Conant saved its best for last.
Dan Andress earned a hard-fought 6-4 decision over Stephen Hayden in the final bout of the day to edge host Addison Trail 33-28 and finish a perfect 3-0 effort Saturday afternoon in Addison.
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The Cougars bested state ranked Notre Dame 36-27 in its opener, then walloped Glenbrook North 84-0, setting the stage for what proved to be a thriller with the feel of something much bigger than an early dual.
"That was great," said Conant coach Chad Hay after Andress held off Hayden, who came out looking to throw and pin his way to victor.
Instead, Andress, a junior who won 15 times last season, prevailed.
"Danny did a great job to control the hands of (Hayden) and he wrestled smart and within himself," said Hay. "That's something I thought all the guys did against Addison Trail, which has a very good team and came at us from the very beginning."
"This is a team that has a solid core coming back," said Conant junior Bobby Alexander, "but our strength really is with the freshmen and sophomores we have, and a few juniors who have been around for three years."
Alexander, an two-time state qualifier and one of the best in the state at his weight, was coming off a championship effort the previous weekend at the 34th Chris Hruska Classic at Conant.
"A lot of us had a part in winning a regional title last year, and we feel we can do it again and get ourselves back in the dual-team sectionals and have a better run than last season," Alexander said.
Alexander only lightly figured in the Cougars' eventual 5-point triumph after putting 6 points in the scorebook with a forfeit at 132 pounds. That drew Conant even (19-19) for the first time after the Blazers ran out to a 13-0 advantage with a pair of falls from Danny Tomasello (195) and Bobby Carson (285), sandwiched around a 3-2 victory from Ish Rodriguez, who is back with the club after missing all of his junior year.
The Carson-Tyler LaBarbera bout needed a couple of extra calculators at the scorer's table as the points were flying around at a steady pace, until Carson, who finished 3-0 for the day, blew open a close match with a flurry at the end of the second period to put the 2013 sectional qualifier up at 16-10 after four minutes.
"Carson is a first-class heavyweight, he's big, strong and very quick for his size, and although Tyler gives away some weight at 250-plus pounds, he showed if he can be a little more patient with his shots he can be right there with the best of them," Hay said.
That young group of Conant standouts shined brightly when the Cougars (7-0) needed it most. Freshman Jason Giuliano (106) and the sophomore duo of Kyle Peisker (113) and Danny Madonia (120) put 13 points up on with a pair of majors and a tech-fall (from Giuliano) to tie the match at 13.
Anthony Metallo, another sectional qualifier back for the Blazers this season, won his match at 138 to get Addison Trail back in front before David Atkin (145) and Griff Rose (160) recorded major decisions to make it 30-22.
Hay waited for his coaching counterpart, Rob Serio, to send his choice to the table to check-in at 170 pounds. So when standout Niko Rocha, was called, Hay opted to give the Blazers 6 points with a forfeit, thereby putting his faith in Andress to win it all.
"That was a smart coaching move by (Hay) and it really paid off for them," Serio said. "But it was a great, and hard-fought final dual of the day. We saw a lot of things we liked from our guys, which is not a surprise, because they come to work each and every day in the room and are easily the hardest-working, best bunch that I've had in my 10 years here."
The Blazers, who were runners-up to Conant at the Schaumburg sectional last season, welcomed back nine competitors from their 2012-2013 roster, five of whom were sectional qualifiers. That includes big man Carson, who won on a regional crown and had 30 victories, and of course, superb 170-pounder Rocha, a man on a mission in his final year at Addison Trail.
"I really like our team this year, and I believe we have the right guys to challenge for a regional title at the end of the season," began Rocha, who won 38 times last winter, including his state opener, before a disappointing second-round defeat to eventual state champion Colin Holler (Sandburg) bumped him into wrestlebacks.
"I feel like I could have won that match with Holler, and that was hard to take for awhile. But I had to remember that I didn't even get out of regionals as a sophomore, then worked hard the entire off-season to get better, get myself downstate. Now I am confident I can be one of the best in Champaign at the state tournament."
Rocha sits behind Devonte Mahomes (OPRF), Bryce Gorman (Lincoln-Way Central) and Kayne MacCallum of Libertyville in the state rankings of IllinoisMatmen.com
Rocha, Carson, Tomasello and Metallo were all 3-0 on the day, as were the aforementioned Alexander, Giuliano, Peisker, Madonia and Andress.
Madonia, a sectional qualifier as a freshmen last season, opened his season on a high note by carrying away first-place honors at the Chris Hruska Classic.
Notre Dame saw its 7-match win streak ended by Conant. But the Dons appear to be in good shape according to long-time coach Augie Genovesi, who led his club to a second-place finish last weekend at the 16-team Ted DeRousse Invite at Antioch.
"We were without two of our starters, and we're still trying to sort a few things out, but we'll be alright once we get guys in the right place in our lineup," says Genovesi, who has his long-time friend and right-hand man Jim Cartwright at his side. Cartwright won 425 times during a brilliant career as head coach at Conant, beginning in 1975.