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By GARY LARSEN
Heading into this year’s 27th annual Moore/Prettyman tournament at Barrington, smart money might not have been placed on Libertyville to take the team title in a field that included Lockport, Marmion, and host Barrington.
Smart money would have lost.
Coach Dale Eggert’s Libertyville squad won its first Barrington title, posting a 173-167 scoring edge over Barrington, followed by Yorkville, Lockport, and Marmion. The Wildcats pulled off the team title with seven medal winners, with junior Michael Gunther leading the way by winning an individual title at 138 pounds.
“We’ve got some pretty tough kids,” Gunther said. “Right around my weight we’ve got (Matt) Templeton, Danny (Pucino), (Tyler) Padilla, and in the upper weights we’ve got Charlie (Schmidt), Brandon Murphy in the lower weights.
“We’ve had a few down years but this year we’ve got some great guys coming through the program. We knew we could be right up there at this tournament.”
Eggert was pleasantly surprised by his team’s performance in Barrington.
“I knew we’d do well in individual tournaments because we’ve got some very good individuals,” Eggert said. “It will be hard for us because of inexperience in some spots to be a good dual meet team but we look forward to these big tournaments because we know we’ve got some guys that can shine.”
Libertyville got a second from heavyweight Schmidt, a third from Pucino (132), fourths from Murphy (120) and Templeton (126), a fifth from Padilla (152), and a seventh from Ryan Dementi (170).
“Where we made ourselves look good was in the quarterfinals, where we went six-for-six,” Eggert said. “We didn’t do all that well in the wrestle-backs but when you get all those semifinalists, you’ve got six placers.”
A pair of freshmen kicked things off on the title mat at Barrington, in Marmion’s Diego Sotelo and Joliet Catholic’s Dean Hamiti. Despite being high school rookies, the two went into the title match at 106 pounds with some history behind them.
Hamiti won a 7-3 decision over Sotelo on the IKWF Senior Division 95-pound title mat in March. On Saturday, Hamiti won a 10-8 decision over Sotelo to win his first Barrington tournament title.
“We wrestled like three times last year and they were all pretty close matches,” Hamiti said. “I had to stay tough on bottom and he’s quick with the sweep single on the side so I had to keep my hips down.”
Six of Saturday’s eight medal-winners at 106 were freshmen in Barrington, but even freshmen with high kids’ club pedigrees are typically a great unknown when they enter high school competition against older and stronger wrestlers.
“It’s gone pretty well for the most part and I’m happy with the way I’m wrestling so far,” Hamiti said, “but I know I have to keep getting tougher.”
Top-seeded Sotelo burned a path to the title mat with a pin and two tech falls, while second-seeded Hamiti did the same with two pins and a major decision win.
At 113, top-seeded junior Matt Ramos of Lockport posted a pair of tech falls to set up an 11-4 decision win in his semifinal match against Marmion’s Michael Jaffe. Ramos, who placed fifth in Illinois at 106 last year, capped his day with a 17-7 major over Andrew’s Luc Valdez on the title mat.
Lockport got the second of its two individual titles next at 120, when junior Anthony Molton pinned Stevenson’s Tommy Frezza at the 3:19 mark. Molton placed fourth in Illinois at 113 last year.
After a scoreless first period, Frezza escaped to start the second before Molton took him to the mat and earned the pin. Afterwards, Molton spoke to the potential of this year’s defending Class 3A state champion Porters.
“We lost a lot of people but I think we’ll be pretty good this year,” Molton said. “We’ve got a lot of new people coming up and they’re pretty good, and we’ve got older guys teaching them what to do. The younger guys will get better and we’re helping them.”
One of the day’s marquee matches came next at 126, when defending 2A state champion Austin Macias of Burlington Central squared off with DeKalb’s Fabian Lopez, who placed second at 120 in 3A last year.
Macias won a 6-5 decision over Lopez, thanks to a third-period takedown in a match that carried meaning for Macias beyond deciding a tournament title.
“I knew it would be a good match coming in,” Macias said. “But even though I won state last year in 2A I knew people might be thinking ‘he’s still just a 2A kid. Can he beat a top 3A kid?’. So going in, I knew I had to prove something and it felt good after the match knowing I was able to beat him.”
Macias took a 1-0 lead with an escape to start the second period and led 3-0 with a takedown, before Lopez escaped and tied the match with a takedown. Macias escaped, and Lopez tied the match again at 4-4 with an escape to start the third period.
Macias then posted the only takedown of the third period and led 6-5 as Lopez fought for a takedown down the stretch to no avail.
“It was a fun match to be in. It was wild,” Macias said. “(Lopez) put me in some positions that I definitely need to be able to score off of. He had a really good pace. He doesn’t stop so I knew I had to be ready.”
Another marquee title match followed at 132 between Marmion’s Trevor Chumbley and Andrew’s Robert Precin. Chumbley placed fourth downstate at 126 in 3A last year, while Precin placed third at 120.
Chumbley got the lone takedown of the match in the second period en route to a 3-1 decision win.
“I got in deep and I had to come up to my feet and finish,” Chumbley said. “I was sitting down there the first couple times I got in and he was able to scramble out. So I just had to get to my feet and finish.
