Lyons Twp. defeats Downers Grove North
By Steve Nemeth
Thursday's showdown between two of Illinois Matmen’s top 22-rated 3A programs featured several notable individual showdowns.
In some instances the difference was eyelash-thin; some were decided in the blink of an eye; there was even a match captured with one eye shut.
But when all was said and done, Lyons Township looked every bit as good as its No. 4 ranking, capturing six showdown bouts plus scoring enough bonus points to cruise to a 47-16 victory at No. 22 Downers Grove North.
With the triumph, LT improved to 10-1 overall and 3-0 in West Suburban Conference Silver Division matches while the host Trojans dipped to 9-3 and had their WSC Silver record evened at 2-2.
The most-anticipated individual showdown came just past the midpoint of the match with Lyons sporting a 23-12 lead with six weight classes to be contested.
The 130-pound bout featured the host Trojans' Jimmy Nehls, who is ranked No. 3 in the latest IM ratings, against No. 5-ranked Drew Bates.
The LT senior earned a takedown with Nehls escaping to complete a 2-1 first period. Bates, opting to start the second period down, got a quick escape in order to sport a 3-1 edge heading into the final two minutes.
After Nehls escaped, a quick shot had the home fans believing the Trojan senior could potentially overcome his 3-2 deficit, but Bates fought off the shot and freed his leg before making that one-point margin become the final tally.
"This was one match I just didn't want to lose. We were kind of on the edge of the mat and I was aware of the score," Bates explained.
"When he tried to get my leg all the way up, I just kicked hard to get free. Beating a higher-ranked opponent gives me a lot of confidence heading toward conference, regional and state meets."
"I'd say those are two of the best (130-pounders) in the state and we could very easily see that match again," Lyons coach Griff Powell forecast.
"Drew wrestled smart and was real good on his feet. He was tough and toughness was something I wanted to see from our team today.
"We got after it from the start and our kids knew what needed to be done. They were aggressive and looked for bonus points whenever possible," Powell added.
The evening began at 171 pounds where Downers North's Jimmy Izewski followed a scoreless first period with an escape only to have Mike Rende do the same at the outset of the third period.
After neither wrestler scored in the initial overtime, Izewski chose down for the first 30-second OT but was unable to escape. When it came his turn, Rende got free for a hard-fought 2-1 decision for a 3-0 LT lead.
Although DGN's Zach Lommatzsch, an IM Honorable Mention 189-pounder, was up 5-0, the Trojan senior stayed aggressive in flattening Jaime Jones in 5:20 to give the hosts a 6-3 lead.
But that was negated in the first contest between wrestlers boasting IM recognition. Downers North Honorable Mention 215-pounder Jake Styve was in a rematch with No. 4-ranked Joe Gonzalez.
In the process of capturing his weight class at the Berman Invitational earlier, Gonzalez stuck Styve in 5:22. He was 12 seconds quicker in the rematch as his 5:10 pinfall put LT up 9-6 and the lead would only grow.
"Coach has been talking about the importance of bonus points, so getting six is as good as you can do for the team," Gonzalez said.
"I'm glad to be able to deliver. Because of football season, I got kind of a late start, but this is a good sign that I'm getting to where I want to be in terms of wrestling."
In another pairing of wrestlers off the latest IM rankings, the Lions' No. 10-rated Brian Pieroth got a first-period takedown and then started the second with an escape.
After Downers North's Honorable Mention Justin Novotny got a second escape, Pieroth added another takedown for his 5-2 decision in the heavyweight battle.
Then came one of DGN’s highlights for the night as Nico Hesslau gutted out a 1-0 triumph over Brian Krueger.
After a scoreless opening frame, Krueger deferred and Hesslau opted for the down position and escaped before preventing the LTHS sophomore from doing the same during the last period.
"Although it was a pretty stressful match at the start, I just focused on what we’ve done in practice. We spend a lot of time working on the next move, regardless of any score or time point in the match," Hesslau explained.
"I was pretty sure I could escape and I'm most confident in my ability to wrestle on top, so I wasn't too worried in the third period, just focused on doing the job."
That approach has earned the Trojan senior words of praise of his coach.
"I'm most proud of what Nico did tonight," Downers North coach Chris McGrath said. "He was like 5-20 last year and now he's got 11 wins, more than double, and it's a result of his working harder than anyone else I know."
Hesslau's decision made it a narrow 12-9 gap until AJ Villarreal, an IM Honorable Mention 112-pounder, came through with a 1:40 pancaking of Matt Bancoro for the Lions.
Just moments after the initial whistle, one of Villarreal's contacts became dislodged and unable to blink it back into place, the DGN senior simply tossed it to the mat and continued.
"I either had to wrestle with one eye closed or just close both of them briefly," Villarreal said with a shrug. "His arms were too loose and I quickly took advantage. Whenever it comes to conference duals, I especially love getting pins because I know they’re a big help to the team."
At 119, Carter Beebe dominated throughout his match with Sam Smith, producing an 18-2 tech fall win 47 seconds into the third period.
After Cullen Cummings posted a 2-0 decision over T.J. McCabe to pull Downers North to within 23-12, the stage was set for another pair of showdowns.
Following Bates' win over Nehls, Jack Windmoeller was allowed to escape at the start of the third period by the Trojans’ Maxx Lozano, but the LT senior added another takedown for a 5-1 decision.
"At that point I knew we could distance ourselves on the scoreboard with another win, so I just concentrated on getting a victory," Windmoeller added.
However, Downers North's Dave Tessiatore, ranked No. 10 at 140 pounds, kept the host's hopes alive with a 10-2 major decision over Cristian Rojas so the Trojans could stay within striking distance at 29-16.
"I knew going in I had an edge in experience, so once I secured the win I worked on getting us bonus points knowing we needed them," Tessiatore noted.
But then Lyons ended the night with a trio of pinfalls, starting with No. 7-ranked 145-pounder Lucas Polka flattening Mario Lozano in 3:14.
Number two-rated 152-pounder Matt Nora needed 1:50 for his stick over Nick Capaua and Honorable Mention 160-pounder Jack Pearson used just 34 seconds to pancake Mike Gastedello.
"Despite the loss, for the most part we wrestled well," McGrath insisted. "Give LT a lot credit because they're very good. However, we were tough, they were just tougher.
"To run with the big dogs you've got win the close ones and we didn't do that. We had opportunities to win at 171, 130 and 135, but didn't get the job done.
"I'm not making excuses, but in Jimmy's (Nehls') case, he was not in school for three days battling the flu. Wednesday he texted me to say 'I'm in', so I'm proud of his courage and how hard he fought."