By GARY LARSEN
When Libertyville’s Matt Templeton transferred from Deerfield to Libertyville, he didn’t know what to expect as a new member of the Wildcats’ wrestling team.
With team tournament titles at Barrington and Prospect under their belts, plus a No. 12 ranking in Class 3A at Illinois Matmen, the Wildcats have shown Templeton all he could have asked for.
“We’re having an awesome year and it’s been great wrestling with this group of guys,” Templeton said. “We’re always looking to win and the whole team is working for the same goals, so no matter what we’re going to be good. Tournament team, dual team — we’re coming after you.”
Libertyville dominated Saturday’s 58th Annual Mudge/McMorrow tournament at Prospect, earning a 252.5-169.5 over the host Knights. Moline finished third, Prairie Ridge was fourth, and Addison Trail rounded out the top five.
Libertyville sent seven wrestlers to the title mat and another four wrestled for third for coach Dale Eggert. Templeton (126), Brandon Murphy (120), and Michael Gunther (138) won individual titles, with seconds coming from Ian Riley (113), Danny Pucino (132), Bennett Whitney (160), and Charlie Schmidt (285).
The Wildcats also got thirds from Tyler Padilla (152), Ryan Damenti (170), and Josh Groskopf (182), and a fourth from Will DeBruler (195).
“We got a lot of placers from guys that don’t have a whole lot of experience,” Eggert said. “Both Riley and Whitney got to the finals and both won really big matches to get there, and we had a bunch of guys get to third-place matches in the upper weights, where we don’t have much varsity experience. Those guys put their best foot forward today.”
Host Prospect had three title-winners and a runner-up in edging third-place Moline by 7.5 team points.
“We went back and forth with Moline all day. We had a goal coming in here of finishing in the top two, knowing that to catch Libertyville it would take a lot,” Prospect coach Tom Whalen said. “We have a lot of time before the end of the season to improve. We just have to get more guys fighting for six minutes.”
Prospect titles came from Jack Milos (113), Ryan Vedner (170), and Jose Ramos (285).
Joliet Catholic’s DJ Hamiti won a title at 106 at Barrington to start the year, and added a Prospect title to his name with a tech fall win for the title against Moline’s Isaiah Tapia, last year’s tournament champion at 106 pounds.
Milos finished fourth in his weight class at last year’s IKWF state finals, after placing second in state the year before. After winning Saturday’s title at 113 pounds, he was asked if he’s surprised at having varsity success as a freshman.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised because I kind of anticipated it, but I think I should be doing better than I am,” Milos said. “But I’m a little more loose with my wrestling than I was last year, when I was mostly focused on technique. I can scramble better and I’m working things better than I used to.”
Milos had a pin and an 8-4 decision win before taking on Libertyville’s Ian Riley on the title mat. Milos used a late first-period takedown and back points to build a lead and pinned Riley at the 3:42 mark.
Libertyville got the first of its three titles from Murphy, in a 4-0 decision win over Moline’s Ellex Williams at 120. Templeton’s title at 126 came next in a 6-2 win over Prospect’s Andrew Baysinger, who beat Templeton 7-6 on a third-place mat at Barrington to start the season.
Templeton trailed 2-1 after a period on a Baysinger takedown before showing his riding prowess to great effect and exacting a bit of revenge.
Baysinger chose down position to start the second period and Templeton turned him once to take a 3-2 lead, then rode him out to the end of the period. Templeton escaped to start the third, earned another takedown, and again rode Baysinger hard to the end of the match.
“I’m looking to make a statement this year,” said Templeton, who was a state qualifier as a Deerfield junior last year at 106 pounds.
“What a fun kid to have on our team,” Eggert said. “We feel really blessed, Deerfield did a great job with him and we’ve been the fortunate recipient. He loves to compete, loves to practice and he’s been a good team member.”
One of the day’s marquee matches came at 132 pounds, between Pucino and Stillman Valley’s Jared Van Vleet. Pucino is ranked fifth in 3A by Illinois Matmen, and Van Vleet is the top-ranked 1A wrestler in Illinois.
Van Vleet posted a 5-4 win built on two first-period takedowns, with Pucino coming hard at him throughout the second and third periods. Afterwards, Van Vleet was asked what challenge Pucino poses in the circle.
“His pace, obviously,” Van Vleet said. “That wasn’t one of my best matches but it’s early in the season and his pace really showed, and it showed me where I need to work now. I wrestled well in the first period and I need to wrestle like that for all three periods. It’ll come.
“Danny and I are buds, we wrestled in the finals here last year. We got to know each other at Fargo camp even better and he’s just an awesome kid. I love wrestling against him.”
