St. Charles East wrestling coach Jason Potter expected his squad, one week after a major tournament championship, to give state-ranked Rockton Hononegah a better showing in its opening match of the West Aurora Mega Duals Saturday morning.
"We were very disappointed with how we competed," Potter said after the Indians prevailed 51-18. "When you wrestle a team like that, you don't want to wrestle flat. That's exactly what we did."
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But the Saints' resilience came to the forefront in their second outing in Aurora.
Steamrolling Naperville Central in 12 of the 14 matches, St. Charles East bounced right back with a convincing 60-9 decision over the Redhawks.
The Saints' triumph was the largest spread of any of the 12 matches on the day.
The stage was therefore set for the final round for St. Charles East: yet another showdown with former Upstate Eight Conference rival and host West Aurora.
"From '82 until whenever they (West Aurora) left the conference for the DVC (in 1997), it was always one of our great rivalries," said Mick Ruettiger, the longtime coach for the original St. Charles High School and current mentor of Neuqua Valley.
"It's always neat to see (Ruettiger)," Potter said of his former coach. "I have known him since the age of 5."
The match certainly lived up to its historical antecedents.
West Aurora 126-pounder Ethan Lesher prevailed 3-1 to knot the match at 24-24 with two bouts remaining.
But the Blackhawks did not have many answers for the Saints' talented duo of Ryan Valesh and Isaiah Vela.
Valesh earned a hard-fought victory at 132 pounds to give St. Charles East a 27-24 lead, and Vela secured the Saints' 31-24 victory by doubling up his opponent 16-8 to give the squad its fourth victory on the season against a lone loss.
"I'm just working to get back to where I was last year (before a season-ending rib injury)," Vela said after improving to 8-0 on the season. "We were able to bounce back (as a team after the one-sided loss to Hononegah). (The West Aurora) match ended up going my way."
Ramon Lopez had a first-period fall in the opening match to help St. Charles East to an early 12-3 lead over the Blackhawks.
But West Aurora (5-5), which denied Oswego 42-26 in the second round after falling to Lockport, 15-41, in its opener, won three straight matches in the upper weights, anchored by heavyweight Aaron Soloff, to take a 14-12 lead.
Anthony Rubino restored the Saints' lead with a first-period fall, and older brother Ryan Rubino earned a forfeit at 113 pounds to give St. Charles East a 24-14 cushion.
"Little Rubino was the story of the day for us," Potter said of his freshman 106-pounder, who was undefeated along with Vela and Brad Kearbey.
Once again, though, West Aurora prevailed in three straight matches to forge the only tie.
Carlos Jacquez, the Blackhawks' one returning state qualifier, was as dominant as his state rankings suggest.
"Everything is starting off slow this year," said Jacquez. "(The two wins) felt good, easy flow and good rhythm."
"There were some good things and some frustrating things," West Aurora coach Mike DiNovo said of the Blackhawks' three matches. "There were a lot of things that were (the result) of bad habits, things we don't coach in the room."
In the marquee match of the day, Hononegah three-time state qualifier Manny Silva had a pin in the final match as the Indians (8-0) denied Lockport (9-2) 28-23.
Neuqua Valley began its morning with a one-sided win over Naperville Central, dispatching its city rival 47-24.
The Wildcats were upended by a powerful Lockport team but ended on a bright note: a 43-19 verdict over Wheaton Warrenville South.
"We put ourselves in good position to score," Neuqua Valley coach Mick Ruettiger said after his team improved to 4-2 on the season with its twin wins over DuPage Valley Conference squads.
Andrew Geers, the Wildcats' imposing heavyweight, improved to 5-0 on the season with a clean slate on the day.
"He had some really good matches on the day," Ruettiger said of Geers, whom he later called the best heavyweight he has ever coached. "You don't get too many kids (in your career) who are two-time (state) place-winners."
Junior Brent Lindeman also went undefeated on the day for the Wildcats at 170 pounds.
WW South (2-7) salvaged its day in the most unlikely of manor: the Tigers needed the eighth criteria (first points scored in the matches combined) to turn back Oswego after the two teams finished tied at 36-36 in regulation.
"It was unbelievable," WW South coach Matt Janosek said. "We're forfeiting three classes right now. The kids were battling."
Ramond King won three white-knucklers on the day for WW South.
"What I was most pleased with was the three wins," the Tigers' 145-pounder said. "I think my work ethic is coming together. It is going to be a long but very good season."
Naperville Central coach Rob Porter can only hope his squad can rebound as it did a year ago.
The Redhawks lost nine of their first 10 dual meets last season before storming back to the Class 3A Elite Eight.
Naperville Central stands at 1-6 after dropping matches against St. Charles East, Oswego and Neuqua Valley.
"We just have to get better," Porter said.
The one bright spot was Louie Giovannetti, the Redhawks' junior 182-pounder, undefeated in his three matches.
"My second win against St. Charles East was the best (win), I thought," said Giovannetti. "(I was) always hitting the head and getting good shots today."