Much is made of the trio of Nick Gil, Eric Barone and Brian Pence when speaking of Crystal Lake South wrestling -- and why not?
This group headed by the No. 2 rated senior Gil has amassed a dazzling 71-11 record thus far, with Gil fresh off a championship ring at the prestigious Dvorak Invite during the holiday break.
But while keeping an eye on these three, one had better not overlook the rest of the Gators' lineup, which Thursday night in Cary-Grove proved to be the difference down the stretch during a Fox Valley Conference Valley Division dual thriller before a big Senior Night crowd.
With Nick Dorn (182), Hunter Stroh (195) and Roland Gastfield (220) leading the charge, the visiting Gators outlasted their hosts 35-25 to stay within striking distance of McHenry with a perfect 4-0-0 record heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
"I told you this was going to be fun tonight," began South head coach Ross Ryan, who watched his aforementioned big men breathe life into the Gators' chances and break open a tense, hard-fought dual, which swung in favor of the visitors with a 15-0 late run.
"I pulled aside Nick beforehand and asked him to listen to a couple of tactical moves that I had in mind, and after he took them in he and I agreed it was our best move in our hopes to beat Cary-Grove."
"I think it's kind of rare that nearly everyone in your lineup bumps up a weight, but after watching the results of late for Cary-Grove, I felt we could bump and be successful, and each and every guy tonight made it all happen."
"Coach showed the ultimate amount of confidence in all of us in order to pull this out tonight, and it was the ultimate team victory, thanks to guys like Hunter and Dorn, who have been in the room since their freshmen year, and have done all the work in order to improve and make big contributions like they did tonight," added Gil.
Ryan couldn't say enough about his freshman 106-pounder Joel Bennett, who put the Gators on the front foot by winning his first varsity bout in the opener with a 3-0 decision.
It became 9-0 after a forfeit at 113, followed by another, this one Michael Cullen, who came out at 120 for the home side, only to see his opponent fail to answer the bell.
Logan Hanselmann (19-7) would grind out a 3-1 decision over Garrett Dziedzic (20-8) at 126 pounds, which would begin Ryan's tactical gamesmanship designed to offset the Trojans' (1-3-0) lineup strength.
"Ross is a very clever fellow, but it was his depth that really ended up doing us in," admitted Cary-Grove head coach Ryan Ludwig.
"We needed certain guys in our lineup to come through in a bigger way, and they didn't, but for the most part, we fought hard against a very good South team."
John Cullen (18-8) would get the Trojans up and running after his impressive outing at 132 which resulted in a 10-1 major decision, followed by a well played 5-2 decision from Dale Charlier, to push the home side back on top at 16-9.
"Dale turned in a quality effort tonight," offered Ludwig.
Gil (27-0) and Eric Barone (23-7) set the stage for their teammate's heroics later on by recording a technical fall (4:59) at 145 by Gil, and 12-5 victory from the junior Barone at 152, just before Casey Callahan (160) eked out a 3-2 win over Emerson Kersten to give the Gators a 20-16 advantage.
Josh Dermont (170) would slow South down with his 10-7 triumph, but a solid opening period by Dorn, which included a late near fall would lead to an eventual 8-2 decision, which Stroh would trump with a wonderfully executed pin at 2:40 at 195 pounds.
Gastfield would seal the Gators' victory when, after falling behind to Brandon Caccavallo, he turned the big senior, before recording the pin at 2:29 to make it 35-19.
Michael Gomez, who won four matches at the Dvorak, ended the night on a bright note for the Trojans with a fall at 1:43.
"We received big efforts from guys who stayed away from bonus point (losses) and our big horses came through one weight class above their regular places to make it a complete and total team victory," said Ryan, whose club will have a week off before hosting Huntley next Thursday night.
Cary-Grove is off to the 24-team Sycamore Invite this Saturday after traveling to Jacobs this evening in FVC action.