Despite the boost provided by a jammed-pack alumni night crowd, Maine West (15-2-0) wasn't able to take advantage as Central Suburban League and state wrestling power Deerfield took control from the onset before cruising to victory on a snowy Thursday night in Des Plaines.
On a night seemingly custom made for Maine West to make a splash, it was instead the visitors who solidified their standing. Deerfield opened with 5 consecutive wins, 2 via pin, then used a stunning come-from-behind fall by Lenny Bloom to run away for good in a 46-15 triumph.
"There was a lot of emotion in their gym tonight with the big crowd, so many alumni on hand to cheer them on and to honor one of their former coaches," said Deerfield coach Marc Pechter. "It was so important for us to get out to a good start, beginning with a big win from our heavyweight (JJ Nawart) to help get us going while taking a little steam out of them as well."
Deerfield improved 17-2 and is considered the favorite for next weekend's CSL tournament at Maine East.
"Whenever we wrestle (Deerfield) they really come after you and compete hard, and tonight, they did just that," said Maine West coach Lance Weber. "Against a terrific team like them you cannot get in a hole from the start and expect to come away with a win."
Weber and many of his former teammates celebrated the career of long-time coach Rick Lombardi (1982-1993, 185 career victories), who is retiring following the 2011-2012 school year.
"Deerfield did a great job of controlling our top guys and not allowing them to get bonus points, while earning a few of their own to build a big lead, and they certainly deserved their victory tonight," said Weber.
Maine West fell behind 22-0 when Jordan Lieberman recorded a major decision at 106, and the duo of Kevin and Christian Hoogheem spent just over two minutes combined to register back-to-back pins at 113 and 120 pounds.
Despite the big deficit, Maine West's hopes of getting back into it looked bright with its big three of Colin Gratz, Jake Korbecki and Rico Zayas all warming up and eager to dig into the visitors' lead.
But Gratz (25-1) was first up at 132 pounds and was only able to manage a 7-1 decision over a gritty Sam Tortorella (14-9). Korbecki (24-8) did all he could to upend Brian McCann 3-1.\
"It was important to keep their studs under control, but Lenny's (Bloom) match with (Rico) Zayas was the one that changed the entire complexion for the rest of the evening," said Pechter.
With the final score very much up in the air, Zayas (20-5), a senior, signaled his intent by making an early mark on his match with two-time state qualifier Bloom with an explosive attack and early throw and takedown. That brought the crowd to its feet, roaring it approval as Zayas came close to pinning the Deerfield star in the first 30 seconds.
Seemingly saved once by what appeared to be an injury, Bloom later suffered another big throw from a now-confident opponent in Zayas, who finished the first period with a 6-1 lead.
A pair of penalty points cut into Zayas' lead before a takedown at the edge by Bloom brought things even at 6-6, with an escape at the buzzer putting Zayas up 7-6.
With the crowd clearly in his favor, Zayas, did his best to slow Bloom, who had recovered superbly from a rough start and began to push the pace.
Zayas went up 8-6, then 9-6 before watching his opponent get things back to 9-9. And with 39 seconds left in regulation, Bloom finished things off with a pin.
The hosts managed just two more victories after that, the first coming from Jordan Pessah at 152 pounds, with an impressive 7-2 victory, and later on a forfeit at 182 pounds.
The state's No. 3 rated 220-pounder, Artie Bess (20-1), put an exclamation point on the night for Deerfield with a fall at 3:29 over Rogelio Rodriguez.
"Now we regroup, and get after it starting tomorrow," said Weber. "One of our goals was to win the division, and that's likely not going to happen now. But the guys know we get another chance next weekend at the conference tournament, and then our focus turns to winning a regional title.
"These type of setbacks are what builds character, and the guys will have a chance to prove it right away."