Scouting the Tom Pitchford (32) Invite
When: 2 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. Saturday.
Where: At tournament host Hersey plus six area sites
Defending team champ: Hinsdale Central
From its humble beginnings when this tournament orginated in the Champaign area and was eventually moved north to Arlington High School and later Hersey, this mega-monster was officially named after the late, great former Arlington and Hersey coach who passed away in the fall of 1988.
That spring, Mr. Illinois, as Pitchford had come to be known, also had his named placed alongside the prestigious Tom Pitchford Sportsmanship Award, given out at the state tournament by the Illinois High School Coaches Association.
This is the place to be if you're a fan. For the players, it's been described as a mini-state tournament, and except for just a few top players and teams, everybody is here. It's a key preparation for four weeks from now, when the state tourney begins. Many hope to make a big enough impression to help sway the seeding committee of a higher place in the top 32 of the 64-man state bracket.
It appears the weather will cooperate this weekend, meaning full rounds of play in both the championship and consolation brackets. And if you're unable to get out to any of the sites, you can follow along on the Hersey school website throughout the tournament.
Here's a brief look at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, and a few of our area players as well.
Top seeds: No. 1: Jeremy Bush (Stevenson, 9-0), Martin Joyce (Hindale Central, 10-0), Toby Ma (Deerfield, 13-3), Peter Tarwid (Lake Forest), Conrad Harron (Chicago U-High, 7-0), Will Koehrsen (Metamora, 18-2), KristiyanTrukov (Warren, 16-2), Jake Elliot (Lyons Township, 8-2).
Outlook: Joyce, a sophomore, won the high-profile singles title at Hinsdale Central last weekend, but Stevenson senior Bush appears ready to put the finishing touches on a sensational career for the Patriots. The three-time state qualifier and third-place state finisher last season has opened this spring with a perfect 9-0 record and is a co-favorite, along with Joyce, to advance into the finals.
Ma, who played in the shadows of 2012 state champion Josh Brown (now at Yale) has lost to Joyce twice this season, but is still a marvelous player as well. Tarwid, a junior, lost to Sam Bloom (Hinsdale Central) in the fifth-place state medal match last May but is the Scouts' brightest star in a very deep and talented club under coach Corky Leighton.
Top seeds: No. 1: Hinsdale Central (Alex Hagermoser-Peter Heneghan, 10-0), Lake Forest (John Zordani-Scott Christian, 5-0), Stevenson (Alex Komarov-Colin Harvey, 7-1), New Trier (Chase Mayer-Chase Laser), Metamora (Mitchell Nguyen-Christoph Goettler, 16-2), Edwardsville (Logan Ware-Jake Desse, 16-1), Downers Grove South (Cody Freischlag-Christian San Andres, 12-5), Oak Park-River Forest (Graham Legman-DJ Arends).
Outlook: Hinsdale's No. 1 are the reigning state champs, and it would hard to imagine them not lifting the trophy again next month and Saturday afternoon as well. The only loss of the season for Stevenson has been to Lake Forest, while the 5-8 seed (Metamora) is one to watch after recording victories over DGS, Edwardsville, New Trier and a very good Urbana club, which was top eight last year at the state tourney. Many of the teams in the field have not had a lot of time together because of the weather, so this will be the perfect testing ground for several who will look to improve their lot this weekend and to get some impressive victories onto their resume.
A handful of area players earned 9-16 seeds and hope to give their higher rated opponents a few nervous moments when they meet early in the tournament.
Barrington four-year veteran and 2012 state doubles qualifier Varun Parekh garned one of those 9-16 seeds at singles, and is one victory away from meeting the 5-8 Koehrsen from Metamora. Senior Maciej Niemcyzk, who in 2011 won 3 matches at state with his doubles partner Nick Makowiecki, is on a collision course with Joyce, if successful in his '32' opener.
Carson Burke advanced into the state tourney for the first time last spring, and the Prospect junior also grabbed a 9-16 seed here, and with it, a probable second round match with 3-4 Tarwid of Lake Forest. Freshman Mack Galvin of Rolling Meadows will take his 12-0 record into play today, and will likely face the three-time state qualifier from Warren (Trukov) in the second round at the Hersey venue.
Over at No. 1 doubles, Ben Adams and HB Thompson, the new No. 1 for coach John Roncone, joins their MSL West rivals Eric Pohl-Sudeer Vundra (8-2) as the only 9-16 seeds. Pohl and Vundra, who went 2-2 in their first state tournament appearance last season, are one victory away from meeting Harvey-Komarov of Stevenson at the Buffalo Grove site, while the Broncos are on course to face the No. 1 seed from Hinsdale Central.
After taking home the big trophy at its own tournament last weekend over New Trier, Deerfield and Barrington, Hinsdale Central appears to be on course to grab team honors here, with the dynamic duo from the NSC, Stevenson and Lake Forest giving serious chase over the two days.
"Hinsdale is so good, but if we're hot, and play well during the two days, we can make a run at them," says Stevenson coach Tom Stanhope. "Lake Forest is very good also, and the draw will play a big part in how things shake down in the team race for both of us."
Deerfield will be there on the strength of its singles players, Ma, and Jack Kasbeer (top seed at No. 2) as will Metamora, which has some good depth after its top players at singles and doubles.
All finals will be played Saturday afternoon at Hersey.
-- Mike Garofola