Fifth-ranked Hononegah led from start to finish, and lifted its second consecutive team trophy Saturday night at the 39th Sycamore wrestling invitational.
The Indians, fresh off an eighth-place finish at the Dvorak, which they followed with an 11th-place finish at the high profile Clash in Rochester (Minn.) last weekend, used four individual titles to amass 634 points in this marathon 24-team event, 50.5 points more than runner-up Grant, whose depth kept it nearly 90 points clear of Bloomington, and its 498.5 total points.
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Reigning Fox Valley Conference champ McHenry (483.5) and its conference rival Huntley (443) would round out the top five.
"Hononegah showed its strength today, but I thought even though we left some matches and points out there, we still fought and battled hard in a tournament which features plenty of strong teams and individuals, many of whom we'll see later at the Barrington sectional," said Grant head coach Ryan Geist, who won his 300th career match a week ago after his club swept all three of its duals at Buffalo Grove.
The most pleasant surprise on this long day for the Bulldogs came at 126 pounds, where sophomore Alex Rodriguez (15-1), filling in for the injured and state-ranked Noak Drabek, took full advantage of the opportunity when he won top honors following his pin of Psalm Fambro (15-4) of Belvidere North just 56 seconds into his final.
"I am lucky to be in the room with Noah each day, but when he couldn't go when he got hurt, I wanted to step in and give it my best effort, so I wrestled like I had nothing to lose," said Rodriguez, who made it look easy with a fall in his quarterfinal, and an impressive major decision in the semis to advance."
"Noah looked to be ready to make a big second-half push until he suffered an eye injury during practice on New Year's Day, but Alex is right there with him in the room. (He) really came through with a terrific performance for us, to offset a tough round in the semifinals," said Geist.
The Bulldogs sent five wrestlers into the semifinals, only to watch just Rodriguez succeed.
Later, Christian Kanzler (106, 24-3), Nick Koch (113, 25-4) and John Loris (170, 15-7) would garner third-place medals.
Mundelein senior Joey Laurie would fall short in his bid for top honors when No. 4 Fernie Silva (29-2) of Hononegah showed why he's deserving of his lofty status at 145 after his 9-0 major decision to win his second straight here.
A wonderful effort in his semifinal against the No. 8 rated 2A sophomore from Pontiac, Vaughn Hobart, sent the Mustang star into his second tournament final of the season (the other was at Lake Park) but Silva would quickly end his hopes when he dropped down from a tie-up to garner a takedown at 30 seconds, before building a 5-0 advantage after one period.
"Silva was a quality opponent, and someone I hadn't seen before but hopefully I will again in the sectional championship next month at Barrington," said Laurie, who is now 22-6 overall.
Connor Swier (Neuqua Valley) and Matt Rowland of Willowbrook were both superb en route to their eventual climb atop the podium at the night's end.
The Wildcats' veteran grabbed his second tourney title of the season with an outstanding six-minute performance in a 1-0 shutout of Jake Kroger (8-3) of Willowbrook to win the 182-pound championship ring.
"That one escape was good enough to win the crown," said the Swier (27-2), who won at the Moore-Prettyman on Thanksgiving weekend, and further solidified his deserving No. 4 spot in current state polls.
"I've got college coaches here at Neuqua, so riding is one of my strengths, so that's exactly what I did for most of that match after getting that escape after starting down in the second period."
"Connor is a great talent, but I thought Jake wrestled him very well, got in on him a couple of times, and gave him a real battle for six minutes," offered Willowbrook head coach Brian Murphy.
Kroger, whom Murphy said afterward was less than 100 percent all throughout, fought off the flu-bug long enough to decision Hampshire junior Anton Krocko (23-6) in his semifinal to book his place opposite Swier.
Krocko, No. 9 in 2A at 170 pounds, would later earn a fourth-place medal.
There was even better news for the Willowbrook faithful when just prior to the Kroeger-Swier final, the sophomore Rowland would establish himself as someone to watch in the coming weeks after putting away Michael Carbajal (Waukegan) in the finals at 152 by a score of 9-6.
"Matt seemed to be able to answer whatever (Carbajal) threw at him, battled hard, and got himself a well deserved first-place finish, which isn't too bad for a sophomore at a tournament like this," said Murphy.
"He was very strong, but I felt I kept at him real well, and was able to get (takedowns) when I needed them. Hopefully there's a few more championships ahead of me," Rowland (29-2) would say after his match.
Huntley's strong showing was fueled by a wonderful effort from junior Brandon Meyer (19-5) who, despite dropping his 138-pound final to 2A star Stephen Richardson (20-2) of Pontiac, earned plenty of praise from his coach, as did a host of others, including Ricky Vigil (18-4) who would carry home a third-place medal at 126 pounds.
"We stayed in (5th) from early on until the very end, and I have to say it's quite a terrific turnaround, and rebound after wrestling so poorly the other night in our dual," said a proud Red Raiders head coach BJ Bertelsman.
"I felt sick after watching us on Thursday, but everyone came here today ready to go, and they really competed hard up and down the lineup, and even without a 160-pounder we did very well to finish in the top 5 at such a big-time tournament."
Meyer was confident during his 7-4 win in the semifinals against Daniel Terronez of Moline, and appeared just fine after drawing even, 2-2, with the No. 6 rated Richardson.
However, Meyer, whose four losses on the year have all been in OT (one to Richardson in 2 OTs) fell behind 6-2 midway through the second period, and never got closer, despite hitting a low single early in the third, but not finishing it.
"Richardson is a stud, so all we have from that is a point of reference, and a measuring stick of where we are, and where we have to go from here on out," said Bertelsman.
Huntley's FVC rival Cary-Grove came into the tournament without its best two after Michael Cullen was left behind with the flu, while Logan Hanselmann was recovering from a bad fall at his home, but the absence of the Trojans' top two didn't affect how head coach Ryan Ludwig felt after his lads completed their day.
"It was a great day for Cary-Grove, the guys really went out and fought hard, and terrific impression after struggling the other night against Crystal Lake South," said Ludwig.
"I was happy with the effort from everyone, and with how tough they competed, especially guys like Josh (Dermont, 19-9) who is just a sponge, hard worker, and terrific young man who is joy to coach, as well as Michael Gomez (285, 21-11) who has gone from someone who had never wrestled, to a 21-win guy at heavyweight in such a short time."
Dermont finished fourth at 170 pounds.
The previously mentioned Krocko from Hampshire went home with a fourth-place medal after an 8-2 loss to Matt Panocchi of Marengo, whom he defeated 1-0 earlier in the season.
"This is our first time here and it's the type of tournament, especially for Anton, where we can see how and where he stands with equal, or a little better talent, which will go into our decision later on as to his eventual weight he's at for regionals and beyond," said Hampshire head coach Terry Wilkinson.
We made the choice late last year to go at 182, and we caught a little magic and he got downstate. We're looking for the same this February."