With high profile Class 3A wrestling teams from Marmion Academy and Libertyville vying for top team honors, Saturday's action in Barrington should be worthwhile for fans of both programs.
The second day of competition at the 23rd Moore-Prettyman Invitational will begin at 10 a.m., with the Cadets leading the tournament with 136.5 points. Marmion is followed closely by the Wildcats at 132.50, and North Suburban Prairie rival Grant stands alone in third with 106.5.
Lyons Township (92), Hinsdale Central (87), Waubonsie Valley 85), Joilet West (80), Plainfield Central (79.5) and Cary-Grove (79) round out the first 10 in the team standings.
The morning semifinals will have nine competitors from Marmion and eight from Libertyville -- but none in head-to-head matches, making this session a wide-open point frenzy for the overall leaders.
"We've got to have one of the best all-around schedules around, and this tournament is a great to be in, and we want to come away with the team championship," said Marmion's AJ Jaffe, who looked terrific in his two bouts at 120 pounds, cruising into the semis to help give his teammates bonus points as they pursue a second consecutive title here after lapping the field here last season with a 94-point victory.
The Cadets sophomore is on a collision course with top seed Steve Polakowski of Libertyville. At two other weights, the two programs have the potential to represented against one another in title matches. The Wildcats will hope for the best from Joey Gunther (152) and Kevin Barbian (220), while the Cadets field Trace Carello and Lucas Warren at those weights.
Perhaps the best semifinal of all comes in a star-studded cast at 113 pounds, where three state medalists from a year ago are still alive, including Travis Piotrowski (Prairie Ridge) and Anthony Bosco (Marmion).
The two have plenty of history against one another, including a 3-2 decision for Bosco here last year in the semifinals, which led to a title at 106 pounds. In Champaign, Piotrowski avenged his earlier defeat with a fall in OT to earn third-place honors.
This key semifinal will send the winner into the finals against tourney favorite Michael Cullen of Cary-Grove, who dominated a pair of opponents on Friday, or Grant senior Nick Koch (38 win in 2013), a star in his own right who came home from Champaign last February with a sixth-place medal at 106 pounds.
"I feel much more relaxed this year compared to last season at this time," said Cullen a junior who has two top-six state medals already. "I think much of that comes from the realization that my first two years have gone so fast, and that it's important to try to enjoy the sport and competition while still going out there and wrestling at a high level."
Trojans senior Logan Hanselmann (120) also made the semifinals and will face Jaffe.
The Fox Valley Conference will also be represented nicely by Nick Gil (138), Eric Barone (145) and Brian Pence (190) from Crystal Lake South.
Barone looked to be in a bit of trouble, trailing Nick Andrews before turning the tables to record a fall at 5:44.
"With a bunch of new guys on our team this season, it was a truly inspirational effort from Eric for them to see that a match is never over," said Crystal Lake South coach Ross Ryan.
The No. 1 rated 195-pounder, Connor Swier (Neuqua Valley), breezed in his first two matches and next faces Nathan Traxler of Marmion.
Waubonsie Valley senior Jimmy Davis, a two-time state qualifier, opened the tournament with a fall at 1:58, then turned in a strong six-minute effort to earn a spot book his place in the semis at 138.
"This will be the most difficult tournament we will be in outside of regionals and sectionals, so it will be a good barometer for me to see how I measure up against some very good wrestlers -- including Nick (Gil) who I hope to meet in the finals," began Davis, who won 41 matches last season. "We've been working on letting the match come to me, and being more patient, and I really felt like I did that today, especially in that second match."
Davis was even at 0-0 with Tyler Brooks of Libertyville, then slowly built a 3-0 lead, before finishing strong in a 6-0 decision.
Tournament host Barrington, competing without five starters, will have sophomore Mitch Stathakis in the semis at 106, while Wheaton North's Dylan Thurston is the lone Falcon still in the front draw, as is Adrian Wroblewski for Prospect.
The NSC duo of Brandon Arteaga (145, Lake Zurich) and newcomer Tyler Harrington (170, Stevenson) both hope to find a place in the afternoon finals, which are scheduled to begin around 3 p.m.