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posted: 1/24/2010 12:01 AM

Maine West's Pack makes remarkable comeback

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By Mike Garofola

Nearly one year ago to the day, Maine West's Chris Pack raised his first-ever Central Suburban League championship trophy at 160 pounds. The junior soon advanced to the sectionals following a second-place finish at the York regional.

Pack never found his way back onto the wrestling mats until just three weeks ago.

After suffering a severe knee injury that forced him to miss the rest of the postseason last February, Pack found himself on the sidelines again just prior to the start of the 2009-10 campaign after injuries to both shoulders shut him down nearly for good.

Until Saturday.

Pack powered through the field on his home mats, winning four matches - including a pin over Daniel Gill of New Trier to capture the Warriors' lone championship at the CSL meet.

Teammates Jeff Vernola (33-5 at 135) and Chris Nguyen (19-15 at 145), who upset No. 1 seed Todd Zimmerman of Deerfield early on, both recorded second-place finishes. Senior Richard Montelbano (15-4) was third at 215 pounds.

Highland Park's Ben Schwartz (112), Deerfield's Josh Katz (125) and Jeremy Fahler (171) and Maine South senior Joe Brewster (152) all defended their CSL titles.

No team standings were kept in this tournament.

Pack's championship run was a medical marvel.

"You have to begin to wonder if (you) can come back, and if so, how competitive would I be?" said Pack, who dislocated one of his shoulders during an off-season camp at UW-Whitewater and damaged the other in a tubing accident.

When he finally returned to the Warriors' lineup, he faced long-time friend, Hersey star Jeff Koepke.

"Jeff and I have been wrestled together and against each other since first grade as members of the Cardinals, so it was kind of ironic that he was the first guy I went against when I came back," Pack said. "I have nothing to lose, beginning this weekend, except maybe another trip to the doctor after the season is over."