Scouting conference wrestling meets
Friday: (5 p.m.)
Saturday: (9:30 a.m. starts; finals at 3 p.m.
Defending champion: Barrington
2013 MSL East champ: Prospect
2013 MSL West champ: Barrington
Storyline: Barrington ran away and hid from the rest of the league last year as it won its second consecutive tournament crown. But the Broncos won't have anywhere to hide this weekend with a trio of customers (Conant, Prospect and Schaumburg) ready, willing and quite capable of making a serious run at the defending champs.
There was concern in the Prospect camp about its early season divisional duals, but the Knights ended up passing that test with ease to win the MSL East. The Knights have turned their upper weight cast loose to give opponents something to worry about each time out.
"Yes, there's plenty of talent and strength at our upper weights, but until somebody beats Barrington to win it all, they're still the team to beat, as far as I am concerned," says the Knights man in charge, Tom Whalen, whose lineup from 160 on up has recorded 150-plus victories. "They pulled away from us at our our tournament (Dick Mudge) and beat the field up pretty good while they were at it. Although Conant, Schaumburg and us have lineups that can challenge (Barrington) every team in our conference has quality guys who can be difference-makers in the final count.
"For us to have a serious chance, we'll need some very good production from our lower weights, while the big guys need to get a couple of individual titles along the way."
The Broncos have been trying to replace nearly 300 victories lost to graduation, but they've still managed to put together a solid year this season despite several rookies to the lineup. The return of 2012 state medalist Coord Wiseman (wrist) recently is key to the team's hopes this weekend and next (at the Lake Zurich regional).
Rookie Jack Bornhofen (220, 26-9) has been a pleasant surprise at 220 pounds to give the club a powerful 1-2 punch alongside heavyweight Ben Calamari. The brothers Conrad (Matt and Kevin) have helped settle a very young group at the lower weights, while 182-pound standout (Mark Shealy) has been the bridge between the top and bottom of the Broncos lineup.
"It's a little overwhelming to hear that we're the favorites to win it all, but believe me, we appreciate knowing that there's respect for our program. Nobody in our room is taking any for granted, because everyone knows they've got to prove it all out on the mat if this team is going to succeed this weekend and in the postseason," said Barrington coach Ken Hoving. "There's always a little bit of luck when your in a tournament, especially in one that is so competitive like the MSL.
"You hope your guys get in a good spot in their bracket, and that you get off to a good start on that first day, but if you don't, you just have to work hard in wrestlebacks to get as many points as you possibly can for your team."
While no club at the MSL tourney will be looking past these next two days, there's no question individual success will help carry on through into regionals on Jan. 26, making the competition in finals particularly fierce, especially if it pits two potential opponents at a regional venue where a victory will mean a higher seed.
132 -- Brian Egan (Buffalo Grove, 21-0), Benny Clifford (Conant, 27-3), Kevin Conrad (Barrington): With all due respect to the rest of this division, the aforementioned trio have clearly been the best of the bunch in the league, beginning with Egan, who rose up from obscurity last season to earn his first trip downstate and has picked up where he left off by having one of the few undefeated records in the area. Clifford is a success story after a making an appearance in Champaign as a freshman, then sitting out for the next two seasons only to roar back to become a true force in the Cougars' lineup as its captain. Conrad is as steady as they come and is closing in on a second consecutive 30-win campaign.
160 -- Hunter Rollins (Hersey, 29-2), Jamie Coyoc (Buffalo Grove, 17-4), Cody Hauser (Fremd), Sadarriss Patterson (Schaumburg, 15-2), Adrian Wroblewski (Prospect, 24-9), Dardan Kardiu (Rolling Meadows, 17-5): While the three-time state qualifier and current No. 3-rated Rollins is the clear favorite to win his second consecutive MSL crown, the rest of the field is deep, talented and eager to earn a title match with the Hersey star. This group will scatter after this weekend to three different regional sites, so a spot in the final will be just what the doctor ordered for postseason success.
