It was a real step up in class for the Lake County teams competing Saturday in the 59th Annual Berman Holiday Wrestling Classic in Palatine.
Glenbard East out-battled Oak Forest 177 to 165.5 for the championship of the 32-team tournament while Lyons Township was a close third with 162.5 points.
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Warren's young squad wound up in a three-way tie for 15th place with Hinsdale South and Richmond-Burton at 80 points to barely edge 18th-place squad Mundelein with 79 points. Lakes placed 22nd overall with 58 points.
The Blue Devils' effort was led by 160-pound senior Emery Parker (15-2), who placed second to Richmond-Burton's Garrett Sutton (22-0). Sutton was named outstanding wrestler of the tournament; he went undefeated (38-0) in winning the 152-pound state title last year in Class 2A.
Parker hung tough with Sutton, trailing 4-2 after two periods. But Sutton took control of the match in the third period as he ultimately pulled away for a 10-6 decision in capturing the championship.
"I just didn't go all six minutes and in the third period I started to slow down," said Parker, who had recorded pins in his previous four matches leading up to the first-place bout. "I came to win. I'm happy with the pins I got, but I just couldn't finish the match in the third period."
Besides Parker's performance, Warren got sixth-place finishes from Quinn Nonnemacher at 152 and Rahkeem Chapman at 182. The Blue Devils also got a seventh-place finish from 285-pounder Sawyer McCafferery in sudden-death overtime.
Warren teammates Eric Shurson (170) and Brandon Murphy (138) both took eighth place in the rugged two-day tourney.
"With the year that we're having to be in the top half here I was happy with that," said Warren coach Jim Ouimette, whose team is now off until Jan. 10. "To have Emery (Parker) battle into the finals was good and I think we were able to make some improvements here."
"We still have some work to do, we're still young and our first-year varsity kids are going to struggle a little bit," added Ouimette.
Mundelein's solid effort was led by 132-pound senior Sam Riportella, who dropped a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to Lincoln-Way East's Brendan Gaynor in the third-place match.
The Mustangs also got a fourth-place finish from 195-pounder Estaban Guzman who trailed Delaware-Hayes (Ohio's) Colton Richard 8-2 before cutting the lead to 9-8 early in the third period. Richard was able to hold on for a narrow 11-9 decision.
Mundelein's Joey Laurie finished off the tournament strong with a fifth-place finish at 145 while 113-pound teammate Alec Riportella placed sixth.
"I thought that they competed hard, but I wish we could have finished a little higher," said Mundelein coach Vinny Jiuditta. "He (Sam Riportella) was doing really well on top and he's got to get better shots and close the gap."
Lakes 152-pound senior Kavan Mulloy (17-2) got his tourney off to a great start Friday with a technical fall, but he had to drop out of the meet after that point due to illness.
The Eagles did get a sixth-place finish from 126-pound junior Levi Smith, who lost a 2-0 decision to Oak Forest's Mousa Jodeh in a real defensive struggle.
Lakes also got a seventh-place performance from sophomore Jared Smith as Smith posted a 6-3 decision over Shurson at 170 pounds.
"The kid that Levi lost to from Lincoln-Way West took third place so he had a good tournament," said Lakes coach Mark Stave, who is in his second season. "Jared lost to (Zion-Benton's Nick) Whitehead yesterday to get into the semifinals and he lost 1-0 today (to Delaware-Hayes' Chris Martinez). It was 0-0 going into the third period and he (Jared Smith) almost got a takedown on the edge of the mat with eight seconds left."
The road to the Class 2A team sectional will not be an easy one for the Eagles, but Stave is optimistic that his team can make it this season.
"We're doing a lot better as a team this year and I think we're going to win the regionals as a team," added Stave. "We're 12-4 now, and we're only giving up heavyweight so I think we can overcome that."
After years of competing at the Berman tournament, Antioch did not participate in the large field of teams this weekend in Palatine.