Before a big opening-night crowd, visiting Leyden spoiled the night for Rolling Meadows and retiring wresting head coach Dave Froehlich with a thrilling 34-33 victory in a nonconference dual on the Mustangs' home mats.
Froehlich, who is in his 36th year at the helm (and was a state medalist at Leyden), will be stepping down from his spot as head coach as well as athletic director when the current school year comes to an end.
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"This was kind of a disappointing one to lose tonight, but after taking a beating last year against them in what proved to be an injury-filled season, I feel with good health and the development of a handful of freshmen and sophomores on the varsity," said Froelich, who took home a third-place medal at 155 pounds in his senior season at Leyden in 1971. "We should be in much better shape than we were last year."
Froehlich's coaching counterpart, Mike Fumagalli, in just his second year in charge of Leyden, was happy to get out of the gym with the 1-point victory. But he, too, knows there's plenty of work ahead for his young team, which lost heavyweight state qualifier Javier Rhoades and six others from last season.
"I'd much rather come away from tonight with a win to get us going on a positive note, but we've got a lot to work on, especially our work on the bottom, which led to 5 pins on the night," said Fumagalli.
Things began well enough for the hosts, with Grant Palmer recording a pin just 37 seconds into his 220-pound match. Eagles heavyweight Anthony Lonigro quickly answered with a pin of his own at 1:07.
After freshman Jackson Kohlberg (106) pushed the Mustangs back on top with a well-devised fall at 5:48, it was all Leyden. The Eagles went on an 18-0 run fueled by a pin from senior Dominick Muro at 126 and another 6-pointer from an injury default when Will Hoppe was unable to finish due to severe leg cramps during his 132-pound bout with Ryan Soch.
"It was such a bizarre thing to see someone have both legs cramp up so bad, and I feel bad for (Will) because he's such a good kid, and a hard worker who obviously didn't want to give away those 6 points under those circumstances," said Froehlich.
It was even at 2-2 in a very competitive match when Hoppe struggled to beat the injury clock after his first round of cramping. Then, after going up 4-3 at the start of the second period, Soch recorded an escape and takedown to go up 5-4 before his opponent ran into more trouble.
Mustangs captain Lamart Burres (138) ended the Eagles' string of victories with a pin at 5:05 before teammate Kasey Jauch earned a hard-fought 5-2 decision to pull his club within 3 at 24-21.
One match later, Eric Chalupa drew the Mustangs back level at 27-27 with yet another pin, but when Jack Machnik (170) and Miro Momchrov (182) combined for 7 points with a decision and major, the Eagles officially put this one out of reach.
Senior Dardan Kardiu, a sectional qualifier and 20-match winner a year ago, ended the night with a strong performance during his 195-pound match with a fall.
"We've got a lot of film from tonight, and we'll spend tomorrow breaking it down to see where we need to improve as we get ready for a big two-day tournament at Conant," said Fumagalli.
The Mustangs will join Leyden at the same tournament, which begins Friday morning.