After humbling freshman season, St. Rita’s Jack Hogan takes Catholic League title. Now? ‘I want to win state.’

St. Rita’s Jack Hogan had some success as a freshman last season, but he also had some humbling experiences wrestling against the Catholic League’s best.

As a sophomore, Hogan has avenged many of those losses. And he’s now a Catholic League champion.

“I beat kids I’ve lost to, got destroyed by last year,” Hogan said. “I beat them bad this time. Honestly, it’s just coming back and being better. It feels good.”

Hogan (28-5) won the 106-pound title at Saturday’s Catholic League Meet, beating Mount Carmel’s Kavel Moore 13-8 in the finals.

With the Mustangs hosting the event for the first time in several years, Hogan was the home team’s lone champion.

“It was a great win for him,” St. Rita coach Dan Gilbert said. “He’s starting to believe in himself. He’s coming along. Last year, he took fourth in the CCL. He set a goal this year to win it.”

Hogan, who is ranked fourth in Class 2A at 106 by Illinois Matmen, isn’t satisfied, either.

He’s heading into the postseason with plenty of motivation. Last winter, he ended up one win short of qualifying for state. He was pinned by Hinsdale South’s Mikey Wallace in the consolation semifinals — also known as the “blood round” — of the Hinsdale South Sectional.

“I lost to a kid who I beat the week before,” Hogan said. “I’d killed him. I was overconfident. I didn’t think he was that big of a deal.

“After losing that match, it was hard.”

For Hogan, it was a lesson learned and would be fuel for his offseason fire.

“I thought about it all summer,” he said. “I knew I had to come back and be better. I worked through it, had two practices a day and had my whole schedule knocked out so I was ready.”

That’s showing in Hogan’s results. And Gilbert is impressed with how Hogan has dealt with last year’s setback.

“You go one of two ways after something like that,” Gilbert said. “You have to pick the right path. The kids who come to our school, we always talk about that. You’re always going to fail. It’s what you do with your failures.

“If we build off that and become better men and better wrestlers, that helps prepare you for life.”

Hogan has wrestled since he was 6 years old. His uncle, Jim Ferguson, wrestled at Rutgers.

Another role model is his older brother, Kevin, who wrestled at Peotone and is continuing his career at Central College in Iowa.

“I saw him working hard,” Hogan said of his brother. “He’d go in my uncle’s basement for practice. I knew if I wanted to be good, I had to put more work in and step up. I had to outwork other people.”

When he matches up with his older brother, Hogan has always been at a size disadvantage. Just like his losses as a freshman, being beaten by his older brother made him better.

“He was a little bit bigger than me,” Jack said. “He beat me up. I’ve cried a few times. It made me stronger in the end.”

Now, Hogan seems primed for a big run at the state podium. Gilbert sure thinks so.

“He’s right there,” Gilbert said. “We set our goal to be a state placer this year. Now, I think we’ll set our goals a little higher — top three.”

Hogan, however, has his sights set even higher.

“I want to win state,” Hogan said. “It’s going to take a lot. I’ve got to be confident, be smart all the way through. Not overlook people and be overconfident.

“I’ve got to keep my head on straight.”