LOCKPORT -- The latest work from both Jared Cortez and Brian Murphy has been nothing short of remarkable, so it figures a little magic from the top-rated wrestlers at 126 and 152 pounds would inspire Glenbard North in its tournament finale as the Panthers used a late burst to defeat mega-dual host Lockport 41-27 to end Saturday with a 4-0 record.
The Panthers used their superior lower-weight strength to outscore the Porters 19-4 over the last six bouts to earn a thrilling victory after a long day of competition against a cast of state ranked teams, including some of the best in area.
Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley both went 2-1 overall, while reigning Mid-Suburban League champion Barrington went 1-2 after a controversial call led to a heart-breaking 34-28 defeat to the Porters. Geneva dropped all three of its matches, including its last of the day to Metea Valley 34-32.
"We've been involved in some high-profile tournaments of late at both the Dvorak and the Cheesehead," said Panthers coach Mark Hahn. "Getting back to some intense duals with great competition is just what we need in order to get ourselves ready for the next couple of weeks, where it's all about how to compete as a team in order to win these type of matches at our conference tournament, then at regionals."
"We're not quite where we need to be just yet," said Murphy, "but I have a lot of confidence in this team and its ability to get back to the dual-team state tournament late next month."
Murphy (19-1) came into the weekend as the top-rated 152-pounder, and showed why with a trio of pins, including his last of the day at 1:08 to help get Glenbard North back even at 6-6 in the opening moments against Lockport.
The Porters flexed their muscle with a pair of pins from Tyler Johnson (170) and Jack Moles (220) and a tech-fall by Luis Montoya (195) to build a 23-13 advantage.
But Kyle Neal's hard-fought 5-1 decision at 285 provided a bridge to the Panthers' lower weights, which came through in sensational style to awaken the faithful fans who made the trek.
Patrick Augustyn, also 4-0 on the day, got things started with a pin at 106 pounds for Glenbard North. After Porters star 113-pounder Brian Rossi recorded a 10-2 major decision, Jon Marmolejo pulled the Panthers within 1 with a 10-1 major decision. Then Cortez (29-0), the top-rated 126-pounder, unleashed 63 seconds of take-down and tilt fury on his opponent until the junior put yet another pin onto the scoreboard.
Senior Johnny Gosinski provided the heroics along with some nervous moments as he went back and forth with the Porters' Austin Strzelczyk in another battle of the state-ranked that ended with Gosinski scoring the winner in OT 9-7 to ice the Panthers' victory.
"This is a fantastic test for us, and that's the reason that we came here again this year," said Hahn. "There's a great variety of styles, and it gives us a chance to see where we're at and where we'll have to make some changes in order to get ourselves ready for what lies ahead."
Barrington (13-7) coach Ken Hoving also enjoyed the diversity of competition for his team following tightly contested duals with the Panthers and Porters, plus a solid win over a quality side from Plainfield Central (39-19).
"We've really upgraded our schedule from a year ago, and with a team that is so inexperienced it's been a learning experience," said Hoving, who welcomed back 2012 state medalist Coord Wiseman (145) after the senior missed some extended time due to a dislocated thumb. "But I know it tested each and every one of our guys and helped prepare them for the upcoming postseason."
Wiseman looked to be in peak form in his return, with falls against Plainfield and Glenbard North before taking the rest of the day off.
Barrington's Ben Calamari (285, 23-7) was 3-0 and looked superb in all three bouts. Hoving was quick to point out how impressed he was with youngsters Mitch Stathakis (106) and Nick Patino (113) in addition to the efforts of Matt and Kevin Conrad at 126 and 132.
Kevin Conrad, a senior, was involved in the final bout against Lockport, which took a strange twist in the final 44.6 seconds against Strzelczyk. Both coaches spent plenty of extra time at the table arguing their case with the referee on a series of calls, which moved the score up and down as if it were a ping-pong ball.
Strzelczyks' eventual 5-3 decision put the final score in favor of the Porters 34-28.
"We competed hard all throughout the day, and had our chances against both Lockport and Glenbard North, and that's about all I ask from my guys," said Hoving.
Metea Valley coach Claudio Torres enjoyed his dual with state power Glenbard North, if for nothing else than watching Hahn, the man he respects so much, squirm a little in his seat while Torres' club put it to the test.
"North is such a great team and program, but we pushed them a little by winning 5 or 6 of the matches before the lower weights just crushed us," said Torres. "But it was fun watching him get off his chair and yelling at his guys (or) going to the table to argue a call or two."
"Coach (Torres) is so passionate about our sport," said Metea Valley senior Sam Freedlund, "and it's that passion that just rubs off on all of us and helps bring out the best in each and every guy in the room."
Freedlund (28-11) went 3-0 and looks to be a force for the Mustangs down the stretch.
"I feel like a have a good chance to win conference," he said, "and after that it's getting downstate and coming home with a medal."
Torres figures these matches with a handful of top-15 teams have been great for his club, the perfect tune-up for the last half of the season.
"We leave here today with a 13-9 overall record, and that's very good," Torres said. "It's not about just wins and losses, but instead, how we're improving as a team, and I can say that we've done just that throughout our lineup."
With Breon Hoosier (170) away on a college visit, Devin Kane (126), Cole Lettieri (132) and Alex Toepner (150) each had a hand in the 34-32 victory over Tom Chernich's team from Geneva (16-11).
"It was a little tough here and there today, but we got through OK, and now we just have to get healthy and back to full strength from here on out," said Chernich, who was missing five starters, including recent Newbill Invite runner-up, Mike Villanueva (152), who was out with the flu. "Having Mike here might have been the difference against Metea, but we also gave up a couple of forfeits because of illness and injuries. A lot of other guys had very good days out there, and that was a real positive for us."
Brad Martens (120), Tony Castelvecchi (160) and Jake Boser (182,195) were all 3-0, while both Colin Parsons (132) and Thomas O'Brien (138) were also singled out for their work by Chernich.
Mertens defeated three quality opponents, including Clayton LedBetter of Plainfield Central.
"It's going to be a real tough postseason," said Martens, who won 38 bouts on his way to the state tournament last February. "I feel that if I wrestle to my ability, I can advance into the sectionals (at Shepard). But there's a real strong group of guys who will be there (including top-rated Johnny Jimenez of Marmion).
"But if you can get through the sectionals, that means some very good guys will be weeded out, and then the field at the state tournament will be a lot different -- and I look to be there, and competing for a medal."
Neuqua Valley's dynamic duo of Connor Swier (182) and Andrew Geers (285) devastated the field in their respective divisions to help coach Mick Ruettigers' teams. The Wildcats defeated both Geneva (39-23) and Oswego (40-31) but feel to Bolingbrook 43-30 in their finale.
"It wasn't a case of fatigue on our part -- it's a long, grueling day for everyone -- it was more of a case of us losing close matches and not winning matches we should have," said the long-time Neuqua Valley coach, who now turns his attention to preparing his athletes for the upcoming Upstate Eight tourney next Friday and Saturday at Batavia. "At this time of the year, it's important that the guys are prepared to go a full six minutes, and we didn't get that at key times today, so we'll focus on that type of things during the next couple of days in advance of our conference tournament."
Ruettiger said the Wildcats might be without standout Trevor Hunt, who may have suffered a fractured fibula during his bout with Oswego.
"Trevor has been very good for us, and his loss would be a tough one to take," said Ruettiger.
In addition to the spotless records from Swier and Geers, both Brent Lindemann and Godfrey Collins III delivered three-victory days at 170 and 220 pounds.