It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride for visiting Grant as the Bulldogs took to the mat in their wrestling season opener Wednesday night at Warren.
Starting at 126 pounds, Grant stormed ahead of the Blue Devils 25-0 right out of the gates after four bouts.
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Warren (2-1) bounced back strongly to quickly cut the lead to 25-15 with three straight wins in this North Suburban Conference crossover dual meet.
But in the end it was the Bulldogs (1-0) who once again pulled away for a 49-21 victory over the Blue Devils by winning the final three matches in an 18-0 spurt.
Junior Noah Drabek got Grant going with a 21-5 technical fall at 126 before a pin by senior teammate Troy Parent (in 2:22) at 132 and a 20-5 technical fall by 138-pound junior Cristian Coronado staked the Bulldogs to a 16-0 advantage.
Sophomore Kobe Lear added a pin in 2:24 at 145 before junior teammate Mike Kouvelis posted a 9-2 decision over Quinn Nonnemacher at 152 to give Grant its commanding 25-0 lead right away.
"I wrestled him (Nonnemacher) last year and did better and I just need to do a little better," said Kouvelis following the meet. "We think we can get to state as a team again and we have a pretty good group so we're going to try to place."
Not only did the Bulldogs have a lot of new faces in their lineup Wednesday compared to last season, but Warren was hit hard by the loss of seven seniors to graduation, including Danny Hicks, who is now wrestling at Illinois.
The Blue Devils began their comeback when pins by 160-pounder Emery Parker and 170-pounder Eric Shurson cut Grant's lead to 25-12.
Then Warren junior Rakheem Chapman built a 10-1 lead over Andy Priedis at 182 before holding on for a 10-6 decision to cut the Bulldogs lead to 25-15. Chapman is the younger brother of Shakheim Chapman, who placed third in Class 3A at 195 in 2012.
Grant senior Steve Herrington's pin at 195 boosted the lead back to 31-15 before Warren junior Bryan Nolan outlasted Sam Isidro 4-2 in the wildest match of the meet at 220. Nolan got a take down with six seconds left before Isidro almost got a reversal in the final seconds that would have deadlocked the score.
The Blue Devils got one last key victory as 285-pounder Sawyer McCaffery outlasted Grant senior Jeff Braunsdorf 5-2 to pull to within 31-21 with three matches remaining.
But that was as close as Warren got as Grant sophomore Christian Kanzler won by forfeit at 106 to make the score 37-21.
Nick Koch, a state medalist last year, followed with a pin in 2:58 at 113 before another forfeit victory by Grant 120-pounder Gage Datlovsky accounted for the final score.
"Losing the kids we lost (to graduation) are hard to replace and they have been our staples at the lower weights so long that it's going to take some work," said Warren coach Jim Ouimette, whose team swept a double-dual meet to open their season Tuesday night. "And when you fall behind by that many points against a team as good as Grant it's going to be hard to come back."
Overall, Grant coach Ryan Geist was happy with his squad's peformance as the Bulldogs prepare to compete in the always powerful, two-day Barrington tournament this weekend.
"I knew they (Warren) were strong in the upper weights compared to us at this point so we had to build up a lead at the lower weights," said Geist, who now has 289 career coaching victories in his 15th season. "Jim (Ouimette) does a great job with them so we're happy to get the win."
Looking much further down the road in NSC action this season, it looks like the Grant-Libertyville rivalry will be one to watch again as the Wildcats are poised to defend their NSC championship with five returning senior state qualifiers in their lineup.
The Bulldogs did bounce back to defeat Libertyville the following weekend at the IHSA regional last year.