Pucino maintained a good perspective despite the loss.
“It was a fun one,” Pucino said. “He pushed the pace early, which I love, and when I got down I knew I had to push the pace back.I thought I had him a few times but I haven’t faced defense like that all year, outside of (Andrew’s Robbie) Precin.”
At 138, third-ranked Gunther earned his second tournament title of the year, having also won the crown at Barrington. Gunther won 10-5 over Trey Piotrowski of Prairie Ridge for the title on Saturday. Piotrowski is currently ranked fifth and placed fifth in 2A last year.
“He had a great match against a returning all-stater in Piotrowski,” Eggert said of Gunther. “He had five takedowns and it was a dominating performance. He had a great day.”
New Trier’s Patrick Ryan won 3-2 over Fremd’s Cole Riemer for the title at 145, getting the lone takedown of the match in the second period. Riemer won a Prospect title at 138 last year. Ryan is currently ranked third in Illinois at 145.
New Trier’s Jack Tangen stepped off the awards stand, took his medal off and hung it around his grandmother’s neck, after winning his first Prospect title. Tangen won 10-5 win over Moline’s Jaden Terronez at 152 pounds on the title mat.
Tangen placed sixth in Prospect as a sophomore two years ago and missed last year’s tournament due to illness. He picked up steam as his title match against Terronez played out, but wasn’t happy with his first period.
“I’ve been a little slow to start the season. I let up the first takedown and I just have to move my feet earlier in matches,” Tangen said. “In the second and third period today, I felt great in my finals match because I was moving better, my reaction time was a lot better, and I was moving from one move to another.”
Fremd’s Adam Kemp burned a path through the division at 160, winning by major decision and fall before winning by tech fall on the title mat over Libertyville’s Bennett Whitney. Kemp also placed second at Barrington this year.
At 170, Ryan Vedner won the second of Prospect’s three individual titles, a 5-4 decision over Nick Fetzner of Prairie Ridge.
“(Vedner) has wrestled a little bit harder and gotten a little bit stronger every year,” Whalen said. “Last year he had thirty-some wins for us but had some injuries at the end of the year, and now he’s on pace and we want to get him down to Champaign.”
Glenbrook North’s Cam Casey won the title at 182 with a 4-0 decision over Loyola’s John Kely before Stillman Valley’s Drake Jennings showed the crowd in Mt. Prospect some late heroics.
Jennings trailed Moline’s Hunter Henning 2-1 with less than 30 seconds left in their title match at 195 pounds when he managed a takedown and some near-fall points in earning a 6-2 win.
“Everybody was yelling at me ‘gotta go, gotta shoot’,” Jennings said. “I’m not sure how I got the takedown … but I managed to get it and then I got some back points out of it,” said Jennings, who also won a Prospect title at 195 last season.
With an enrollment of less than 600 students, Stillman Valley was the smallest school present in Mt. Prospect and placed seventh in the 16-team field, one spot ahead of Joliet Catholic, which has an enrollment of roughly 650.
“I love coming to this kind of stuff. I’d love to do duals against teams like this,” Jennings said. “It’s cool to come up here and get this kind of tough competition. We have a young team so for them to come into a tournament dominated by teams from 3A, I’m pretty pleased with how we wrestled.”
Fremd’s Brian Morel missed all of his sophomore wrestling season due to concussions suffered while playing football last year, but he left Prospect this year as an individual champ at 220 pounds. Morel won 5-2 over Addison Trail’s Anal Sanabria on the title mat.
“(Sanabria) was good on his feet but I just kept wrestling hard and came out on top,” said Morel, who posted a takedown in the first and third periods in the win. “I knew I had to watch out for his shots in neutral.
“I didn’t know how I’d be after a year away from wrestling and so far I’m actually surprising myself. I’ve wrestled since second grade and there’s nothing like the feeling of winning a match.”
The highest drama of the night came in its final match. Prospect heavyweight Jose Ramos and Libertyville’s Schmidt took the heavyweight title match to overtime, with Ramos winning a 4-2 tiebreak on a takedown.
Ramos avenged his lone loss this year, which came via 5-2 loss to Schmidt in the semifinals at Barrington, where Ramos went on to place third.
“I just knew I had to stay in good position the whole time because he’s a lot bigger than me,” Ramos said. “And I’ve been working a lot on my conditioning and that really helped through the whole match. During our live sessions we just keep going and going, so I felt like had a lot left in that match. I only have one loss, so my season’s going good so far.”
Whalen loved what he got from Ramos on the title mat.
“A fantastic effort,” Whalen said. “(Ramos) battled and that’s all we ask our guys to do. He’s in the best shape he’s been in for three years and there’s more to come from him.”