After some tough going for their team, seniors Mark Shealy and Ben Calamari saved the day for Mid-Suburban League and regional champion Barrington to end Friday's session of the Class 3A Barrington wrestling sectional on a high note.
Shealy recorded a pin at three minutes to ensure his place in Saturday's semifinals.
Minutes later, his teammate Calamari (32-7) escaped from a star-studded heavyweight cast to defeat Jordan Reader of Rockton Hononegah to remain in the championship bracket along with senior teammate Miguel Camarena (120, 25-12).
They are all now just one victory away from advancing into next weekend's state tournament in Champaign.
Action will begin once again at 9 a.m. Saturday when the first round of wrestlebacks commence. They will be followed by the semifinals.
The top four individuals in each weight class will move on to the University of Illinois campus Thursday, with each weight class champion earning a preferred spot in their respective 16-man bracket inside Assembly Hall.
"To say today was a rough one would be an understatement," said Shealy (34-6). "I was in this spot last year, just one victory away from going downstate -- then, nothing."
Last year, Shealy dropped his semifinal bout to Scott Schwartz (New Trier) and then his state qualifying match in wrestlebacks to Joey Welsh (Hononegah) to end his junior season abruptly.
"I'd much rather be in the championship bracket right now instead of wrestlebacks," said Shealy, "but I also know how important it is to win this next one and not have to worry so much after that."
Calamari will meet Lawrence Phillips (Auburn) who stunned Don Haeffele (Grant) with a pin at 3:06.
Prospect's big man Shola George (40-2), who was a state qualifier along with Calamari from this sectional last season, overwhelmed Chris McDermand of Libertyville by fall at 3:13.
George's teammate Dan Fiumetto (40-5), who faces Shealy in the semis, outlasted the superb junior Brian Pence (33-11) of Crystal Lake South 3-2 to book his place opposite Shealy.
It will be the first meeting between the two MSL stars.
"Pence was a real good opponent, but I knew I could ride him out down the stretch," said Fiumetto, who bounced back from a third-place finish at the MSL tournament to grab a regional title at Fremd last weekend.
The MSL was in for a rough ride all around the brackets on Friday, except for another marvelous bit of work from Hersey senior Hunter Rollins. He had far too much of everything for Cam Pait (33-8) of McHenry in a 7-3 victory.
Next up for the two-time sectional champ is Tyler DeMoss (Hononegah, 38-5) in the 160-pound semifinals.
"Hunter is at peak form right now and his focus is on winning this sectional, then going to work on getting himself in the final next week in Champaign," said Hersey assistant Nick Blackshaw.
Brian Egan (Buffalo Grove, 32-2) and Deon Rice (31-9) of Hersey, both 2012 state qualifiers, will have to come back through wrestlebacks in order to earn another trip downstate after each suffered second-round losses.
Egan fell to the No. 3 rated Doug Johnson (37-1) from DeKalb in a physical bout which featured a handful of injury stoppages for Johnson, who won with a technical-fall at 5:10.
Next up for the Bison senior is Brad Ostick (McHenry, 29-10) while Rice, stunned by Jim Kirby (Deerfield, 31-9) by a fall at 1:56, now faces Rocky Allen (24-10) of Palatine.
Another 2012 state qualifier and medalist, Coord Wiseman (Barrington, 25-7) was unable to solve FVC champ and two-time state qualifier Wade Lardy (McHenry, 39-2) during a 6-3 loss in a second-round match at 145 pounds. The Broncos senior will meet Dwayne Milton (Harlem, 14-13) today.
Freshman sensation Tulga Zuunbayan (Wheeling, 33-8) took Cary-Grove senior and 2012 sectional qualifier Michael Underwood (37-9) to the very end until the veteran calmly put a 5-point move together in the closing moments for an 8-4 win.
Zuunbayan, who won a regional title last weekend, meets New Trier sophomore Luke Iida (19-13) in his wrestleback opener.