Brandon Mabry now knows what it feels like to actually compete in a sectional wrestling tournament.
Twice the Huntley senior has qualified to be a part of a 12-man bracket at the Class 3A Barrington sectional and twice the Red Raiders' star has failed to answer the bell. Last year, a nasty bout of food poisoning knocked him out on game day but Friday afternoon, Mabry (34-5), bumped off Jackson Wrede (Prospect) 7-4 in his second round match to advance into today's semifinals, where one victory will send him to Champaign.
"This is my last chance after missing out on my other two so I want to take full advantage of being here and healthy," said the affable Mabry, who will meet Libertyville senior Kevin Barbian (36-7) when the semifinal round begins after a session of 9 a.m. wrestle-backs are completed.
Those who were sent into the consolation bracket, and others who suffer the same fate today, will be dealt with the reality of a defeat ending their season, while the victors will stay alive in the race to finish in the top 4, and a spot in the 16-man bracket at the 3A tournament which begins Thursday afternoon at Assembly Hall.
Cary-Grove sophomore Michael Cullen who brought home a 4th-place medal last winter, won his 40th match of the season at 113 pounds, and moved ever so closer to a second straight sectional title, and a better spot in the state draw next weekend.
His teammate Michael Underwood (138, 38-8) is the only other player from Cary-Grove to be alive in the championship bracket, that coming after the Trojans' captain broke open a tight second-round match with Wheeling freshmen Tulga Zuunbayan (33-8) to record a hard-fought 8-4 victory.
"I fell short in wrestle-backs last season, and I don't want to be in that position again where I have to come back through that way in order to qualify," said Underwood, who lost 3-2 to Brian Egan (Buffalo Grove) in his state qualifier match here last season.
"I don't have any more chances after this year, so I've got to give it everything I have in order to advance."
The senior will meet two-time state qualifier, Manny Silva (Hononegah, 34-2) in his semifinal this morning.
FVC rival Crystal Lake South will have a three in the semifinals as well after Eric Barone (132, 34-6) and Nick Peters (138, 35-8) survived heart-tugging close bouts in the second round to move on, and sophomore Nick Gil demolished a pair of victims at 126 pounds to earn a place opposite Chris Alcock of New Trier.
The sophomore is one victory away from facing No. 2 Jordan Northrup (Harlem, 38-1) in a rematch of last week's regional final at Huntley.
Barone, who will meet Warren sophomore Israel Santiago (23-2) took advantage of a missed opportunity by Kevin Conrad (Barrington, 29-12) to register an inside trip late in the match, and quickly turned it into a takedown to break a 2-2 draw, and eventual 7-2 victory.
"I didn't want to go anywhere near wrestle-backs, not after what happened last year there," said the Gators sophomore, who got to within one victory of heading downstate, only to drop a tough 4-2 decision to Hersey senior Conrad Bugay.
"Eric is such a tough kid, and a real gamer in matches like that, but between him and Nick, I am not so sure that my heart can take any more matches like the two of them went through," said CLS head coach Ross Ryan, after watching Peters eke out a 4-2 win over Brandon Arteaga (Lake Zurich) to keep his hopes alive as well.
Next up for the senior will be Jake Messink (30-10) of Harlem.
Jacobs star Austin Ryan (33-2) kept the Jacobs faithful glued to their collective seats in his 1-0 win over FVC rival John Cullen (32-11) in a second-round thriller. Earlier, the Cary-Grove freshman gained a measure of revenge in his sectional opening 2-0 OT win over Anthony Munoz (Zion-Benton) to overturn an early season 3-1 defeat.
The aforementioned Ryan, a 3-time sectional qualifier, takes on Nick Koch (Grant, 35-7) in his semifinal.
"That match with Cullen went pretty much the way we thought it would," began Jacobs head coach Gary Conrad. "We knew he would stay away from Austin, and just sit back and maybe wait for something to happen, but we're still very happy with his effort and result."
Dundee-Crown senior Ray Griggel, who qualified as a sophomore here two years ago, will face Prospect senior Frank Walter in his wrestle-back opener this morning after dropping his first match to Connor Haran (Grant) 8-3.