CHICAGO (CBS) — A holiday tradition for a group of Northwest suburban wrestlers takes an ugly turn when the trip ends with their gear stolen.
Members of the South Elgin High School varsity wrestling team had to practice Monday in their socks, three days after their uniforms were stolen at a downstate tournament.
Now, the team hopes a GoFundMe campaign will replace their much needed equipment. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports.
South Elgin wrestlers were all smiles as they headed to the holiday tournament in Granite City. The four days of matches ended with a celebratory lunch at an Applebees outside St. Louis, But the fun soon ended when the team returned to their van and found the doors open.
“Every bag in the van was gone,” said Coach Mark Cameron. “We lost shoes, head gear, most kids lost two sets of uniforms.”
Coach Mark Cameron said quick-moving thieves stole approximately $5,000 worth of items, including $500 worth of uniforms and gear for each of the eight wrestlers on the trip, from the van the team used to take them to the restaurant in Collinsville on Friday.
“It’s hard because the singlets were brand new,” said Cameron. “We get them every four years and we had just gotten new ones.”
The warm-ups the team is wearing in this photo, were also brand new.
“We had to pay for them out of fundraising money,” Cameron said.
Also gone was personal clothing, electronics, and cash – totally to more than $5,000 lost.
“I lost shoes, head gear, a couple of shirt,” said Vince Clinite.
But it is the head gear Clinite will miss the most. It is kind of like running shoes, “it takes a couple of matches to get it to git right, so to lose that, is kind of upsetting,” Clinite said.
Police were already in the parking lot when the team noticed the thefts, Cameron said. Police told him another restaurant tipped them off that the thieves were likely headed their way, but police said it only took three minutes for the thieves to break in, take the bags and put a license plate stolen from a car next to them onto their getaway vehicle. WBBM’s Nancy Harty reports.
Cameron said officers lost the thieves in a chase that weaved in and out of traffic and went up on sidewalks.
The kids have been down since losing their uniforms, sweatpants, iPads, headphones, wallets and cell phones. Cameron said they had to practice without wrestling shoes Monday morning and will likely not have matching uniforms for a tournament this weekend.
The team has a match on Friday. That is why one of the parents started a GoFundMe campaign. The goal was initally $10,000, but after adding up the loses Cameron said the team can replace almost everything for $5,000. They are already half way there, receiving $2,350 from 47 people by 5 p.m. on Monday.
Coach Cameron said most of the donations have come from the wrestling community.
“The head wrestling coach at Harper College out in Schaumburg – he called me and offered to get my kids head gears – for the ones that were lost,” Cameron said.
Alex Lopez, a parent of a freshman member of the team, who set up the GoFundMe page said he’s heard from a lot of people who want to help.
“We’ve gotten calls from as far as California and southern Illinois – people wanting to help out.”