Kaneland defends home turf
The Kaneland wrestling team is a pedestrian .500 for its current dual-meet season.
But tournaments in prep wrestling are an entirely different matter as the Knights crowned six champions at their 10-team Margarett Flott Memorial Tournament on Saturday in Maple Park to complete a three-year team run.
Kaneland scored 227 points to ease past Elgin (156), which went a perfect 3-for-3 in championship matches to finish runner-up.
Burlington Central and Larkin had a champion each as the former edged out the latter for sixth place.
"There's no doubt we're a much better tournament team," Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said.
Esai Ponce and Danny Goress are the Knights' four-year team leaders; the two reigning Class 2A state qualifiers increased their career haul at the event with wins at 132 and 145 pounds.
Ponce improved to 24-3 on the season with a hard-fought 6-2 win over Burlington Central senior Brad Weinrich.
"I have seen (Weinrich) all throughout high school," said Ponce, who had a second-period 3-point near fall to highlight his championship. "He's progressively gotten better."
Goress was also engaged in a tactical struggle with Prairie Central senior Evan Bahler, a defending state medal-winner in Class 1A.
But Goress had the only offensive points in a 3-1 victory.
"(Bahler) and I competed in the finals last year, too," Goress said. "We are very similar wrestlers. It's difficult to score on someone with similar styles."
"(Goress) was by far the aggressor," said Prairie Central coach Ben Morris, who spent the last two years guiding Batavia.
Connor Williams completed the wrestling cycle with a major decision, technical fall and pin to defend his title at 120 pounds.
"(Jahns) told me that it's not about making the finals, but how you wrestle in the finals," Williams said. "I wrestled my butt off, and it showed."
Sonny Horn sandwiched the Ponce and Goress triumphs to make it three straight for Kaneland at 138 pounds, but Zach Russell was the surprise story for the Knights.
Entering the tournament with an 8-20 record, Russell had two falls, including one in the championship match at 160 pounds in the third period.
"Something just clicked today," Russell said. "I knew as soon as I turned him (in the finals), the match would be over."
Zack Theis was awarded the heavyweight title via forfeit: the Knights' JV 285-pounder, Justin Diddell, advanced to the finals as an exhibition athlete.
"We didn't have enough guys to fill out the brackets," explained Jahns.
Competitors were not allowed to face off with their teammates.
"They were focused," Jahns said of his squad. "I sat them down the other day and told them that they had to have some set goals for the rest of the season."
Craig Kein made sure Burlington Central did not leave the premises devoid of championship hardware.
The Rockets' 170-pound sophomore had a second-period fall in the semifinals and whitewashed his opponent in the finals, scoring a takedown, reversal and two near-falls in the 11-0 victory.
"Confidence ó that's all it was," Kein said of his day. "(The final) was definitely a good match. (My opponent) never gave up the whole match."
Elgin junior Jeffrey Morrow needed less than two minutes to win his third career championship at 106 pounds.
Morrow terminated his championship match in 70 seconds.
"We've got (individual) conference next week (at Batavia)," Morrow said. "I just went out there to get on the mat and off the mat as soon as possible. I didn't want to get hurt the week before conference."
Classmate Zach McCullough also claimed his second tournament title of the season ó like Morrow, at Hoffman Estates ó with an early third-period fall at 113 pounds.
"Mostly, at the end I knew we needed points for the team," McCullough said. "Getting the 6 (team points with a pin) made me the happiest."
Ritchie Santana was the final Maroon looking to augment some Kaneland hardware to his Hoffman Estate haul.
But the senior 195-pounder was engaged in a fierce battle with Ottawa senior Alex Fuentes.
With overtime looking almost certain, Santana secured a takedown in the waning seconds to eke out the 3-1 win.
"I have been wrestling for a long time," Santana said. "You have to know how to get those (late) points when you need them. I went to my go-to move. In a pinch, that's what worked out today."
"This is the best group we have had in a while in terms of calisthenics," Elgin coach Tom Stewart said. "You could see (our kids' opponents) getting gassed."
Duke Bogicevik earned Larkin its first individual tournament title of the season at 126 pounds; the junior used a 3-point near-fall as the centerpiece of his win over Kaneland junior Dane Goodenough to win 6-2.
"I thought I had him (pinned)," Bogicevik said. "I just kept driving and driving."
Kory Plate had a semifinal fall for the Royals at 182 pounds, only to have the tables turned in the championship match.
"We are as green as they come," first-year Larkin coach Steve Hoyt said after placing six of his seven competitors. "We are improving every day."
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