Carmel cruised to a pair of easy victories Tuesday night in East Suburban Catholic Conference wrestling action in Arlington Heights, but the focus for Bob Kuykendall's team is more about the future, instead of the here and now.
The victory for the Corsairs (16-6, 5-1) over the host Lions (59-15) and Marian Catholic (59-21) comes in advance of Thursday's dual with state power Marist. Kuykendall hopes a solid performance against the conference leaders will set up bigger and better things in the weeks ahead.
"Obviously we want to have a good tournament in two weeks, but let's face it, it's all about what you do in the postseason," said Kuykendall, who has seen it all in his 29 years of coaching. "The ESCC conference tournament will help us prepare for the regionals the following week, then it's all about finishing in the top three to get out of there. And the next week, it's a top-four finish to get out of there and downstate.
"We've got 10 seniors who have made a big commitment to the sport and our program, so we'll see how it goes from here on out."
The Corsairs saw the Lions fall victim to Marian 45-21 to open Senior Night. But without giving away 24 points at the lower end of their lineup, the Lions would be right there with the visiting Spartans at the end.
"That's kind of been the story for us all year long," said Lions coach Jeff Kramarczyk, who along with is staff honored four seniors on this night, including Mike Licari (152) and Nick Fedyna (171), who went a combined 4-0.
"We've got such a small room this season, but I can tell you, as a group, this is an extremely hard-working bunch of guys who continue to work hard in and out of the room and give everything that you ask from them."
Licari, who wrestled last season after taking home a third-place medal at the ESCC tournament in his first two seasons with the big club, likes his chances for another trip atop the podium next Friday, when the conference tourney commences in Chicago Heights, hosted by Marian Catholic (6-12, 2-2).
"I've worked very hard this season, and have gotten especially better on my feet, and with the results that I've had this year in the ESCC, I am hoping for a top-four seed at the tournament, and (then) a shot at a first-place finish," said Licari, who defeated Marian's James Cavanaugh 6-3 in his opening bout, and later defeated Trent Jansen of Carmel 7-2.
Fedyna began his night on a high note with a fall at just 0:26 seconds in before earning a hard-fought 7-3 victory over David Heath of Carmel.
St. Viator junior Elliot Hilgert gave the hosts its only other natural win at 135, with Joe McManus grabbing 6 points off a forfeit at 215.
Senior Ryan Kelly (160) who went 1-1 in his 2 matches, recorded a fall at 3:56 against Arthur Smith of Marian to help pull the Lions within 12 at 27-15 before Fedyna's aforementioned pin closed the gap even more to 27-21. But that's as close as St. Viator got.
Carmel had too much firepower for Marian, as the pin-happy Corsairs recorded 7, including back-to-backs from the 1-2 punch of Bobby Dandino (152) and Tim Hourihan (160), who are a combined 61-8 this season.
"This has been a really rough year for us, and tonight is indicative of how its gone for us," said Marian Central coach Joe Gilbert, who was without his best wrestler, Nate Jackson on this night.
"We've had a pretty good season thus far," said Hourihan (31-3) who recently took first place at the Newbill Invite at Geneva, "but I think in order for us to do really well in the postseason, all of us need to step up the intensity, beginning this week with Marist."
Pat Kotek (119), Brian Waldron (125), Hayden Roos (135), Max Moyer (189) and heavyweight Jack Cochrane join in on Carmel's pin frenzy along with Dandino and Hourihan.
"They've been together from last spring, then off to camp at the University of Illinois, summer camps, then right into fall, and now it's time from here on out to show up each time out, and wrestle your best," Kuykendall said.