Having been to state a couple times already, Naperville Central 220-pounder Luke Roth has some pretty lofty goals this season.
And after finishing atop the field at the 47th annual Rex Whitlach Invitational, Roth proved no goals are out of the question this year. The Redhawks star stayed unbeaten on the year after a thrilling 6-4 defeat of Hinsdale Central's Andrew Pyle in the title bout at 220 pounds Saturday evening in Hinsdale.
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Pile, who like Roth opened the two-day, 25-team tourney with a 5-0 mark, had led 4-2 early in the second period before Roth used an escape and then a late takedown to lead 5-4 heading into a third period in which Roth held off every attempt Pile made to score points.
"I'll be honest, I was gassed. It's been a long weekend," Roth said. "But I remember what coach told me last year in a situation like this: 'Be a man. Don't lose.'"
Roth, who had two pins and then two tight decisions on his way to the crown, credits teammate and practice partner Ryan Berg with helping him improve his game. Now he wants to go out with a bang in his final high school campaign.
"I'm looking for first (downstate) now. Why not, it's my senior year," he said.
Berg also reached the semifinals for Naperville Central before falling 3-2 in the semis and then 5-1 to Oak Park-River Forest's Andre Lee and settling for fourth place at 195.
"It would have been nicer to win in the semis and the third-place match, but this is good learning day," Berg said. "I'll just have to watch a lot of film and work hard in the gym."
Naperville Central had two other top-seven medalists while piling up 116 points to place seventh out of 25 schools. Derek Wilke was sixth at 113 pounds and fellow sophomore Ben Williamson was seventh at 132.
State powers Oak Park (286.50) and Sandburg (278) finished 1-2 in the team standings, with the hosts Red Devils fourth at 168.50 and Downers Grove North and Downers Grove South each sneaking into the top 10.
In one of many tight title bouts on Saturday, Downers South's Cullen Cummings won 5-4 over Belleville West's Mech Spraggins in a battle of unbeaten and highly ranked 138-pounders. Cummings, a state runner-up last year at 132, needed a pair of stalling points late in the third period to escape with the victory.
"I wanted to push the pace and have him wrestle my game," said Cullen (18-0), who was taken down in the second period and trailed 4-3 in the third before rallying. "He's ranked No. 2 and I'm third so this is a good win and good for the confidence."
Glenbard West took 14th in the team standings and senior Zak Hassan recorded the Hilltoppers' best finish by taking fourth at 132 pounds. He reached the semis for the third time in Whitlach competition, but Hassan's goal to make the finals this year ended with an 18-8 loss to DeKalb's Doug Johnson that was followed by a 7-4 defeat in the third-place match against New Trier's Chris Alcock.
"I started the weekend with my head in the right place and I did my stuff and went for takedowns," Hassan said. "Today I didn't do that; my head got in the way. I'm kind of disappointed, but I just need to look past this. Last year I also picked up my first losses of the season at this meet and I went a nice winning streak afterward."