That big smile worn by Mike Fumagalli said it all.
Leyden saved its best for last Saturday afternoon at its annual quad inside the famed Farina Fieldhouse in Franklin Park with an exciting come-from-behind victory over Fox Valley Conference power Crystal Lake South to give a young Eagles club a 2-1 record for the day.
Contact information ( * required )
State-ranked New Trier and CL South also went 2-1, while Buffalo Grove finished 0-3.
"We always stress that you've got to have a lot of grit and toughness to succeed in life, let alone wrestling, and the guys really showed they had both in that final match of the day against a real good (South) team, and that's exactly what we wanted to see from," said Fumagalli, who took over for Jason Potter after the former St. Charles prep standout returnted to his alma mater to run the Saints' program this season. "We gave up far too many pins today, and had some trouble here and there, but we still had our chances against New Trier before coming back to beat a very good team in Crystal Lake South. So it was a very good day all the way around for us."
It appeared as if it might be an even better day for the Gators (3-5-0), who were coming off a tough loss to FVC rival Cary-Grove. But CL South stunned the Trevians.
Marc Tadelman's club has been a model of consistency with appearances in the dual-team sectional two of the last three seasons and an 18-4-0 record last year.
"We were really looking forward to our dual with New Trier," said Crystal Lake South coach Ross Ryan. "They are a well-coached program and one that is always a difficult test on our schedule for us, so when we were able to beat them in our opener (40-24) this morning, I figured it was exactly what we needed to give us some momentum for the rest of the day.
"Unfortunately, what you saw in that last match with Leyden is exactly what our problem has been so far this season."
Ryan said it's been frustrating to watch his athletes fail to manage leads and finish off opponents.
"We did not do a very good job of doing any of that, and when we were unable to win the close ones ... that's when we tied (30-30) and then lost by 1 in criteria."
Nick Gil and Nick Peters, who lead the Gators this season after Nick Fontanetta, Tom Gerszewski and Mike Romanelli left for college, were a perfect 6-0 for the day. So were Garrett Dziedzic (106) and John Crawford, who made the move from 220 pounds to heavyweight look easy with a trio of pins.
The opening-round matches were played close to the vest until the closing stages producing a dramatic ending.
With New Trier holding a 19-13 advantage, Hunter Stroh turned around the Gators' fortunes with a 7-5 decison at 170 before Ray Larke, Brian Pence, and later Crawford at 285 all recorded falls before a final pin from Dziedic finished things off at 34-25.
On the adjacent mat, the Eagles, much like South, found themselves in a 1-point (20-19) contest until Steven Alfaro, pinned his 182-pound opponent from Buffalo Grove to begin a late charge. After a forfeit at 220 for John Dyer, who was superb all day for Leyden, Miro Momchilovs' fall at 2:45 helped put the Bison out of reach in 38-31 final.
"We could go to much easier duals and quads on the weekends, but that doesn't do us much good. So to come here and compete against three quality teams like this group will be so much more advantageous for us as we ready ourselves for the MSL, then the state tournament series," said BG coach Dave Durlacher.
BG's Brian Egan remained undefeated after three more victories, including a hard-fought 5-3 decision at 138 pounds over Crystal Lake South's Eric Barone.
"That may have been the top win of the year thus far, especially since we could meet again in the sectionals later on," said the BG senior, who came on strong late last year to earn his first trip downstate.
Egan's workout partner, Jake Siebert was given high marks from his teammate as well as Durlacher following his 2-victory day, which included 2 pins.
"Both those guys put a lot of work in during the off-season, and for Jake, your starting to see it pay off," Durlacher said. "We feel we're very strong at 138 and 145 (with Jake) in there."
After South pounded Buffalo Grove 51-18 and the Trevians beat Leyden 39-27 with a quartet of falls and a tech-fall from 2012 state qualifier T.J. Pritchard at 120, the stage was set for the marquee match of the day.
South built a lead of 15-4 behind its dynamic trio of Gil, Barone and Peters, who accounted for 11 of the first 15 points. But instead of folding, the Eagles fired back in brilliant fashion.
Tyler Jones (152) and Andrew Vernola (160) registered consecutive decisions to make it 15-10, and the Eagles took the lead after a forfeit for 6 points at 170 by Mikolaj Konczewski.
Alfaro, Dyer and Momchilov thrilled the home crowd by giving their club a 6-point lead.
"Dyer's OT win was just terrific, and it really inspired the rest of the guys," said Fumagalli.
But the Gators didn't go away despite their revved up opponent.
Crawford was once again at the heart of the Gators revival with his third pin of the day in just 1:01, followed by another from Dziedzic to draw the vistiors even at 27-27.
The teams traded 3-point victories, the first coming from Ledyen's Dante Fries at 113, then Casey Callahan of South to end the match tied at 30-30. It was then up to protocol to decide the victor. By virtue of its 8-6 edge in match victories, Leyden was declared a 31-30 winner.
"We've got a lot of guys on the varsity right now without (experience) in closing out their opponents, but if we don't begin to do a better job at (it) we're going to have a lot of these same results this year," said Ryan.
Fumagalli knows this all too well.
"We knew their big three were a lot to handle," he said, "but if we could get through that part of their lineup, I felt we had a chance if we could win the close ones while getting a few bonus point victories along the way.
"Again, it was a great way to end things, and the type of thing a team like this needs to continue to grow."