“Coaches are always telling us to trust in our training and that’s what I did. Nobody trains harder than us so I always know I can keep going and push the pace.”
Gunther’s title came next at 138, in a 2-1 decision over Hononegah’s top-seeded Giovanni Cassioppi. Third-seeded Gunther reached the title mat with a 3-1 overtime win in his semifinal match against second-seeded Nick Termini.
“Every team can always use more Gunthers on it,” Eggert said. Joey Gunther placed second downstate at 160 for Libertyville as a senior in 2015.
Hinsdale Central placed 13th in the 28-team field, as the only team to claim three individual titles. Top-seeded Liam Drury won 6-5 over second-seeded Cole Riemer of Fremd on the title mat at 145, and at 182 third-seeded Caleb Lagestee won a 5-1 semifinal decision over second-seeded JP Migawa of Andrew before beating top-seeded Logan Roach of DeKalb via 3-0 decision on the title mat.
In between, Hinsdale Central’s Luke Skokna provided the day’s high-drama moments on the title mat at 160. Skokna trailed Fremd’s Adam Kemp 3-2 with time running out in their title match before getting a late takedown and a 4-3 win.
It was Skokna’s first Barrington title.
“(Migawa) came out more aggressive than me and got the first takedown, and after that I knew I had to step it up,” Skokna said. “With a minute left, all he tried to do was hold on to me. He knew my double was coming but I managed to get the two. You have to wrestle all six minutes because anything can happen.
“Last year I placed sixth here, bumping up from 152 to 160, but I put on ten pounds of muscle and now I’m wrestling my actual weight. Offensively I feel quicker than a lot of guys now, and my technique is much better this year.”
Second-place Barrington won two individual titles Saturday among their seven place-medal winners. Top-seeded Markus Hartman used a pin, a tech fall, and a major decision win to reach the title mat at 152, where he won his third Barrington title in a 5-0 decision over second-seeded Baylor Fernandes of Lockport.
Hartman placed second downstate at 145 last year, while Fernandes placed fourth.
After a scoreless first period, Fernandes rode Hartman through the first minute and a half of the second before Hartman got a reversal to take a 2-0 lead into the third.
“My defense philosophy on bottom is that you don’t always have to move but when you do, keep moving,” Hartman said. “What I was doing early in the second period wasn’t working so off the whistle I hit a quick switch and it ended up working out.”
Hartman then rode Fernandes out for the entire third period, adding three near-fall points on a cradle along the way to a 5-0 decision win.
“Fernandes is a tough kid and I have the utmost respect for him,” Hartman said. “We wrestled last year in a dual and I ended up pinning him but the whole match was close.”
Marmion’s Nate Jimenez won the Cadets’ second individual title, winning an 11-5 decision on the title mat at 170 over Prospect’s Ryan Vedner.
Jimenez is using last year’s state runner-up finish at 160 as fuel for this season. He lost a 3-2 decision in Champaign to state champion Trevell Timmons of Lockport and learned a valuable lesson in the process.
“I’m more confident this year,” he said. “Last year was a letdown, coming up short of my goal, and I wrestled tight in the finals. This year I’m more confident and I’m ready to just let it flow.”
Marmion wrestled without the services of veterans Peter Ferraro, Brad Gross, Tyler Surges, Sean McKenna, and Nathan Calloway for assorted reasons at Barrington. Once the Cadets get their full lineup in the fold, Jimenez likes his side’s chances against any team in Illinois.
“I’m confident in this team,” Jimenez said. “I know Montini always has a great team but I like what we have.”
At 195, Barrington’s top-seeded Jake Meyer pinned second-seeded Nick Stemmet of Yorkville at the 3:05 mark to win his first Moore/Prettyman title.
Meyer was happy with what he saw from his Broncos on Saturday.
“We did even better than I thought we would,” Meyer said. “We had eleven guys make it to the second day and we had (seven) top finishers. We put a lot of hard work into the practice room, so I didn’t doubt that we’d do well in this tournament.”
In addition to titles from Hartman and Meyer, Barrington got fourths from Luke Rasmussen (138), Rami Sakka (145), and Daniel Rasmussen (170), a fifth from Tucker Priola (113), and a seventh from Cael Dyer (120).
Third-place Yorkville got a title at 220 from top-seeded Brady Fisher, who had a pin, a tech fall, and a major decision win to reach the title mat. Fisher then won an 11-2 major over third-seeded Garrett St. Clair of Waubonsie Valley on the title mat.
Last but certainly not least among title-winners was Hononegah’s Anthony Cassioppi. The defending 3A heavyweight state champion won Barrington’s Outstanding Wrestler Award by pinning his way to the title, capped by a pin of Libertyville’s Charlie Schmidt.
None of Cassioppi’s four opponents at Barrington were able to take him into the second period.
After pinning his way to a state title in Champaign last year and going a perfect 48-0, the Hononegah senior will carry the outlandish expectations to do it all again this year.
Which he couldn’t care less about.
“I don’t really pay attention to any of that,” Cassioppi said. “I’ll just keep going out there and wrestling. I wanted to pin my way through the whole season last year but I came up short by two matches. And my goal is the same this year.”