CHAMPAIGN -- When you are surrounded by the big boys of the DuPage Valley Conference, sometimes you kind of get lost in the shuffle.
Kegan Calkins is one of those guys.
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Oh sure, the Wheaton North junior won the 113-pound conference title a few weeks ago, but here, at the 76th annual state wrestling championship in Champaign, Calkins is blinded by all the stars that reside in his weight class.
On Friday Calkins (45-5) will have his chance to put himself among the stars when he meets No. 1 Mark Duda of Marist in the Class 3A quarterfinals, and Falcons coach Steve Holland believes his man is capable of coming out on the other side and into Friday night's semifinals.
"The second (Kegan) came off the mat after his opening-round win he kind of heaved a sigh of relief, and big smile, so I know he's doing all right and that he's ready for the quarters tomorrow," said Holland, who watched an early exit by Calkins last year in wrestlebacks.
"There's a lot of pressure on Kegan. His uncle was a state medalist, and his weight class is so tough, but he did a great job out there tonight, and I know he'll give it everything he's got tomorrow," Holland said.
With his victory Calkins tied for the record for most wins in a single season in program history.
The vaunted Glenbard East lower-weight trio of Carlos Fuentez (106 pounds), Jake Drew (126) and Josh Martin (138) made a convincing start to their tournament campaign with three impressive victories.
"What an effort," said Rams coach Kevin Carlson after Martin turned his opponent with six seconds remaining in regulation to close out the match. "It took a lot of guts and a big heart, and some composure to pull that one off," added Carlson, who'll watch Fuentez (17-3) take on No. 1 Rudy Yates (39-0) of Brother Rice and Drew (37-7) against No. 5 Nick Gil (40-5) of Crystal Lake South.
Naperville Central's Luke Roth (35-1) and No. 2 Andrew Geers of Neuqua Valley (285 pounds, 38-0) are in good shape heading into the second day of action, as is Waubonsie Valley's Anthony Touchstone (32-8) who, along with Roth, remains alive in an up-for-grabs 220-pound weight class after an injury to the No. 1 David Denne of Mt. Carmel knocked the senior out of the tournament.
Junior Justin Maslow (Hinsdale South, 145 pounds) ran his sparkling overall record to 42-3 with a win, while Addison Trail's Niko Gomez-Rocha (38-5) is set to meet No. 1 Colin Holler (45-0) of Sandburg in the quarters at 170.
No. 3 Austin Schoen (145 pounds, 36-3) outworked Libertyville's Austin Pettanato in a 5-2 victory, and the Lake Park senior and four-time Upstate Eight Conference champ is set to take on Marmion's Trace Carello.
"He was a tough first-round opponent, and what made it really tough was all the sitting around (then) finally getting to compete after 8 tonight after being early to weigh in," Schoen said.
Glenbard North's top-rated duo of Jered Cortez (126, 45-0) and Brian Murphy (152, 35-1) never looked back after establishing early leads, which led to pins and a place in the quarters, and the same held through for most of the Montini team, including No. 1 Jordan Laster (126 pounds, 45-8) who powered his way to a 12-5 victory over Jacob Weaver of LaSalle-Peru.
"I was just glad to get that first match out of the way," said Laster, who is off to Princeton next fall. "I have to admit I was a little nervous, but that's all behind me, and I look forward to the quarters and semifinals tomorrow."