Barrington runs away with MSL crown
By Mike Garofola
It's hard to believe that despite all of the terrific talent which has worn the Barrington singlet since its 2006 MSL championship season, adding another piece of conference hardware to the school’s trophy case has eluded the program.
And yet a team such as this year’s Broncos, with all of its first-year wrestlers, ran away from the field on Saturday to capture the MSL conference title.
Even in last year’s record-setting campaign, the Broncos' came close to lifting the MSL crown but fell short to Schaumburg by just 8 points, which set the stage for the 2010-2011 team and its 78-point margin of victory in Hoffman Estates at Conant High School.
It would be easy to simply write about individual championships from Jared Parvinmehr (112) and Aaron Castagna (285) -- and how the Broncos all but put away the competition during the afternoon session to validate its pre-tournament selection as the favorite -- but there is a lot more to this team than meets the eye.
“Winning an individual title is great, but to do so with a team like this on a day when we win the conference title makes it extra special," said Castagna (32-4), one of the elder statesmen on this young club, after defeating Prospect senior Terry Thomas 3-1 in his final to end the tournament.
"Our team last year was a team for the ages, and we had some great leaders like Dan Santoro, Luke Miller, Kalvin Argueta, and so many others who helped make it that way, and it was the example that they (set) that helped inspire me to do the same for this team and the program to continue on."
"That was a great team to be a part of last year. I feel really lucky to have been on a team that took fourth in state, but this team has a chance to do bigger and better things, so it’s an exciting time of the season for all of us."
As it has all season, Barrington's show of strength combined with its depth flattened the rest of the MSL over two days of wrestling. All 14 Broncos went home with a medal – a statistic which might make Barrington the odds-on favorite to win the Deerfield regional next weekend, and move one step closer to another appearance in the state tournament in late February.
"The MSL title is great stuff but I am most proud of the fact that we put 13 of 14 in the semifinals, and that all 14 of our guys won a medal," said Barrington head coach Al Strobl. "That's how you win tournaments."
The Broncos had a pair of second-place finishers in Matt Sheehy (103, 25-9) and senior Dakota Wapotish (145, 31-6), plus a half-dozen third-place medals from many wrestlers that were on the junior varsity last season, stuck behind veterans on the big club
Junior Daniel Davidson (26-11) was one such person, and he placed third at 215 with a 7-3 win over Fremd’s Dan Muehlfelt.
"I don't think any of us on the jayvee last season ever felt like we weren't part of the team or program, because the seniors and coach Strobl and his staff always included us in everything,” Davidson said. “Those seniors always pushed us in the room and always impressed upon us how important it was to be a part of Barrington wrestling."
Davidson and junior teammate Ryan Wilt (24-12) credit each other for their 20-plus victory seasons, and Wilt agreed with Davidson's assessment on the ease in which the younger Broncos have transitioned from jayvee to the varsity level.
"The guys in front of me were great role models, and I never felt (left) out from anything, which made me work even harder in anticipation of my chance to be on the varsity this season," offered Wilt, who on Friday stung the No. 3 seed Fred Scales of Hersey to avenge an early-season loss to the big senior and advance into Saturday morning’s semifinals.
Once there, Wilt ran into Chris Johnson (Wheeling) rated No. 4 in the state, and his travels in the championship round would end abruptly after a 9-2 defeat.
The junior duo of Cam Thomson and Nick Shealy have become as tight as super-glue, and could be seen laughing and hanging out together throughout a long weekend of competition. But when the whistle was blown, the Broncos' pair were all business, as reflected by their combined 55-16 record in their respective weight divisions.
Thomson (33-7) performed on the junior varsity during the 2010 season but exploded on the scene at 152 pounds this year. He showed he belonged with the big shots with his 3rd-place finish over the weekend, and 5-1 loss to state ranked Joe Caprio of Rolling Meadows.
"Not to take anything away from Caprio, but Cameron had his chances in that match and didn't finish on them, and if he did he could have won that match and been in the final against Jeff Koepke (Hersey)," offered Strobl.
"Maybe I was a little too nervous and not aggressive enough. I should have gone for it and tried to finish off a couple of those shots against Caprio," said Thomson, who was 6th at the Dvorak in December.
"I wrestled (Caprio) during the offseason, and we each beat the other once, he's a really good guy, and great wrestler, but I just didn't take advantage of my opportunities in that match."
Thomson says that Shealy and others in the practice room like Wilt, plus the 80-plus matches he wrestled in the offseason, are responsible for his success thus far. "I really revved up my offseason training,” Shealy said.
Shealy (22-9) injured his knee during his semifinal with Brandon Thompson of Prospect during, was forced out of action for good and was off to seek medical advice immediately following.
"We'll have to wait and see how Nick is doing, and what his status is for the regionals next weekend," said Strobl.
The junior was a key figure for the Broncos' last season, winning 25 matches at 145 pounds. "Cam is a major reason for the improvement in my game, and he has made me exponentially better," offered Shealy.
He also believes he took a big step forward thanks to a trio of bouts against state-ranked Shaun'Que McMurty (Lockport), Ricky Robertson (Mount Carmel) and Tyler Ledbetter (Plainfield Central) in the Broncos recent sweep at the Lockport Duals
"Now I know I can go with the big boys," said Shealy.
In their first MSL championship tournament, both sophomore Kevin Conrad (119) and senior Mike Wiesshappel (171) helped the cause with 3rd-place medals. Seniors Connor Mannina (125, 26-6) and Joe Adreani (140, 26-10) staged heroic comebacks to earn third-place finishes in their respective weight divisions.
Steve Polasik (135, 25-9) overcame a major decision loss in the semifinals to eventual champion Ronnie Hauser of Fremd to grab a 4th place medal.
"When you get a chance to meet and talk to the guys on this team, you quickly find out they're a great bunch of kids, who truly understand the team concept of things, like each other, and want to see each other succeed," begins Strobl.
"The one thing we stress is the importance of being a good person, and great teammate and friend to each other, because in the end, that's what it's all about."