The lower-weight strength of Glenbard East started an avalanche of key victories and helped provide a huge shot in the arm for the title hopes of the Rams after the first day of the 59th annual Berman Holiday Wrestling Classic on Friday at Palatine High School.
Carlos Fuentes (106), Anfarnee Rodgers (120), Dayton Olson (126) and Jake Drew (132) opened the quarterfinals with victories for coach Kevin Carlson's team to fuel a 66-point session and give the Rams 113 overall points. That's 9.5 more than Class 2A power Oak Forest and 13 points better than defending champ Hinsdale Central (100). Lincoln-Way West (90) and East (85) rounded out the top five; action resumes at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
"Not too bad of a day," Carlson said with a smile. "We got ourselves important wins when we needed them, but more importantly, the guys in the back gym gave us 6 pins for bonus points (in wrestlebacks), plus a lot of energy throughout to make it a real team effort all the way around."
Rodgers (16-2) fought off a valiant comeback effort from Alan Durham (Oak Forest) to edge the junior 11-9 with a late takedown in OT after building a 8-3 advantage in the first period. D'Andre Johnson (18-1) advanced following a fall at 2:40 to set up a semifinal with Nick Allegretti (19-0) of Lincoln-Way East.
The division is jammed with plenty of top-rated big men, including No. 1 Brian Allen (Hinsdale Central), the reigning state champ, as well as No. 8 Johnson, and the No. 4-rated Allegretti, who won 36 bouts last season and advanced to Champaign.
Olson (15-1) was dominant in his quarterfinal major-decision triumph, which moved him one match closer to meeting No. 1 Grant Sutton (19-0).
"Sutton is a very good wrestler," said Olson, rated No. 5 by IllinoisMatmen. "When we met earlier, he got me for a three-count which led to a 5-2 loss, but I think half of that match was all about my focus, and me allowing the state rankings get into my head. So if I can get past (Kyle) Ruettinger (ranked No. 2 behind Sutton in 2A) and meet Sutton again, I hope things will different the second time around."
Jackson Schoen (17-5) used a solid week of training with his brother, Austin, to fine-tune a few things in preparation for this weekend, which so far has gone very well for the sophomore from Lake Park.
"(Austin) is home from college, and he showed me some things which really helped me a lot, particularly on my shots," said the Schoen, who was relentless on the legs of his opponent, Anthony Zipparro of Bartlett, during an impressive 11-3 major decision to earn a semifinal spot opposite top seed Jake Drew (16-1) of Glenbard East at 132 pounds.
Austin Schoen completed a superb career with the Lancers last February, finishing fourth at the state tournament with a dazzling 38-5 record at 145 pounds before moving on to Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
Josh King continues to sparkle for new coach Steve Holland at Hinsdale South. The 6-foot-6 sophomore roared through the competition at 220 pounds, recording a fall in his opening match, followed by a commanding performance in his quarterfinal with a technical fall at 3:05.
Next up for top seed King (21-2) is Awais Arain of Plainfield East.
"Josh is coming along very nicely with each week, but I still have to remind myself that he is still growing into his frame, and that he's only 15 years old after watching him put in another impressive effort out on the mats," says Holland, who came over from Wheaton North to take over the Hornets program.
The North Suburban Conference did well to get noticed in the quarterfinals, with both Mundelein and Warren advancing a pair into the semifinals.
Alec Riportella (113, 14-4) and Joey Laurie (145, 15-3) of Mundelein advanced after a pair of wins, which in part were due to some extra motivation provided by disappointing results the previous weekend at the Krupke Classic hosted by Lake Park.
"I was just awful," said Laurie, who may have been a bit too harsh when recounting a loss in the finals to Joe Vanek of Andrew last Saturday evening. "I went back and worked hard on my conditioning, and today I felt really strong throughout."
Laurie opened with an early take-down, then slowly built his lead before finishing off No. 2 seed Kyle Rodriguez (Lincoln-Way West), who'd entered the 32-team tourney with a 16-0 record.
Riportella dashed the hopes of the previously undefeated Bill Touchy (St. Lawrence) and then topped No. 2 seed Jeronnie Steward (15-3) of East Moline United during his first two matches of the day.
"I wasn't happy with the way I wrestled in my final at Lake Park (a 4-0 loss) and that was all the motivation I needed throughout the week to help get me ready for this weekend," said the Mundelein sophomore, who next meets Anthony Munoz (20-3) of Zion-Benton.
The Warren duo of Quinn Nonnemacher (152, 16-5), Emery Parker (160, 14-1) will be part of the late morning semifinals, with an eye on advancing to the 3 p.m. finals.