When Grayslake North meets crosstown rival Grayslake Central on the wrestling mat, a close finish seems almost inevitable.
That was the case again Thursday night as the host Knights were barely able to hold off the Rams in a Fox Valley Conference Fox Division dual meet which also happened to be senior night.
Starting at 160 pounds, Grayslake North built a 31-15 lead with three matches remaining.
But it took a dramatic finish in the final bout for the Knights (12-3, 4-1) to hold on for a 31-28 victory over the pesky Rams (11-11, 3-2).
A pin by Grayslake North 132-pounder Joel Armenta in 3:05 made the score 31-15 with three bouts left.
But Matt Morrissey's pin in 2:45 at 138 pounds kept Grayslake Central's hopes alive, cutting the Knights' lead to 31-21.
Then came an 11-3 major decision by 145-pound Central sophomore Jon Makey to make the score 31-25 and set the stage for the final match between teammate Sid Carbone and North's Zac Juron at 152.
A pin by Carbone would have resulted in a 31-31 team score, and in that scenario the Rams would have been declared winners based on the criteria of having more pins (4-2) in the meet.
And that outcome almost happened as Juron found himself in big trouble early, trailing 4-0 and 4-2 after one period.
Things settled down after that point, as Juron tied the score 5-5 late in the third period only to see Carbone get a near pin with 11 seconds remaining.
Juron was able to weather the storm and, despite Carbone earning an 8-7 decision, the Knights held on for the win.
"It came down to the wire, we're a young team, and we got down too much early in the meet," Grayslake Central coach Dan Catanzaro said. "We forced Makey to wrestle a little out of his comfort zone to try to get the pin, and that was a kid selling out for his team."
Makey's narrow victory was not the norm for the Rams in close bouts, as Cody Sawyer got North going with a 2-1 decision over Glenn Stearns at 160.
The Knights also got close decisions from Ryan Merki (9-8 over Ted McGraw at 170) and Ian Pearce (5-4 over Joe Slusser at 182) for an early 9-0 lead.
The Rams bounced back with a 9-3 decision by Connor Miller at 195 and a pin by Spencer Hirt at 220, tying the score at 9-9.
Grayslake Central heavyweight Cam Hosimer added a pin in 2:19 before an unsportsmanlike conduct team penalty point resulted in North falling behind 15-8 after six matches.
Grayslake North's Chase Deatherage nipped Ryan Mikes 10-9 at 106, before teammate Luke Pritchett (19-4) beat Kurt Radke 13-6 at 113 to cut the gap to 15-14.
"We had to bump some guys up to get some big wins and we made some team decisions," said Pritchett. "It was exciting, and we knew we had to step up."
The Knights kept rolling, as a pin by 120-pounder Jake Wright in 31 seconds and a technical fall by Colton Deatherage at 126 made the score 25-15. Then came Armenta's pin at 132 before the dramatic finale to the meet.
"Our matches with (Central) always seem to come down to the wire like that," Grayslake North coach Ryan West said. "It was fun, but our guy did what they had to do to squeak out a win like that.
"They're learning and they're improving as a group," West added. "I think overall it's going to be a tough month before the conference tournament."