Grant's state-ranked wrestling team got off to a rip-roaring start in the new year by overwhelming a trio of opponents Friday at Buffalo Grove's triple dual.
The No. 11-rated Bulldogs took a bite out of Elgin, Geneva and Proviso East by a combined 203-18 to run their overall record to 14-0 in advance of its best test at West Aurora on Saturday, where Grant will find Brother Rice and St. Patrick awaiting.
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"This was the first time out for us in nearly two weeks, so it was nice to get out there and wipe off some of the rust while getting tuned up for a couple of big duals on Saturday," said Grant coach Ryan Geist.
Last time out, the Bulldogs ran away from the field at the 50th Russ Erb tournament at Glenbrook South, lifting the team trophy with 262.5 points, 128 points clear of runner-up Oswego.
"This team is a little different than the last couple in that our strength is at the lower weights," said Geist, "but the great thing about this bunch is everyone is capable of scoring points, which was evident when we brought home 13 out of 14 possible medals at Glenbrook South."
One of Geist's best is Nick Koch (113, 19-3). He's the Bulldogs' lone returning state qualifier, and he looks to be nearly 100 percent recovered from an off-season knee injury.
"I didn't wrestle much during the summer because of my injury, but I feel like I am getting closer each time out," said Koch. " I really feel we've got a very good team this season, with a handful of guys who can advance to the state tournament later on."
Koch, who finished sixth in Champaign last year at 106 pounds with 38 victories, is set to meet No. 1-ranked Rudy Yates of Brother Rice at West Aurora.
Christian Kanzler (106, 19-2), Gage Datlovsky (120, 15-5), Noah Drabek (126, 14-1), Troy Parent (132, 15-3) and Mike Kouvelis (17-3 at 145) can each be found in the state polls. Each of them won three times Friday except Drabek, who didn't compete.
The host Bison and Geneva each went 2-1.
BG coach Dave Durlacher's team opened with a 52-18 triumph over Glenbrook North, then followed with a hard-fought 42-30 victory before falling to the Vikings 52-24.
"We're so young and inexperienced, and the guys are caught up in wins and losses right now, so to come away with two (wins) today is something they can hang their hats on," said Durlacher, who praised Jake Greenberg (12-6, 106), Chase Ori (who bumped up to 132) and senior Jake Siebert (16-3), who continues to excel.
"Jake is a wonderful young man," said Durlacher. "He's very bright (with a 34 on his ACT) and he just finds a way to grind out wins every time he goes out there."
"I feel like there's been a few matches this season that I could have won by a fall for technical fall, and I've left a couple of others out there as well," said Siebert. "But after spending a lot of time working on my feet and offense during the off-season, I believe my goal of getting downstate is within reach."
Siebert won 25 times as a junior last year, and was one victory away from advancing into the Barrington sectional alongside his best friend and workout partner, Brian Egan, a two-time state qualifier who is now a redshirt freshman at Augustana.
Geneva coach Tom Chernich wasn't thrilled with the results for his team at Palatine's Berman Holiday Classic last weekend, but he thought his team bounced back nicely. In addition to handling BG, the Vikings rolled past Proviso West 59-12 in its opening dual.
"We had a rough go of it at the Berman -- it was kind of a wake-up call for the second half of the season," said Chernich. "But we're a young team. We had only one senior in our lineup for that tournament, and today we came out a wrestled hard and got ourselves a couple of victories to put a nice spin on the day for us."
The Vikings took advantage quickly against Buffalo Grove, running off the first 29 points with a handful of forfeits plus a technical fall from Nate Montgomery (195). Then Nick Anderson (120), Colin Parsons (132) and Alex Crowe (160) lowered the boom with pins, and Jordan Soto registered a technical fall at 138.
Next up for Geneva is a trip to South Elgin on Saturday.
An undermanned Elgin team earned a 39-24 victory in the finale against Glenbrook North after falling short in a valiant effort against Buffalo Grove 42-30 to finish the day 1-2.
The Maroons, who gave away 36 points to forfeits, stayed within striking distance of the Bison on the strength of state-ranked 120-pounder Zach McCullough and pins from Damen Syavong (160), Isaac Schennom (170) and Abel Barraza (220).
"It's been tough trying to battle with so many open spots in our lineup, but the guys are working hard and staying real positive, so two wins today were big for us," said Elgin coach Tom Stewart, who lost the core of his team to graduation and transfers, most notably Jeffrey Morrow and Tyler VonEssen.
"It was really hard to find out both Jeffrey and Tyler had moved away, but in talking to them (they) are happy at their new schools and that's the most important thing," said McCullough, who was one victory from heading downstate last season. "When you're that close to making it to state, it helps movitate and drive you even more the next year."