ends in a fight,” said Bulldogs wrestling coach Mark Jolcover.
“They’re just like a lot of other siblings. But at the same time they support each other.”
Grant’s first brother-sister wrestling duo offers much to support.
Ayane, a senior, is the girls defending state champion at 110 pounds. Vince, a sophomore 113-pounder, placed seventh at the 2023 freshman-sophomore state tournament and enters this weekend’s Class 3A Barrington sectional with a record of 30-11 and 24 pins.
Brother-sister acts weren’t possible in Illinois prep wrestling until the Illinois High School Association established a girls state series for the 2021-22 season.
Grant sophomore 113-pounder Vince Jasinski enters the Barrington sectional with 30 victories, 24 of them by fall.
Courtesy of Grant High School
Sisters represented at the Conant girls regional Jan. 26-27. In the 110-pound title match Ayane Jasinski faced Bartlett’s Emma Engels, the defending state champion at 100 pounds. Engels’ brother, Cameron, wrestles for Bartlett’s boys program.
Going into the regional Jasinski (15-1) was ranked No. 1 at 110, Engels No. 2. The Bartlett wrestler dealt Jasinski her first loss this prep season, a 3-2 decision.
The two girls may meet again in the Schaumburg sectional 110 finals this weekend.
Ayane Jasinski has been motivated by men in her life, including Vince and her father, Charlie — a Grant alumnus who placed third in Class AA at 130 pounds in 2000 — although she said her father initially held her out of wrestling.
“I was a very, very little kid compared to everyone else. I was like three times smaller, he didn’t want me to get hurt,” Ayane Jasinski said.
Vince Jasinski started wrestling at just 4 years old at the Fox Lake Wrestling Club, where his father and Jolcover assist Sean Quirk, a former Grant wrestler and coach.
Ayane didn’t start prep or club wrestling until her freshman year.
“I got bigger when I got into high school,” she said. “I thought this is my only chance, so I’ll take it.”
She and Charlie have both been proven correct: Ayane has excelled at wrestling and has twice broken an arm doing it.
Vince Jasinski, in the crowd when his sister won her state title, said, “I think it’s pretty cool” Ayane is in the sport.
Can she hold her own with him on the mat?
“No,” Vince said.
Nonetheless, as long as it’s not against each other these Grant trailblazers challenge each other in a healthy way.
“I’d say we have a handful of different siblings coming up through the youth program, so I think it’s more common nowadays, but it’s a first for me, obviously, and I couldn’t ask for a better pair,” Jolcover said.
Grant senior Ayane Jasinski, the girls defending state champion at 110 pounds, didn’t start wrestling until she was a freshman.
Courtesy of Grant High School
On a roll
In late January Hinsdale Central senior Aden Bandukwala was named the Gatorade Illinois boys 2023-24 cross country athlete of the year.
It’s the third straight season that a Red Devil boy has won the award in a running sport. Bandukwala follows Dan Watcke, who won Gatorade 2022-23 awards for Illinois boys cross country and track and field, and is now at Villanova.
Last fall Bandukwala won his second straight Class 3A cross country championship at Peoria’s Detweiller Park in a personal-best 14 minutes, 13.56 seconds.
He also finished 35th out of 201 boys at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland in December, his second time there. Bandukwala placed 26th in 2022.
A Duke commit, in track Bandukwala is a multiple all-stater, the defending 3A 1600-meter champ and part of Hinsdale Central’s 1600 relay win in 2021.
In June 2023 at Hayward Field in Portland, he joined Michael Skora, Grant Miller and Watcke to run 7:29.20 in the championship-level 3200 relay at the Nike Outdoor Nationals.
For the Gatorade cross country award, it didn’t hurt that Bandakwula has a 5.48 weighted grade-point average, on a 5-point scale.
An actual Boy Scout, he is a National Merit Commended Scholar who in his spare time has volunteered for a couple food pantries.
Bandukwala appreciated the award in humble cross country-athlete fashion.
“It’s pretty cool, it’s one guy throughout the whole state,” he said. “I know other guys who could have won it. Dylon Nalley from down south (Marion), he beat me every single race.
“I think either of us could have been chosen. Obviously I’m glad it’s me, but I would have been fine if it was him.”
Bandukwala started competing in middle school and joined the Red Devils as a freshman in 2020 when his brother, Kian, was a senior.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Aden said. “I still ran through all my years in middle school and I guess I liked it a lot, and then when I got to high school, with COVID it was my only option and I got into it 100%.”
Bigger than basketball
There’s no reason for Glenbard West to include Scales Mound, enrollment 80, on its boys basketball schedule. There’s no rivalry, no benefit for sectional seeding with Scales Mound tucked away where Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin meet.
Hilltoppers coach Jason Opoka has a better reason.
“Scales Mound is a friendship,” he said.
The two programs established a relationship when they booked the same Champaign hotel in 2022, when Glenbard West won Class 4A and the Hornets were Class 1A runner-up.
“We watched them play and quickly learned that even though we were from different areas in Illinois, we were very similar,” Opoka said.
The past two seasons the schools have faced each other on the same Feb. 3 date. They call it the “State Finals Series.”
Glenbard West has won both games by a nearly identical score — 70-49 in Glen Ellyn in 2023, 70-52 last Saturday at Scales Mound.
“It’s an opportunity for our players, families and community to support something bigger than basketball,” Opoka said.
“So often we focus on wins and losses while forgetting the real purpose of high school sports. We want our student-athletes to value lifelong lessons.”