In a setting befitting a prize fight, the heavyweights of Mid-Suburban East boys swimming slugged it out on Friday as Prospect hosted Buffalo Grove at Wheeling High School.
The Bison and Knights had both defeated each of their previous four East opponents, so the divisional championship belt was hanging in the balance.
Oddly, though there was no clear knockout blow delivered as the Bison held on for a 94.5-91.5 victory to wrap up their second straight East title.
Instead, it played out more like a welterweight bout, with plenty of jabbing, testing and the coaches -- Buffalo Grove's Jamie Klotz and Prospect's Alfonso Lopez -- always trying to score points.
"I expected Poncho to really have his guys ready to go," said Klotz, "and did he ever. We knew it would be a fistfight the whole way."
Prospect got a raucous home crowd involved from the start as the medley relay of Sam Gabriel, Nathanael Ginnodo, Michael Morikado and Andrew Younger won 1:43.71.
"Everyone knows Prospect has a good medley," Klotz said. "It was pretty clear we'd get our nose bloodied there."
Counter-punching in this setting is key, though, and BG did so right away as Matt Schulstad won the 200 free in 1:53.87, and Mike Morris and Liam Boubouleix had career-best times in providing key fourth- and fifth-place efforts behind Prospect's Andrew Younger and Michael Morikado.
The teams mainly traded punches from that point forward.
Ginnodo was strong in winning both the 200 IM (2:07.28) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.65).
Schulstad also won the 100 fly, where the Bison got big points with a 1-2-4 finish. But part of the reason for that was a last-minute lineup change designed to strengthen the next event for Prospect, the 500 freestyle. And it paid off for the Knights as Michael and Alex Morikado led a 1-2-5 Prospect finish.
Buffalo Grove finished first and third in the 200 free relay and second and third in the 400 free relay to offset Prospect's late-meet victories from Gabriel in the backstroke and Ginnodo in the breaststroke.
Essential to Buffalo Grove's eventual win was diving, as Brian Froelicher (181.55), Josh Opperman (164.80) and Sasha Varvaruk (158.20) delivered a 1-2-3 sweep.
"Those guys really made the difference for us," said Klotz. "They've really improved."
Prospect's last divisional title came in 2002, but Lopez and his team looked and sounded nothing like a team that was disappointed. Just getting to the point of being a title contender means a lot to this improving program.
"In a meet like this, you know it's going to come down to something small," said Lopez. "I look at our times, and pretty much across the board, it's all good. I think Jamie would say the same thing. It was a fun meet. In the end, you just tip your cap to them."
Barrington d. Fremd: The host Vikings had a double winner in senior Andrew King (50 free, 100 free), and Dennis Kostidis won the 200 IM, but visiting Barrington's depth was too tough a challenge as the Broncos wrapped up an unbeaten run through Mid-Suburban West duals with a 112-74 victory.
King won the 50-meter free in 24.36 and the 100 free in 54.67; Kostidis won the IM in 2:16.71.
Individual winners for Barrington included Sean Rodney in the 200 free (2:02.0), Kyle Ujiye in the 100 fly (57.75), Jack Strauss in the 100 back (1:01.87) and Sam Miseyka in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.17).
Palatine d. Hoffman Estates: Hawks senior standouts Nick Jessee and San Han won two individual races and had legs on the winning freestyle relays, but host Palatine used a 2-3 finish in the 400 free relay to eke out a 93-92 decision.
For Palatine, Jacob Baran and Michael Myszka finished 1-2 in the 100 fly, Marcus Carter-Buckmann and Jordan Kalina went 1-2 in the 400 free and Robert Hank won the 100 back. The medley relay of Hank, Omar El Hoffi, Myszka and Baran was also a winner.
Hoffman got victories from Jessee (200 free, 100 free), Han (50 free, 100 breast) and Jacob Pasaye (200 IM).
Palatine also had a 2-3-4 finish in the 200 free from Christian Kalfas, Kalina and Adam Smith.
Conant d. Schaumburg: Cougars standouts Alex Shozda (100 back, 100 fly), Jonathan Burke (200 IM, 100 breast) and Martin Ponziak (400 free, 50 free) each won two individual races to help Conant past host Schaumburg 129-57.
Niles North d. Maine West: The Warriors' Brian Wasicak won the 200 IM and 100 breastroke, but Niles North won all three relays and all the individual freestyle events in a 109-76 decision. Matt Boesche won the 100 back, and Maine West also got a 1-2 finish in diving from Tyler Auch and Cory Winiecki.
Wheeling d. Rolling Meadows: Bryce Maczko and Kyle Noel each won a pair of races as visiting Wheeling earned a 104-82 victory. Rolling Meadows had winners in Jake Barson (100 breast) and Matt Crigler (diving).