Photo Caption: Hononegah senior Anthony Cassioppi made quick work of all of his opponents at the Barrington sectional. All photos by Gary Larsen / Illinois Matmen.

By MIKE GAROFOLA
Illinois Matmen

No doubt: Fabian Lopez, Markus Hartman, Jarrit Shinhoster and Anthony Cassioppi are all on course to haul in plenty of victories and silverware next weekend in Champaign.

This brilliant foursome, along with the likes of champions: Dane Durlacher, Danny Pucino, Patrick Ryan validated their lofty status on the state rankings of Illinios Matmen – but it was the magnificent performances of the aforementioned that shined bright on day No. 2 here in Barrington.

Danny Pucino
Danny Pucino

“It’s the time of the year we’re all excited for, and one that we all hope will end with a state championship,” said Cassioppi (40-0), who despite fighting a cold, went unscatched in yet another superb effort which led to his 89th straight victory.

“Our team came in on Thursday because of the bad weather and stayed at a hotel (so) felt ready to go from the very start,” added the Hononegah senior, who needed just 86 seconds to win his third consecutive sectional crown.

Lopez was in the express lane from the very start of this tournament and got up to ‘warp’ speed in his final with Zach Spencer (41-7) which ended far differently than his regional final with the four-time state qualifier from Huntley.

Fabian Lopez
Fabian Lopez

“Fabian would need a gutsy performance to win that OT final with Spencer, but it proved to be the wake-up call (he) and others usually need to get them back on par – and his ability to push the pace, and score at will as we know he can really was a joy to watch, said his coach, Sam Hiatt following his 16-6 major decision victory at 126.

Both Hartman (43-0, 152) and Shinhoster (33-1, 160) would state their case for a place in the Grand March after dominating the competition – which ended with the No. 2 rated Hartman defeating No. 3 Jack Tangen (41-2) of New Trier, and Shinhoster upending 2017 state medalist, David Ferrante (31-3) of Huntley, 4-0.

“Obviously, my goal from the very beginning was to get back in state final, and against the No. 1 guy (Will Lewan) – but I have never once looked past any opponent (staying) the course of the old ‘one match at a time” in order to keep my focus on point,” admits Hartman.

Markus Hartman
Markus Hartman

His teammate (Shinhoster) has been nothing short of spectacular, particularly during the postseason where he’s recorded four pins, a pair of techs, one major and two shutouts in nine contests.

“I haven’t stopped working since just after the state tournament (getting) bigger and stronger, working on takedowns, riding, and all other parts of my game,” said the Broncos senior.

Durlacher (41-0) looked the part of a state finalist following his 106 championship run, then later was matside to cheer his teammate, Logan Kvien as he captured the 182-pound crown, one year after navigating his way around and through wrestle-backs to earn his first state tournament appearance.

Dane Durlacher
Dane Durlacher

“There’s so much more confidence in the way Logan wrestles this year, a lot of (it) coming from the postseason last year, including making downstate as a sophomore,” said Mundelein head coach, Craig Stocker.

New Trier’s classy three-time state qualifier, Patrick Ryan (44-0) continues to pile on the pressure against his 145-pound opponents, witnessed by a pair of tech-falls to earn a spot in the final, where he kept an ever improving Cole Riemer (Fremd, 32-4) far enough away to register a 7-5 decision.

Patrick Ryan
Patrick Ryan

“Cole and I have (now) wrestled four times during the past two seasons, so I knew he was super strong, physical and really good on top (so) the game plan was to get a good first period lead, then just play it smart the rest of the way,” said Ryan, who is considering American University in D.C. as his new address next fall.

Sammy Spencer
Sammy Spencer

Sammy Spencer (113, 40-4) and Juan Quiroz (170, 41-5) gave regional champion Huntley two individual titles on the day – the first for both, while Joel Vandevere (39-2) showed that his big frame, speed and power at 120 might cause trouble in Champaign who are not aware of just who this top-flight Warren Township freshmen is.

Joel Vandevere
Joel Vandevere

Libertyville’s Michael Gunther (24-3) gave his family another championship trophy for the Gunther household after securing the big prize at 138 pounds.

The Wildcats junior would watch older brother (Joey) win his sectional title here in 2015, before going on to star at the University of Iowa.

Blah Danweih’s rollercoaster week came to a successful stop on Saturday when he avenged a 9-7 overtime loss to Justin Allen (24-7) of Huntley.

The DeKalb senior would boost his credentials for the state tournament after two solid bouts leading up to his 7-3 victory over Allen in the 195-pound final.

“I’m not sure if a loss is a good thing, but losing to Allen last weekend at regionals kept me thinking all week, and really got me ready for sectionals,” said Danweih, now 40-4 on the season.

Last, but not least is the story of Cary-Grove senior, Cadin Koeppel.

Two years ago he fell one win short of going downstate, setting up what appeared to be the potential for a dream junior year for the affable Koeppel.

Instead, he tore his ACL at the Sycamore Invite, dashing his hopes to get downstate, and forcing a long rehab season instead.

However, Koeppel has come back to put together a memorable final year, topped by and sterling two days here that ended with a climb up the podium steps to accept the championship bracket board for his 220-pound weight class.

“I knew how close I was as a sophomore, so I used that to help motivate me during my rehab, and after finally getting back in the room, and now I feel like I can compete with anyone right now,” said Koeppel, who will enter the tournament with a 35-5 overall record.