DeKALB – Fabian Lopez had the type of season many wrestlers would love to have to end their high school careers with – 46 wins, a spot in a state championship bout and outstanding wrestler honors at a conference tournament.
For Lopez, it was only a good start.
The DeKalb freshman finished the season 43-6 at 120 pounds, taking second at the Class 3A state tournament. He is the 2017 Daily Chronicle Wrestler of the Year.
“As a freshman, they were high, and I exceeded some expectations,” Lopez said. “Sophomore year, I think I’m going to exceed a lot more and go for a state title next year.”
First-year DeKalb coach Sam Hiatt said it was a great season for Lopez.
“Not too many people have a year like that overall,” Hiatt said. “But to end the year as a runner-up (at state) and do it as a freshman, being able to have a chance to wrestle in a final, is stuff very few people do. It was definitely a special one.”
Lopez, who had a stretch in the middle of the season in which he suffered most of his losses – said if he could re-do one match, it would be the finale against Plainfield East’s Michael McGee. The senior won by a tech fall, 19-3.
Lopez said it wasn’t so much that he felt he would win a rematch, he just said he thinks the match could have been much closer.
“I definitely wish I could go back and do more different things,” Lopez said. “Do I think I would have won the match? I honestly don’t think so, because he has maturity and experience over me. I definitely would have liked to make it closer, so I would not have been embarrassed like that.”
Lopez kept racking up wins in tournaments all season, and won throughout the postseason – he was conference, regional and sectional champ. He said none of those stages compared to U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington and the finale.
He said the experience will help him in his quest for a title next year.
“Even though all those lights are on you, you have to go out there and wrestle your match,” Lopez said. “I almost caught him for a little bit, then I heard the roar of the crowd and got overexcited. I got turned and tech failed. You just have to wrestle your match, even if it’s a big crowd like that. No matter where you are, you just have to wrestle your match.”
Hiatt said although it’s a high bar to set eight months before the season starts, he believes Lopez can win a state title next year.
“We know for sure how good he is, and he knows he can do that now,” Hiatt said. “I think he can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of work. Just looking at the rankings after state, if you’re a 3A state champ, you’re one of the best in the country. It’s not an easy task, but I think he can do it.”