Joliet West battles at conference meet
By Curt Herron
Joliet West has accomplished much during a successful return to varsity competition this season following a long absence.
But while the Tigers have been able to achieve several firsts since the early 1990's, they fell short of one goal at the SouthWest Suburban Conference meet.
Although coach Joey Benefiel's squad walked away from the rugged two-day competition with seven medal winners, they only had one finalist and no champions.
But considering the quality of the competition in the 16-team field at Lincoln-Way Central, there's certainly no shame in coming up empty-handed.
After all, only three squads had multiple champions while the 14 weight class winners were spread out among nine different teams.
As a team, JT West took sixth place with 93.5 points, which was ahead of Homewood-Flossmoor (88) but behind Lockport (108.5).
The lone Tiger who did reach the title mat, Matt Koran, faced long odds since he had to go up against Lockport's top-ranked Brad Johnson at 189.
Although Koran (25-7) extended the championship match into the third period, Johnson (30-3) managed to record a fall in 4:30 for the victory.
After winning by technical fall in his initial match, Koran captured a 6-4 victory over Andrew's #12 Jake Ferguson in the semifinals.
"This was definitely a learning experience for me since I haven't faced anyone that good this year," Koran said. "I hadn't really faced anyone ranked this year so I'll take something from this.
"I did pretty well against all of the other kids and tried going all out in the finals but the pin doesn't show hard hard I was going. I'll use this experience against everyone else I wrestle."
Claiming third-place at 112 for the Tigers was Jorge Ulloa (18-8), who pinned Lincoln-Way East's Brendan Blayney in 1:54 in his final match.
He won four wrestleback matches, including a 5-3 overtime decision over Lockport's Dan Radcliffe and a 4-3 victory over Andrew's Sean McMahon.
"I'd rather have been first, but it's pretty good to wrestle back to take third," Ulloa said. "There were a lot of talented people here and order to win you had to bring your 'A' game.
"There's mistakes you can't take back so you have to learn from them and improve for regionals. This meet was good since I got to see a lot of the guys who I might meet in regionals."
The Tigers also received fourth-place finishes from a pair of seniors, Jamie Bandy (140) and Greg Rucker (152).
In his last match, Bandy (25-8) dropped an 8-2 decision for third place at 140 to Lincoln-Way West's #8 Matt Ruettiger (32-7).
Bandy lost in the semis 6-2 to the eventual champ, Stagg's #6 Kevin Moylan (34-2), before winning 2-1 over Lincoln-Way Central's Tyler Schneider.
Rucker (26-13) dropped a 9-0 decision to Carl Sandburg's Mitch Cook (18-8) in the third-place match at 152.
He won his first three wrestleback matches, including 2-1 over Lincoln-Way East's David Rollins and 3-2 over Homewood-Flossmoor's Keith Smith.
JT West also received fifth-place finishes from Jayvin Bandy (130) and Dan Hougas (171) and a seventh-place effort from Cory Winchell (103).
Jayvin Bandy (26-8) won 10-3 over Andrew's Kevin Golden for fifth at 130 after falling 9-7 to Bolingbrook's Lazarick Mahomes (22-10).
After capturing a pair of decisions, Jayvin Bandy dropped a 7-4 semifinal match to Bradley-Bourbonnais' William Thompson (28-6).
Hougas (12-5) captured fifth place at 171 by default after dropping an 11-10 decision to H-F's Faraan Brantley (23-14) in his previous match.
Following a pair of pins in his initial two matches, Hougas lost by technical fall to the eventual champ, Sandburg's #6 Brandon Lopez (35-3).
Winchell (26-12) capped a 2-1 effort in the wrestlebacks when he won 5-0 over Andrew's Matt McLaughlin for seventh place at 103.
He recorded a fall in his opening match of the meet before falling 4-1 to Lincoln-Way Central's #12 Tyler Price (23-8), who took second.
One Tiger who was expected to be in the mix in the most competitive weight class, 135, got injured and didn't compete on the final day.
After winning his opener, #6 Jim Spangler (25-2) had to default to Bradley's Adam Dahl and then was unable to take part in the wrestlebacks.