First Crossface Classic goes to Elgin
Part of what makes the Elgin-Larkin football rivalry so special is the Town Jug the two schools battle for every year.
Since 1963, the Jug's been on the line and while the Elgin Area School District U-46 schools have wrestled for just as long, the wrestlers never had a prize that was as special.
So when Elgin coach Tom Stewart and Royals coach Steve Hoyt met during an Upstate Eight Conference coaches meeting in October, they wanted to fix that so their wrestlers would have a similar honor, They created the "Crossface Classic," with the winner garnering bronze head gear, with maroon on one side, royal blue on the other.
In the inaugural classic almost 50 years later, it was Elgin coming away with the first prize, defeating Larkin Friday night, 48-29, at Chesbrough Field House in a match that featured 7 pins out of the 11 matches.
Elgin's Richie Santana (195), Daniel Easter (120), Tyler Easter (126), Charlie Wiltgen (138) and Abal Barraza (285) all came away with pin falls for the Maroons, who made their conference record a perfect 5-0 while notching a 6-4 overall record.
"We're trying to bring back old school into the building," said Stewart, a 1971 Elgin grad whose brothers wrestled for the school back in the 1950s. "We take one match at a time, one practice at a time. I told them at the beginning if we're aggressive and in better shape than other teams, it'll come out in the end."
Santana (13-1) was very much that and earned a pin over Larkin's Bonifacio Lava at 1:08 in the first period after he stuck to his shot and had good positioning.
"This is a big meet for us. We've been undefeated in conference and we're looking to stick to that. We're happy to win one for Elgin," Santana said.
"We've come a long away from the previous years. We've lost a lot of good wrestlers. This is probably the year we've had the most solid lineup of guys."
The most spirited match was between Elgin's Charlie Wiltgen and Larkin's Steffan Pruitt at 138. Wiltgren endured two long stoppages in the first quarter after a rule and time dispute. Pruitt's strength seemed to be a guiding force against Wiltgen early on but Wiltgen used his stamina to take control midway through the second period. Pruitt avoided a pin just before the buzzer but Wiltgen finally pinned him at 5:13 in a long, tiring match.
"I knew he was going to be stronger than me," said Wiltgen, who upped his record to 7-2. "So I had to outlast him. I had a game plan going in that I wasn't going to tie up with him as much. I was going to work my shots and try to outlast him to the second or third period where I'd have the upper hand in stamina and then I could take him down to neutral and hopefully work my moves from the top."
Jeff Morrow (106) and Zach McCullough earned wins through forfeits for Elgin while Larkin's Kory Plate (182) and Duke Bojicevic (126) cruised to solid victories.
For a while in his match Plate (12-3) couldn't get Isaac Shennum off his stomach but eventually he got the half to work and torqued it for the 18-3 win. Bojicevic earned a pinfall over Tyler Von Essen at 1:04 but before the pin had 3 reversals which put the match in some suspense for either guy to get the win.
"We used to go to the same wrestling camp," said Bojicevic, who improved to 11-4. "We both know how to wrestle each other, it was kind of even at first."
The inaugural Crossface Classic didn't go as planned for Hoyt and Larkin (3-12, 0-5), but the first-year coach likes the idea of this for the years to come.
"It's a community and we want to get better as a wrestling community," Hoyt said. "It's one way to spice it up a little more."
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