It looks like it will be another fight to the finish between defending champion Grant and Libertyville for the North Suburban Conference wrestling title Saturday.
After the first day of competition in the 14-team tournament Friday at Stevenson, the Bulldogs hold a 101 to 92 lead over the Wildcats as Grant has 11 wrestlers in the semifinals. Libertyville has 10.
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Saturday's second-round consolation matches get underway at 10 a.m. followed by the semifinals at approximately 11:15 a.m.
First, third, and fifth-place matches will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Warren heads into the second day with a third-place score of 62.5 points and six semifinalists followed by Lake Zurich (54 points) in fourth, and the host Patriots (43 points) in fifth.
NSC Lake Division champion Libertyville is really hurt by the absence of sixth-ranked 138-pound sophomore Joey Gunther, who is the top seed, but unable to wrestle due to illness.
Likewise, Grant is without No. 4-ranked 182-pounder Tony Cashmore, but the Bulldogs have the luxury of replacing Cashmore with top-seeded Jared Lalanda at 182. Cashmore is expected back for the regionals next Saturday at Grant.
"Our kids were training hard all year with the goal to win conference and regionals so I think we have a shot," said Grant coach Ryan Geist. "We're in position, we're wrestling hard, and that's all I can ask for right now."
The Wildcats will be aiming for NSC title No. 19 while Grant is going for its ninth crown. Four semifinals bouts between Libertyville and the Bulldogs could be very key heading into the final round Saturday.
"We'll see how the points fly, but the semifinal round is the big round," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "We want to win all the matches we should and pick up a couple matches we shouldn't."
The 170-pound weight class was probably the wildest one Friday as top-seeded Regis Durbin of Lake Forest was upset, 12-5 by Round Lake senior Zack Williamson.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Lakes freshman Jared Smith upset No. 2-seed Nicholas Whitehead of Zion-Benton 9-2.
Williamson will face Libertyville's Austin Koziol in the semifinals.
"I've been training hard and tough throughout the week and it was a nice, hard match," said Williamson. "I'm just going to come out, wrestle hard, and use my conditioning to my advantage (Saturday)."
"He's wrestling six straight minutes non-stop and this kid (Whitehead) pinned him at the Palatine tournament," said Lakes coach Mark Stave, who also has Kavan Mulloy (145) and David Gregory (160) in the semifinals. "Gregory and Mulloy are practicing together aggressively and that is showing on the mats here tonight."
The upsets at 170 have really opened the door for Warren senior Danny Hicks (29-3) to make a big push for the title as he will face Smith in the semifinals.
"I'm pretty confident, and I've been working hard for the last three weeks because I've never won (conference)," said Hicks, who was also pinned by Whitehead earlier in the season. "If I go out there, wrestle hard, and wrestle my match I should come out on top and I'm looking for redemption tomorrow."
Top-seeds who rolled into the semifinals were Vernon Hills' Jordan Reich (31-4) at 106, Libertyville's Steve Polakowski (32-4) at 120, Lake Zurich's Brandon Arteaga (30-4) at 138, Stevenson's Justin Weber (31-2) at 145, Lake Zurich's Sean Lynch (13-3) at 152, Libertyville's Kayne MacCallum (33-2) at 160, Lalanda (28-6), Grant's Ryan Flores (15-2) at 195, Wauconda's Nate Magiera (27-0) at 220, and Libertyville's Chris McDermand (31-4) at 285.
"I think we're wrestling tough and the guys are advancing how I thought we would do so far," said Warren coach Jim Ouimette. "Eric Shurson beat the No. 4 seed to advance to the semi's (at 182) and he (Shurson) was unseeded."
In the 132-pound finals, Antioch's Mike Gussarson (30-8) has a tough road to repeat as an NSC champ as he faces Lake Zurich's Gresh Henderson (31-3) in the semifinals with the winner expected to take on top-seeded Abel Rios of Zion-Benton in the finals.
Libertyville's Austin Pettinato (20-3 at 145) is also going for back-to-back NSC titles, but so is third-ranked Weber, who should face off against Pettinato in the finals.