Scouting sectional wrestling / Northwest
Outlook: It may still seem like an eternity for those packing the fieldhouses at Barrington and Maine East this weekend, but in reality it won't be long before the state tournament field is settled this weekend. The survivors will compete next Thursday inside the Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois.
There's a little more room for error this weekend, slight as it might be, as the top four in each weight class advance, compared to last week when just three survived at various regional venues around the state.
In this double-elimination format, competition will be fierce -- especially in wrestlebacks, where the stakes are much higher and the idle time before what could be the final match of the season will test even the most mentally strong. Both sites featuring area wrestlers have wonderfully gifted athletes, a select few who have a chanceto go on to state titles, and several others capable of coming away with medals.
Timetable: 4:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (finals) Saturday
The lowdown: Always a great venue and one which has provided big crowds with memorable performances and an occasional stunning upset. As a spectator, you want to make sure that trip to the concessions stand is scheduled at the appropriate time. The entertainment dollar is always well worth the price of admission, and with high-powered teams from the NIC-10 plus regional champions Grant, New Trier and the tourney hosts sure to send a huge following inside the doors, these next two days promise to help fuel the drama. Last year 15 wrestlers from this sectional earned state medals a week later, including Jordan Northrup (Harlem) who won at 113 pounds. Northrup is back for one last season, as are several others ready to make their mark on this tournament.
132 -- No. 9 Mark Egan (Buffalo Grove, 31-1), Kevin Conrad (Barrington, 29-11), Eric Barone (Crystal Lake South, 32-6), No. 10 Abel Rios (Zion-Benton, 29-1), Gresh Henderson (Lake Zurich, 35-6), Israel Santiago (Warren, 21-2), No. 3 Doug Johnson (DeKalb, 36-1), Jordan Piersson (Hononegah, 36-6), Brad Ostick (McHenry, 29-10): The bar has been set high with the presence of DeKalb star Johnson, who brings a sparkling career record into a group which is dangerous at every turn. That includes Friday's action, which could feature a Johnson-Egan bout in the early going. "It's never been easy at this sectional ever since the IHSA went to three classes, and although we haven't seen (Johnson) we know of him, and I fully expect Brian to bounce back strong after his loss in the regional final to (Kevin) Conrad," says Bison coach Dave Durlacher.
182 -- Mark Shealy (Barrington, 33-6), Dan Fiumetto (Prospect, 39-5), No. 3 Tony Cashmore (Grant, 26-0), Brian Pence (Crystal Lake South, 32-10), Patrick O'Malley (Cary-Grove, 19-9), Joey Nield (Libertyville, 19-11), Joey Welsh (Hononegah, 34-9): There is no dominant figure throughout this division, just five-star quality from top to bottom, starting with the four regional champions. The two best in the MSL (Shealy and Fiumetto) did not face each other during the regular season, but they would if both survive their openers. Shealy, the MSL and regional champ, likely needs to beat Nield while Fiumetto, champ at the Fremd regional, is on course to face Brian Pence (CLS, 32-10). "Pence is even more dangerous because he's down from 195, so he's been up against big, strong guys and has done well there," says Prospect coach Tom Whalen. "But (Dan) is in the right mind set for this weekend, so we know he'll bring the intensity needed to compete with everyone here."
220 -- Frank Walter (Prospect, 32-6), Jack Bornofen (Barrington, 30-9), Ray Griggel (Dundee-Crown, 12-4), Nick Huff (Cary-Grove, 30-11), Connor Haran (Grant, 36-8), No. 5 Kailor Hecox (Harlem), Jacob Suter (GBS, 31-2), John Benson (New Trier, 36-7): Yet another Prospect big man who has stood out all season, yet not garnered much attention in doing so. "Frank has kind of flown under the radar and not really gotten any notoriety, but I can tell you he's the real deal, and his focus and determination is at its highest point of the season," says Whalen. Walter, who plied his trade with the JV while star Max Triveline came within one victory of a medal last year, showed early on he belonged when he lost a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to No. 1 Lucas Warren of Marmion Academy. Walter meets another first-year star (Bornofen) in one of the top first-rounders of the evening.
285 -- No. 6 Ben Calamari (Barrington, 31-7)), No. 7 Chris McDermand (Libertyville, 34-5), No. 8 Shola George (Prospect, 39-2), Dan Haeffele (Grant, 31-6), Sawyer McCaffrey (Warren, 32-7), Jeramey Dermont (Cary-Grove), 26-15 Jared Carlton (Harlem, 24-8), JJ Nawrot (Deerfield): There are a half-dozen 30-match winners and several others who are ready to attempt to navigate the many rather large obstacles in what promises to be an exciting and breathtaking division. The opening matches alone (Dermont vs. McCaffrey, McDermand vs. Nawrot) are must-see entertainment, but then so will be the next round, with regional champs Calamari, George and Haeffele taking center stage. There's familiarity within this group, with plenty of matches between several of the participants, with McDermand owning five victories over a variety of his rivals here.
