Invites honor coaches past and present

Hinsdale Central hosts five tournaments named in honor of legendary team leaders

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 50

This weekend, Hinsdale Central wrestlers will compete with 24 other teams in the 57th annual Whitlatch Invite, one of the toughest tournaments in the state. The event is named after legendary Central wrestling coach Rex Whitlatch, who passed away in 2021 at age 84.

Whitlatch, who a two-time state champion in high school, was the Red Devils’ head wrestling coach from 1964-81 and assistant coach from 1986 until he retired in 1992.

For a November 2021 story on Whitlatch, his wife, Nancy, told The Hinsdalean that mentoring student-athletes meant everything to her husband.

“Coaching and teaching came first. I came second. The kids came third,” she said. “He took so much pride in his job and coaching and wrestling and everything.”

After wrestling at the University of Illinois, Whitlatch came to Central and he founded the Hinsdale Holiday Wrestling Tournament, which was named after him in 1993.

Whitlatch is a member of the Urbana High School, the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association and the National Wrestling halls of fame.

Honoring their legacies

Whitlatch is one of several Hinsdale Central coaches with a tournament that bears his or her name.

• The inaugural Red Devil Estoque Invite took place for girls gymnastics this past weekend. Kim Estoque has been head coach of the varsity girls gymnastics team for 19 years on on staff since 1991. She was named the Illinois coach of the year in girls gymnastics by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

• The Red Devil Wanner Invite and Krupicka Invite in March and the Canino Invite in April are named after three respected boys gymnastics coaches.

Mark Wanner coached the boys gymnastics team to three state titles and 11 state trophies, with 25 state qualifying teams during his 34-year career at Central. He was named coach of the year in 2006 by the Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches Association and is in the association’s Hall of Fame. The March invite was officially renamed to honor him in 2018, the year he retired.

Neil Krupicka was the varsity boys gymnastics coach from 1974-2005 and the girls gymnastics coach from 1993-2005. In addition to the invite, the new gymnastics gym at Central bears his name. He is a member of the Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches and the Illinois High School Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association halls of fame. He was named the Illinois boys gymnastics coach of the year five times and the girls coach of the year once. He led the boys team to five state titles during his tenure and the girls to a second-place finish. He was coached by another storied member of the program, Tony Canino.

Canino came to Central in 1958 as a student teacher and returned two years later to begin his 30-year career at the school. His teams won 239 dual meets and lost only seven. He coached seven individual state champions and four individual national champions. Canino was the Illinois High School Gymnastic Coach of the Year and the National High School Gymnastic Coach of the Year. He has been named to the IHSA Gymnastic Coaches and the NCAA halls of fame.

• The boys tennis team will host the Jay Kramer Invite in April. Kramer was 22 when he took over the boys tennis program at Central and held the post for 50 years until he retired in 2009. His teams earned 16 state titles and were runners-up 12 times. He was the national high school coach of the year, the USPTA high school coach of the year and the Illinois high school coach of the year.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean