By MIKE GAROFOLA
The tried and the tested delivered for Barrington when their club needed it Saturday afternoon as its top seniors provided the lethal touch to see off No. 5 Lincoln-Way West in the final at Downers Grove South.
With the Broncos (10-3-0) and Warriors involved in a tight dual to decide the championship, the senior strike force of Markus Hartman, Jarid Shinhoster, Daniel Rasmussen, and Jake Meyer drove a stake in the hearts of the Warriors faithful with four consecutive pins to give the eventual champs a 27-11 advantage.
Later, Tucker Priola (113) and Cael Dyer at 120 would finish things off in a 36-33 victory.
These two high profile clubs went through pool play with nary a scratch, particularly Brian Glynn’s men, who outscored its first four opponents by an overwhelming 268-21 margin, which included 27 pins to insure their spot against Barrington, which worked a little harder in order to advance.
“We bumped guys all throughout the day to get better match-ups and to take advantage of certain situations (not) including our second dual against (Lake Central) when Markus (Hartman) was out to attend an interview for his appointment to West Point at Congressman Peter Roskam’s office in Geneva,” said Barrington head coach, Dave Udchik.
“That’s the beauty of this team: it’s versatility and willingness to do whatever it takes to get a result – and you saw that today with our group of seniors who are tremendous leaders, who put their team first before themselves,” added Udchik.
“We stormed through our first four duals, (looked) strong and confident in doing so, but once we got into final with Barrington, things went the other way for us,” began Glynn.
“This is a very good team we have here this year, and despite losing nine from our state team from a year ago, our roster is filled with hard working, tough, and committed young men (who) in this final, found out what it means to compete against a team that is very good at what they do in a tournament atmosphere.”
“By that I mean, we took way too many pins (5) against us, we left a couple of majors out there we could have had, and we have to learn to close matches out when it’s there for the taking.”
“We’re going to be alright, and to tell you the truth (and) the guys know this, we’d rather have this kind of result happen at this time of the season so we can learn from it in order to be ready later on for regionals.”
After rolling over Bartlett, Belleville West, Normal West, then Grant in the semifinals, the Warriors (9-3-0) watched Nate Dluzak (132) and Josh Pakula (138) put seven on the scoreboard with a decision and major before Barrington’s Rami Sakka registered the decisive take-down with thirty seconds remaining to defeat Chris Kennedy, 8-6.
“Rami has been an unsung hero for us all season long. He’s gone from 8 wins a year ago to being 15-2 after winning all five today, and providing a real presence in the middle of our lineup at 145,” said a proud Udchik.
After that, the aforementioned quartet of Barrington took charge, with Hartman (152), Shinhoster (170), and Rasmussen (182) all moving up a weight class, while Meyer stayed at 195 after spending most of his day at 220.
“Whatever the team needs is fine with me. I just won’t wrestle any heavyweights,” joked Meyer, a three-sport star (football, baseball) who is now 17-0 following his three pins, a major, and forfeit win on the day.
Jimmie Olds (220) and Javen Estrada (106) would bookend a forfeit win by Nick Skentzos at 285 with a pair of pins to push the Warriors ahead one last time at 29-27.
Priola’s pin at 1:55, followed by a hard-fought 6-5 decision from Dyer over Garrett Geigner that was decided in the final ten seconds closed out the Warriors for good, making Payton Geigner’s major decision victory at 126 just a formality.
“Our lineup is beginning to look very strong now that we’re getting just about everyone back, but there’s still a lot of work for all us to do from here on out,” offered Hartman (16-0) No. 2 in the state polls behind top rated Will Lewan of Montini.
Around the tournament, host Downers Grove South (10-4-0) concluded a fine day by earning a third-place trophy after defeating Grant, 48-22, using six pins to do so, including one from No. 1 Sergio Villalobos at 195.
“It was a great day for Downers Grove South wrestling, as well as a great day all the way around because of a terrific field of teams we had here, who all put in a strong effort,” said a pleased Mustangs head coach, Sean Lovelace.
“We had a real solid day as a team, and I’m really excited about how the team will do later on in the postseason, and for myself, the same (because) I am enjoying the challenge of being the guy that everyone is coming after this season,” said Villalobos, who is bigger, stronger, and quicker than he was a year ago when he finished third in Champaign behind Patrick Brucki and Mason Kroening.
After three easy wins in pool play, Grant (9-4-0) moved into the semifinal brimming with confidence, which quickly disappeared following its 68-3 drubbing from Lincoln-Way West.
“Yes, we looked good and confident after our first three wins, but the air came out our balloon when Lincoln-Way put four pins on us in our first five matches (and) after that, you could see the guys hopes begin to sink,” admitted Bulldogs head coach, Lenny Grodoski, who praised Justin Brown, Zach Hitzler, and Sam Maldonado for their efforts on this day.
“We’ve had a busy and grueling three days of wrestling with seven matches during that time, but that’s no excuse for our last two losses. We’ve got to get a little tougher as a team in order to compete with our higher level opponents,” admitted the senior, Maldonado, who pushed his record on the season to 14-2 at 138 pounds.
Class 2A state power, Crystal Lake Central (8-1-0) finished fourth overall after its 44-22 win over Normal West, which saw Conor Burns (126), Austin Ernd (138), and Frank Carone (160) all go 5-0, with Stephen Bushy (170), Braden Bisram (182), and Liam O’Donnell (195) coming in with four wins each.
“This is a great tournament with a lot of teams we’ll never see during the year, and that’s the main reason we’ve been coming here for the last 6-7 years,” said Central head coach, Justen Lehr, who was without No. 1 Seamus O’Donnell (195) who remains on the injury list with a torn bicep muscle.
“We just want to get better as each week goes on, and to get as many guys to the state tournament later on,” says Ernd, who, along with Bisram, Burns, Carone, and the O’Donnell brothers, were on the 2015 state team as freshmen that finished fourth overall.
Normal West head coach Adam Richards liked what he saw from his lads, particularly Kolton Howard (145, 152), Zane Davis (182), and heavyweight, Skyler Hufeld.
“Those three all had really good days. Kolton battled hard and finished at 4-1 with a win over a state ranked 2A opponent, then went up a weight to beat a 1A state ranked guy,” began Richards.
“Zane was undefeated after starting every one of his matches trailing in the first period, while Skyler finished unbeaten with three pins, and a win over the No. 7 rated 285-pounder at 3A.”
Richards, who will bring his club to Glenbrook South next Friday to compete in the 54th Rus Erb Tournament, sees the value of coming north when opportunity knocks.
“We have only two other 3A schools within 80 minutes of us, so we really important for us to see multiple quality opponents from around the state when we go to tournaments.”
“Today, we were able to get three duals against 3A teams, while also two top teams from 1A (Coal City) and 2A with Crystal Lake Central, so it was a good for us to come to Downers Grove South.”
Despite its eighth-place tourney finish, 1A state power Coal City, and its fine head coach, Mark Masters, had reason to find plenty of positive things to take from this long day inside the Mustangs massive fieldhouse.
“Of course, we would have liked to have a better overall result, but we came here to see different and higher levels of competition, all of which are from larger classes than we are, and we came away with a 2-3 record and a couple of close duals in our losses as well,” said Masters, who would guide his program to a second place finish in 2016.
“I told the guys afterwards there are good losses and bad wins, and that’s the way it goes when you come to a tournament like this one, and this year, after losing some quality guys, we’re going through some growing pains here in the first half of the season, but we should be okay for the second half.”