145 -- Justin Weber (Stevenson, 36-2) vs. Coord Wiseman (Barrington, 24-6): A rematch of a regional final which went the way of Weber last weekend in Lake Zurich. Nos. 2 vs. 5 if the two stay perfect during the next two days.
160 -- Hunter Rollins (Hersey, 36-2) vs. Kayne MacCullum (Liberytville, 36-2): Another potential final between top-flight stars (Nos. 3 vs. 4) who met in the semifinals of the Dvorak, with Rollins the eventual winner 7-1.
AT MAINE EAST
Timetable: 5:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. (finals) Saturday
The lowdown: After narrowly missing out on the team title in 2012, MSL runner-up Conant erased the ghosts in its closet by running away with the regional championship last weekend on its division rival's floor at Schaumburg to earn its first title since 2005. The Cougars will now see first-hand what lies ahead when dual-team sectional opponent and top-rated Oak Park-River Forest brings nearly its entire lineup over from York, where it won easily with 11 individual champions.
"It was a great team effort for us, and I am really proud of all our guys. But now we've got to put everything we've got into getting as many people downstate as we can," said Conant coach Chad Hay. Glenbard North is here also, and as usual, will flood the lower weights with a superb group while leaning on No. 1 Brian Murphy (152). Area wrestlers will be challenged at this venue, but several are rated among the best here, with a handful of others positioned to make a serious run at a top-four finish.
106 -- Danny Madonia (Conant, 27-7), Logan Gruszka (Schaumburg, 32-7), Jeffrey Morrow (Elgin, 27-3), No. 9 Ryan Rubino (St. Charles East, 31-4), Patrick Augustyn (Glenbard North, 36-5), Robert Campos (OPRF, 33-8): One week after falling to his MSL rival in the conference final, Madonia sprung a surprise on Gruszka to win the regional crown and an automatic bye today. They wouldn't see each other again unless it's in the final, but both will need to work to force their way into the mix. The Conant frosh has the more dangerous route with Morrow, Rubino and Campos all in front of him.
120 -- Bobby Alexander (Conant, 30-2), Adeel Afshar (Maine West, 34-10), Tyler Von Essen (Elgin, 18-13), No. 2 Jon Marmelejo (Glenbard North, 40-3), Dayton Olson (Glenbard East, 31-9), C.J. Sopka (Glenbard West, 38-5), No. 5 Matthew Rundell (OPRF, 27-4): The hard-working Alexander has the killer instinct to go far once again after bringing home a state medal and 38 victories last season during his freshman year. A likely scenario sees the sophomore meeting one of the best in the semis, Marmelejo; the Panthers junior is a big hitter himself, already at 85 career victories against just 11 defeats. Afshar could face Steve Apple (Niles West, 27-12) for the fourth time this season if he wins his opener tonight against Tommy Svestka (West Chicago, 24-9). "Adeel is a guy who can never count out of any match, and after qualifying for sectionals last year, he has his eyes set on getting downstate this year," says Warriors coach Lance Weber.
132 -- Benny Clifford (Conant, 32-4), Duke Bogicevic (Larkin, 26-11), No. 5 Johnny Gosinski (Glenbard North, 31-5), No. 7 Isaiah Vela (St. Charles East, 32-3),No. 2 Larry Early (OPRF, 39-0): Fans here will be glued to their seats Friday night for an expected semifinal between giants Gosinski and Early, while on the other side of the bracket, Conant fans will keep their fingers crossed that Clifford will be up against state-ranked Vela. "Benny has a tough opponent in Vela if he can get to him Friday night. But if can beat him, he's got a great shot to get through and downstate," said Hay.
195 -- Matt Stopka (Schaumburg, 32-6), Richie Santana (Elgin, 28-3), Mikey Maize (Elik Grove, 18-10), Danny Tomasello (Addison Trail, 24-8), Kellen Cleveland (Wheaton North, 34-3), No. 6 Andre Lee (OPRF, 29-7): A run at the upper reaches of this division is not out of the question for Saxons senior Stopka, who has been superb during the postseason, winning both a MSL and regional crown, and doing so in flurry of pins last weekend on the Saxons' home mats. "Matt got himself a tough draw despite earning a first-round bye from his regional title," said Schaumburg coach Mike Levanti. (Noah) Fleckenstein (of York) has been injured, but he's enormous for this weight class and had a great showing at preseason nationals, and beating (Cleveland) will be difficult as well, but (Matt Stopka) is a blue-collar kid and I am confident he can come out on top when it's all over."
285 -- Javier Rhoades (Leyden, 22-4) vs. D'Andre Johnson (Glenbard East, 34-6). The potential rubber match between these two heavyweights is on the horizon after the Leyden star upended Johnson in the regional final at York to avenge an earlier 9-8 loss before the holidays. "We feel very confident where (Javy) is in his bracket, but he can't and won't look past anyone," says Eagles coach Mike Fumagalli. "Javy is wrestling the best he ever has right now, and his offense has become much more versatile in the last few weeks. We all were pleased with how he wrestled (Johnson) in that final, but I feel like he still left some points out there."
-- Mike Garofola