Class 3A at Glenbard North
Participating teams: Bartlett, Elgin, Larkin, South Elgin, Glenbard North, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, West Chicago, Wheaton North.
Advancement: Top 3 individuals into Maine East sectional; team champion to Lake Park dual-team sectional.
Outlook: Glenbard North (15-6-0) is indelibly associated with championships in the DuPage Valley Conference after winning its 15th straight last season, which has carried into the postseason where the Panthers have captured one regional title after another. Although the Panthers are the heavy favorites to run away from the field this weekend, St. Charles East (15-1-0) head coach Jason Potter hasn't begun to pen a concession speech just yet.
"What better motivation than to have the chance to go into a powerhouse's gym and fight for a regional title. I understand they are favored, and I respect their tradition, but I know my guys and if they wrestle well, can beat them," says Potter, in his first year at East after coming over from Leyden.
Bartlett head coach John O'Brien doesn't have the firepower that Potter has to compete for the top spot, but he does have a reigning state champ in Sal Annoreno, who appears ready to take off for the stratosphere and beyond.
"Sal just flicked a switch in the past few weeks, and hasn't let up since," said O'Brien, after watching the NIU-bound star pin and tech-fall his way to an easy Upstate Eight crown.
O'Brien says the quartet of Anthony Zipparro (120, 23-8), Ben Wiley (19515-11), Alex Piedra (220, 16-9) and Nathan Baer (285, 17-11) have all come on of late, but Brian Boyle (23-8) is one to keep an eye on at 152 pounds, after opening the season 2-4.
"Brian is such a hard-nosed kid, who also happens to be Sal's partner, and he just goes with him each day in the room, and being around a guy like Sal, and his level of intensity and work ethic, is beginning to pay off for him," O'Brien said.
Worth the weight: 126 -- Cory Pych (South Elgin, 26-5), Duke Bogicevic (Larkin), Charlie Wiltgen (Elgin, 14-6), Jered Cortez (Glenbard North, 38-0), Ryan Valesh (St. Charles East, 23-10), Tyler Svetksa (West Chicago, 22-8). The junior Cortez might just be the most dominating wrestler seen in recent memory, which leaves just two open spots for others from a group as deep and talented, and certainly worthy of competing at least another week.
103 -- Jeffrey Morrow (Elgin, 25-2) vs. Anthony Rubino (St. Charles East, 26-6). Another likely rematch from the Upstate Eight title bout between the No. 9 and 12 rated 103-pounders. Morrow has had the upper hand in both meetings with a pair of shutouts, including a 6-0 whitewash for the UEC title.
Class 3A at Huntley
Participating teams: Crystal Lake South, Dundee-Crown, Huntley, Jacobs, Auburn, DeKalb, Guilford, Machesney Park Harlem, Rockton Hononegah, Jefferson.
Advancement: Top 3 individuals into Barrington sectional; team champion to dual-team sectional at a site TBA.
Outlook: If fans thought the rivalry between No. 7 Harlem (16-2-0) and No. 8 Hononegah (21-2) was intense, how much higher on the temperature setting can it go after the Huskies outlasted Hononegah to capture the NIC-10 conference championship last weekend? The Internet rant should be at an all-time high leading up to the competition, which will be even tighter with the addition of DeKalb to this group, along with Crystal Lake South and the host Red Raiders, after the two finished third and fifth, respectively at the Fox Valley Conference tournament.
"Can this regional get any tougher with DeKalb here now?" wondered aloud Huntley head coach B.J. Bertelsman, who led his club to a record-setting season this winter, and who knows guarding home mat possession will be difficult with the NIC-10 twin powerhouses on the scene, as well as his FVC rivals.
Although both Harlem and Hononegah will enjoy the lion's share of qualifying spots available, look for Austin Ryan (Jacobs, 29-2), Nick Gil (Crystal Lake South), Brandon Mabry (Huntley), Brian Pence (CL South) and Raymond Griggel (Dundee-Crown) to prove their worth and insure top-flight status by the end of the tournament.
Worth the weight:113 -- Zach Stenger (Huntley, 27-6), Casey Callahan (Crystal Lake South, 27-12), Chris Janka (Jacobs, 25-5), David Campos (Dundee-Crown, 24-14, Zac Denny (Harlem, 32-7), Keegan Powers (Hononegah, 28-7). Any division which begins with the two best from the NIC-10, means every other contestant in this group will be part of a survival showdown for the last spot to advance. None of the 4 from the FVC have any history with the NIC-10 combo, however Stenger has beaten each of his conference rivals this season.
Class 2A at Hampshire
Participating teams: Hampshire, Crystal Lake Central, Johnsburg, Marengo, Marian Central, Richmond-Burton, Woodstock, Woodstock North.
Advancement: Top 3 individuals into Antioch sectional; team champion to Antioch dual-team sectional.
Outlook: Crystal Lake Central's 5-year hold on the Fox Valley Conference came apart last weekend when McHenry (23-0) pulled away from the field to lift the big trophy. But the No. 6 rated Tigers should easily move on in the dual-team state series, turning the attention to the individual side of things, where area favorite Hampshire hopes to make a dent in a handful of divisions where a top 3 finish books a trip into the Antioch sectional next weekend.
Sophomore Anton Krocko (182, 23-6) is coming off his first FVC tourney with a 6th-place medal, and the experience coming from the two-day affair should go a long way, especially on his home floor. The Whip-Purs' captains, Nick Brown (138, 28-7) and Travis Keeling (170, 32-5), are not in a hurry to see their prep careers end, and the top pair is anxious to make a deep run in the postseason.
"It's always about, and has been team first, and I know both Nick and I will do all that we can to help our team in the regionals," said Keeling, third last week at the FVC tourney. "But we both were in Champaign last year to watch our teammate (Tyler Espino) and we really want to have our chance to be down there to compete this year."
Brown, who is finally down to, and comfortable at his weight, faces his chief rival in Nick Remke (Marian Central) currently ranked No. 10, while Keeling will go after No. 2 Andrew Marsden (CLC, 34-4), who last weekend won at the FVC.
Class 2A at Sycamore
Participating teams: Burlington Central, Glenbard South, Kaneland, Wheaton St. Francis, Belvidere, Belvidere North, Boylan, Rockford East, Sycamore.
Advancement: Top 3 individuals into Rochelle sectional; team champion to Rochelle dual-team sectional.
Outlook: While there is quality on the individual side in several divisions here, the team race is clearly in favor of the host Spartans (15-3-0), who enter this weekend as the No. 2 rated team in 2A, and with a full head of steam toward what should be a second consecutive trip to the final 8 of the 2A dual-team state tournament. The reigning NI-Big 12 conference champs have several high profile players in their starting lineup, beginning with No. 1 Ausin Culton (152, 33-0). Locally, perhaps the best chance for postseason success falls to Burlington Central senior Brady Weinrich (28-8), who is anxious to erase the disappointment from last season, after advancing into the sectionals in his sophomore year.
"I was kind of stunned when I didn't get back to the sectionals," admitted Weinrich, who is sitting on 110 career victories for the Rockets. "It was a real big setback for me, and it took me a while to get over. So during the offseason, I took a little more time off, then worked really hard on getting stronger and faster, and now I feel ready to go, and anxious to go after a chance to wrestle on the big mats in Assembly Hall."
Weinrich has had his fill of No. 3 Esai Ponce (27-4) and hopes to get another shot at the Kaneland senior, who earlier in the season used a 6-2 decision to win an individual crown at Kaneland.