Was a third straight wild North Suburban Conference dual meet in store for the Lake Zurich wrestling team Friday night?
After nipping Mundelein 29-28 two weeks ago and falling 33-30 to Warren in a thriller last week, the host Bears built a 25-6 lead over Stevenson midway through their Lake Division dual meet.
As usual lately, yes, the final outcome ultimately went down to the wire, but Lake Zurich made it two out of three as the Bears held off the Patriots 28-27 in yet another exciting finish before their home crowd on senior night.
Starting at 106 pounds, Lake Zurich 11-3, 4-1) took a 4-0 early lead on Josh Spiwak's 11-0 major decision.
Stevenson (6-3, 2-1) got a forfeit win by Joel Feldstein at 113 to take its only lead at 6-4. The Bears took control of the meet early on with 120-pounder Emilio Nava's pin in 1:44 making the score 10-6.
Then Lake Zurich's Tommy Fales outlasted 120-pound Jeremy Nilson 6-4 in overtime before No. 10-ranked senior teammate Gresh Henderson (20-2) posted a 20-4 technical fall at 132 to boost the lead to 18-6.
The Bears also got a 14-6 major decision by Brandon Arteaga at 138 and a narrow 4-3 decision by Imran Peters over Cole Neuman at 145 to establish their 19-point advantage after seven matches.
"We have a lot of experienced guys that win and some new guys who are not as experienced that try to do the extra things to win," said Henderson, who has high hopes for the rest of the season. "The goal is to be a state placer (top six) and I'm going to work as hard as I can to get to that point. I'll get out what I put in."
The Patriots began their furious comeback in a battle between two 2012 state qualifiers when No. 3-ranked Justin Weber (16-1) posted an 11-6 decision over No. 11-ranked Sean Lynch at 152.
Stevenson's Ryan Mass kept the momentum going with a tough 6-4 decision over Nick Tuthill at 160 to cut the gap to 25-12.
Stevenson 170-pounder Ian Burns (15-2) fell behind 5-2 against Kiai Kurhara 5-2 early, but he bounced back strong and held on late for a 6-5 decision.
Then came two more dogfights as Stevenson's Jay Feldman nipped Aaron Hussey 4-3 at 182 before teammate Ned Valtchev beat Alex Zurawski by the same score in a very close bout at 195 to cut the Bears' lead to 25-21.
But that was as close as the Patriots would get as Lake Zurich 220-pounder Tyler Lindvall earned an 11-6 decision over Seth Harris. Harris put a real scare in Lindvall as he came back from an 8-1 deficit to cut the lead to 8-6 late in the third period.
"We knew they (Lake Zurich) were strong at the lower weights and we were going to have a difficult time, but several of our guys stepped up and had huge matches," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "We knew that we could stage a comeback, we just fell a little bit short."
Trailing 28-21, Stevenson heavyweight Corey Edidin recorded a pin in 4:29 to account for the final score.
"The guys are trying to give me a heart attack, but we're winning more than we're losing," joked Lake Zurich coach Dan Strickler. "I think that this is helping to prepare them for the end of the season which is most important because they need the experience."