182 -- Dan Fiumetto (Prospect, 33-4), Mark Shealy (Barrington, 28-6), Alex Tooren (Hoffman Estates, 28-7), Austin Manetta (Schaumburg, 15-10): "This is going to be a great weight class to watch," said Hoffman Estates coach Tony Ganas, who'll have a special interest in this one when his top man, Tooren, steps onto the mat. The two-sport star (soccer is his other sport) is on the verge of a second straight 30-win season and is 2-2 against his rivals, including a pair of close less to Shealy.
195 -- Matt Stopka (Schaumburg, 26-6), Deon Rice (Hersey, 21-6), Josh Schroeder (Fremd, 23-10), Rocky Allen (Palatine, 17-7), Jackson Wrede (Prospect, 18-12), Jackson Cooke (Wheeling, 17-10), Andrew Zerfas (Conant): Perhaps the deepest division here this weekend, with 2012 state qualifier Rice maybe just a click above Stopka for a top seed. The turnaround from Schroeder from a season ago, when he won 11 times, has been remarkable. Allen has been the best big man in awhile for the Pirates. Saxons star Stopka is ranked No. 12 in the state, and his recent second-place finish at the high-profile Lincoln-Way East tourney helped cement that spot.
285 -- Shola George (Prospect, 35-1) vs. Ben Calamari (Barrington): If the stars are aligned, there wil be a whole lotta shakin' doing down on the center mat. The state's Nos. 3 vs. 9 in what would be the third match between these two 2012 state qualifiers. Calamari beat George in the MSL final last season and again two weeks later in the third-place match at sectionals. George extracted his measure of revenge this season, pinning his opponent at the Moore-Prettyman, then recording a 4-3 decision in the Dick Mudge final.
During the 2012 conference tourney, then-freshman Bobby Alexander (Conant) began his euphoric ride to an eventual state medal after stunning the favorite and sensational four-year star Adrian Gonzalez (Barrington) in the finals. Another freshman, Logan Gruszka (106, 28-6) might be the next to watch take a similar path. Alexander, Kevin Conrad, Mitch Alexander (Conant), Rollins and Shealy will all be chasing their second consecutive MSL crown this weekend.
Friday -- 4:30 p.m.
Saturday -- 9:30 a.m. start; finals 2:30 p.m.
2012 team champion: Crystal Lake Central
2013 Fox division champ: Crystal Lake Central
2013 Valley division champ: McHenry
Storyline: Crystal Lake Central's five-year stranglehold on the top prize appears to be loosening. McHenry, the regular-season champ in the Valley Division, finished a perfect 21-0, its best in program history, which included a double-digit victory over second-place Cary-Grove, who along with the Warriors and CLC figure to be the top three when all is said and done late Saturday in Algonquin.
"McHenry is a very good team, with good balance in its lineup, and to me it's going to be either them or Cary-Grove who come out on top," said Huntley coach B.J. Bertelsman, who led the Red Raiders (19-3) to a record-setting year.
"Yes, I would assume it's us and McHenry, but then again I thought we'd be right there last year also," said Cary-Grove coach Ryan Ludwig, whose club finished fourth overall behind CLC, Crystal Lake South and McHenry in the tightest race in recent memory. "There's a lot of depth in the league this season, and each team has the type of wrestlers who can influence the outcome in most every weight class, so what it comes down to is earning bonus points when you can and getting the ultimate contribution from your entire lineup, especially in wrestlebacks where those extra points could mean the difference at the end."
Tourney host Jacobs and first-year coach Gary Conrad has one of the best in the state at 106 pounds with Austin Ryan (27-1), along with a quality group at the lower weights and one of the favorites at 220 in Mark Mamola (26-3). Dundee-Crown, on the upswing under second-year head coach Bob Skillman, will do its best to throw its weight around, with big men Ray Griggel (220) and Jeremy Marshall (285) ready to do some damage. Crystal Lake South, one year after losing the bulk of its firepower, still remains a force thanks in part to Nick Gil (126, 28-3, No. 5 in the state) and a young, talented roster which could make a statement in the postseason.
