A stunning quarterfinal performance saw Glenbard East upstage the tournament field at the 58th Berman Holiday Wrestling Classic and give the Rams a 13-point lead when the first day of competition came to an end Thursday night at Palatine.
Coach Kevin Carlson's team was a perfect 8-for-8 to help the Rams finish with 122 points, with defending champ Hindale Central close behind with 109 points.
St. Charles East, led by top-seed Isaiah Vela (18-0 at 132) is third at 97.5. Rock Island (80.5) and Lyons Township (79.50) round out the top five.
Fox Valley Conference power Cary-Grove is seventh overall with 73 points, with Leyden in 12th after garnering 63.5 points.
Semifinals will begin at Palatine at 11:30 a.m. Friday; finals are scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
"It was a fun day," said Carlson, who watched Dayson Olson (120) gets things going with a 10-4 decision over Aladn Dunahm of Oak Forest. Later, big men Shane Vincent (15-3) and D'Andre Johnson (17-1) finished off their counterparts at 220 and 285 to ensure the Rams their eight semifinal entrants.
"It's good to see all of the hard work the guys have been putting in pay off," said Carlson, "and we're hoping that we can peak this weekend and win this tournament, then peak again when the regionals come around."
Vela will be joined by three teammates -- Ryan Rubino (106), Ryan Valesh (126) and Keone Derain (145) -- in the semis. But the 2012 state qualifier is looking to improve on his quarterfinal performance, in which the Saints junior recorded a fall at 3:15 to advance.
"I did what I had to do to win, but I was a little gassed in that match, and I know I'll have to come out and do better tomorrow," said Vela, who faces Jarvis Sanders of Lyons Township.
Derain will be up against Lake Park senior Austin Schoen (18-1). An impressive 9-0 major decision helped Schoen, who was one match away from a state medal last season, cruise into the semis.
"I've got two tough matches ahead of me on Friday, so I wanted to go out and put six strong minutes together in preparation of those matches," said Schoen, who earlier in the season went over the 100 mark in career victories.
Cary-Grove sophomore Michael Cullen (17-0) currently rated No. 2 in the state at 113 pounds, punished a pair of opponents to reach the semifinals against Anfarnee Rodgers (Glenbard East). But the Trojans standout will be his team's lone representive in the championship round.
C-G senior Michael Underwood (15-5) lost a hard-fought 7-3 decision to top seed Cullen Cummings (18-0) of Downers Grove North at 138 pounds, while Logan Hanselmann fell short against No. 3 George Tolbert (Hinsdale Central, 15-5) at 120 pounds with a 3-1 defeat.
Antioch's Mike Gussarson (21-3) prepped for a big day today with a fall over Joey Laurie of Mundelein to set-up a rematch with No. 2 Abel Rios (14-0) of Zion-Benton this morning.
"Two of my three losses were to Abel and Vela, so I feel very fortunate to get the chance at Rios knowing that a win probably means facing Vela in the final," said Gussarson, who in preseason polls was ranked No. 2 by Illinois Best Weekly following his second trip downstate.
Gussarsons' North Suburban Conference rivals from Lakes -- David Gregory (160, 17-2) and Kavan Malloy (152, 17-2) -- will also be a part of the semifinals.
Malloy's appearance came with a little bit more fanfare than the others.
The junior was trailing No. 3 seed AJ Villareal (Lyons Township, 17-1) with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation, when the Eagles star turned the tables on the state-ranked LT senior with a pin the closing moments.
"When I was down (21-11) I was thinking, 'Why in the world did I bump up (from 145) to wrestle at (152) today?' " joked Mulloy. "But with 20 seconds to go, I was able to stick him and get the win, and it feels really good to be in the semis."
Hometown favorite Rocky Allen (17-4) remains alive for the host Pirates at 195, and will meet Glenbard East's Ammar Al-Ghoul (14-4). Leyden's Steve Alfaro (182, 15-1) is the No. 2 seed here, and he'll face Eric Rende (19-4) of Lyons Township.
"Steve always had the talent, but with him, its just been a matter of confidence and wrestling smart for six minutes -- not giving up key points along the way, while finishing off his opponent, such as he did in his quarterfinal today," said Leyden coach Mike Fumagalli.
The tournament resumes with consolation quarterfinals before turning to the semifinals.
Rock Island senior BJ MCGhee (21-0) will seek his third consecutive Berman championship, this year at 120 pounds.