It didn't take long for Barrington to dial in -- and then turn it up -- late in the morning Saturday.
That's when the Broncos buckled up their red and black seatbelts and went on a wonderful ride through the second round of the Mid-Suburban League wrestling tournament. They finished up ahead of challengers Conant and Schaumburg at Fremd to win a third straight conference title.
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The Broncos, who began the day 4 points behind Conant, opened up a 31-point advantage heading into the medal round. Barrington ended up with 11 wrestlers on the podium, including five in the top spot as the Broncos finished 64.5 points better than Conant. The Cougars edged rival Schaumburg 180.50-180 to claim second place.
MSL East regular-season champ Prospect garned 148 overall points to take home the fourth-place trophy ahead of Hersey, which used individual titles from long-time friends Hunter Rollins (160) and Matt Korff (170) to grab fifth place with 120 points.
"I never saw this coming," said Barrington coach Ken Hoving. "Although we were trailing (Conant) by just 4 points to start the day, I knew, just as I had leading up to the tournament, that we would be in for a real dogfight with Conant, Schaumburg and Prospect, and that we would have to come back from a so-so first day and wrestle much better if we wanted to come out on top when it was all over.
"Our captains really helped pull the team together beforehand, and then we went out and had a great warmup and put together a great final two rounds. Obviously, I am very happy and proud of the guys right now."
Perhaps no other match typified the desire of the Broncos better than the 132-pound final, which paired Barrington senior Kevin Conrad (26-11) against Conant captain Benny Clifford (29-4) in a crowd-pleasing bout that last nearly eight minues.
Clifford, who has put together a magnificent season, opened fast with a lighting-quick attack to send Conrad reeling to a 7-1 deficit after two minutes.
"I was in big trouble," said Conrad. "Benny is a great wrestler who is so explosive, and I had to do something to stop him or it would be over quick."
Staying composed, Conrad got back in it in the early stages of the third period, eventually drawing even at 8-8 with just under a minute to go before closing Clifford out with a takedown in the first OT session with eight seconds remaining.
"That call to take away 2 points when it looked like Benny was up 9-4 at the start of the third period was a big one, but it was still a great, great match, and both guys showed a lot of respect for each other when it was over, and that's just as important as anything else," said Conant coach Chad Hay. "We went 2-10 toward the end, and that's just not going to work here or next week at regionals, but you've got to give it up for Barrington. They did what they needed to do, and that's why they are the conference champ today."
Cougars soph Bobby Alexander (28-2) was the only champion in four chances for the MSL West runners-up. Prospect had the same result as its vaunted upper-weight group was able to grab one individual title, that coming from Frank Walter (29-5) after his hard-fought 4-1 decision over Dan Egan (12-2) of Elk Grove.
Third-ranked Shola George (37-2) of Prospect saw his two-bout win streak against fellow heavyweight Ben Calamari (29-7) snapped after the Barrington captain prevailed 3-1 to put an exclamation mark on the day for the Broncos. Calamari won his second consecutive MSL crown.
"It wasn't the most exciting match to watch, certainly not like that Conrad-Clifford final, but it felt good to beat Shola after losing twice this season to him and to contribute to the team on the mat after trying to help inspire and fire up the rest of the team once today got under way."
Barrington's Mark Shealy (182, 31-6) collected his second straight MSL title, while teammate Coord Wiseman (145, 22-5) and rookie Austin Mazzenga (113, 16-9) also won their weights.
"Austin was big for us today, and so was Peter (Minwegen) who beat the No. 2 seed yesterday, then the No. 3 guy today before falling a little short in the final at 138 pounds. That's how you win tournaments, with that kind of solid contributions from everybody," said Hoving.
Minwegen fell to Wheeling freshman Tulga Zuunbayan (30-7), a move-in from California via his native country of Mongolia, where his father was a former member of the men's national wrestling team.
"I am so happy for Tulga, as well as Ricky (Muro, 22-9) both of whom were champs today, and underclassmen (Muro is a sophomore)," said Wheeling coach Neal Weiner. "It is so well-deserved because each guy has worked so hard along the way to earn their title."
The Rollins-Korff duo, too, was dynamic on its way to triumph.
Rollins won his second title in as many years after thrashing the competition with a pair of pins, one in the final over Sadariss Patterson (Schaumburg, 17-3) and a tech-fall in his semifinal. Korff (25-9) broke open a close match in the third quarter to defeat Joe Zalewski (27-13) of Prospect 13-8.
"Matt and I have been friends since kindergarten, and he's been a great workout partner for me, and his work rate is one of the reasons for my success, and I am really glad he's back with us," said Rollins of Korff's late decision to return for his final year.
"I have been a three-sport athlete ever since coming to Hersey," said Korff, "but I wasn't sure if I wanted to come back. But we've got a great coaching staff and I've Hunter as my workout partner, and I guess it has all worked out really well for me so far."
Korff led 8-3 at five minutes, then went takedown, escape, takedown, escape to pull away from Zalewski.
Although just missing out for second place in the team race, Schaumburg celebrated three successful runs to individual titles.
The brother combo of Logan (106) and Luke Gruszka (152) were magnificent throughout. Logan, a 31-8 freshman, just had too much for his opponents, including a strong 8-2 effort in his final against Danny Madonia (Conant, 24-7).
Luke, a junior, who was a sectional qualifier last season for Oswego, looks primed for a much longer postseason run this season following a masterful performance which ended with a fall over Dawid Witczak (24-7) of Hoffman Estates.
Schaumburg's Matt Stopka (29-6) outlasted 2012 state qualifier Deon Rice (28-7) of Hersey in a marathon 10-8 bout to win it all at 195 pounds.
"Obviously both Logan and Luke were fanstastic, with Luke having to beat a very tough opponent in Witczak," said Schaumburg coach Mike Levanti, "but Stopka was very good also, and I was really impressed with how he stayed composed in his final and all of the stoppages (when Rice suffered an injured shoulder) and really stayed mentally strong to beat a qualtiy kid.
"We had some guys who did what they had to do and took care of business today, but some others didn't. In order for us to make a serious run at a regional title next weekend at our place, we've got to have everyone contribute throughout our lineup."
Senior Alex Tooren gave Hoffman its other second-place medal, at 182 pounds, after the two-year veteran upended No. 2 seed Dan Fiumetto (36-5) of Prospect 8-6 in exciting semifinal. Fiumetto later earned third-place honors.
Tooren, a sectional qualifier a year ago, caught his talented opponent from Prospect to build a 5-2 lead after one period, then watched his lead shrink to 6-4, then 7-6 before recording his 2-point victory.
"Getting up in that match early was big, but (Fiumetto) is such a great rider on the legs, that is was important for me to keep pushing the pace and staying away from what he's does so well," said Tooren, who earlier in the season lost to the Knights standout.
"Alex just found a way to win, and played it smart in those last 30 or so seconds to get a big win for himself," said Hawks coach Tony Ganas.