The Red Raiders have a wonderful group at the lower weights, and a top-shelf guy in Brandon Mabry (28-3) at 195 pounds. Hamphire coach Terry Wilkinson is pleased with the progress of his club in its second season in the FVC. Much of that has to do with the terrific trio of Travis Keeling (160), Nick Brown (145) and Anton Krocko (170), which has combined for a 72-8 record.
120 -- Logan Hanselmann (Cary-Grove, 24-5), Ricky Vigil (Huntley, 23-8), Kenny Thompson (20-10), Branden Peshek (Johnsburg), Mike Sikula (McHenry): Peshek, a sophomore, is ranked No. 8 in 2A polls, and has beaten Hanselsmann (5-1) who also fell to Sikula 6-4. The Trojans junior has earned plenty of experience against the high-profile weekend schedule Ludwig has put together, and it could be the difference on Saturday afternoon.
160 -- Keeling (28-3), Matt Hughes (Cary-Grove, 17-8), Mike Zelasco (Crystal Lake Central), Mike Pait (McHenry): Zelasco, a junior, already has a fourth-place state medal on his resume and comes into the tournament ranked No. 4 in the 2A polls. Keeling was the champ at the Richmond-Burton tournament recently, while Pait lifted the trophy at both the Dick Mudge and Batavia tourneys. Hughes was a late arrival to the lineup after a long stay with the Trojans' 6A runner-up football team last fall, but the junior is in form and ready for the postseason.
138: Michael Underwood (Cary-Grove, 30-7) vs. Nick Peters (Crystal Lake South, 25-5): Simple the two best in the FVC this season. Peters owns a 2-1 decision over his counterpart.
Super-soph Michael Cullen (34-0) begins his quest for bigger and better things as he goes for his second consecutive FVC crown and likely a top seed for next weekend at the Lake Zurich regional. Cullen is ranked No. 4 in the state, in a quality group which likely features several on a collision course later next month in Champaign. Hampshire's Brown looks to wedge himself in between the dynamic duo of Kyle Fugiel (CLC, No. 2 at 2A and a two-time state qualifier) and Wade Lardy (McHenry, No. 7 in 3A).
East Suburban Catholic
at Notre Dame
When: Friday, 3:30 p.m.
2012 champion: Marist
2013 regular season champ: Marist
Marist has already been fitted for its championship rings, and why not? The Redhawks mashed the competition in the league and enters this tournament as the No. 4-rated 3A club in the state, solidified after its first-place finish at the Illinois Classic over No. 8 Machesney Park Harlem two weeks ago.
Coach Brendan Heffernan's team returns to the school where he once starred. Heffernan, who last season took over at Marist for Hall-of-Famer Mark Gervais, has made his mark immediately on the wrestling-rich South side. Top-ranked Mark Duda (113, 29-2) leads the way, along with Peter Andreotti (160, 25-2) and Alex Benoit (170, 30-4),who are among the top five in the state.
Carmel big man Jake Cochrane is the one all the other heavyweights trying to catch up to at this tournament. The Corsairs senior enters the weekend as the No. 1 rated 285-pounder in 2A, and he appears to be the real deal this winter, squashing all those in his path en route to a 32-1 overall record. Coach Bob Kuykendall says several others have the chance to earn a top four finish, including Kenny Barber (113, 26-6), Jake Morgan (120, 20-4), Jimmy Dandino (160, 27-9) and sophomore Steven Alvarado (21-6) at 220 pounds.
While the rebuilding effort at St. Viator continues, coach Jeff Kramarczyk remains optimistic that two of his best, Will Beiersdorf (170, 15-13) and Brandon Suchyta (132, 13-11), are capable of top-three finishes in their divisions.
"Will has been putting his season together lately and has been wrestling really well, and Suchyta has also been right there, and together, they have a very good chance of earning all-ESCC honors come the end of our tournament," says Kramarczyk.
-- Mike Garofola