CJ Johnson, and Dundee-Crown saved their best for last.
The Chargers came out on top in their Fox Valley Conference wrestling finale when their big senior recorded a pin in dramatic fashion on the last bout of the night to defeat rival Huntley (17-3-0, 3-3-0) 35-25 before a raucous Senior Night crowd Thursday night in Carpentersville.
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"It's our last dual of the year, the last time I'll wrestle here at Dundee-Crown, and it's Senior Night with all our parents and friends here. I couldn't ask for anything better," said a thrilled Johnson, who carried off the first traveling trophy introduced on this night by D-C head coach Robert Skillman, and his counterpart, BJ Bertelsman.
"I told you this one was going to be a tight one, and what a dual it was," began Skillman, whose team finished second to Crystal Lake South in the Valley.
"I am very happy for CJ. He's easily our most improved wrestler this season after winning 12 last year, then coming back to win 27 thus far and that pin of his to decide the match was so big for us as was Jequan's (Flynn) at 126, which gave us a big lift, and helped slow (Huntley) down a little."
D-C's big man, Jeremy Marshall (29-5), got the home side up and running with a pin just 92 seconds into his heavyweight bout, but the Red Raiders answered with three consecutive wins from Josh Stenger (23-5), Nick Meyer (22-7) and Nate Urban to quiet the Chargers' (19-4-0, 5-1-0) faithful, while turning the match around in favor of the visitors.
"I really felt we could sweep the lower weights to put some pressure on them but Jequan beat us for the first time, and we had to settle for a (13-point) lead after the first seven matches," said Bertelsman.
Nick Meyer's pin at 113, followed by a major decision triumph from Urban (120), coupled with a pin from sophomore Chris Gamboa (24-5, 132) helped the Red Raiders' scoring spree which put them ahead 22-9, until the home side emerged from its funk by winning the next four bouts.
Senior Elijah Velez (23-11) overcame nearly three minutes of blood time (nose) to finally upend Matt Kitsis at 145, before co-captain Tim Schanmier upped his overall record to 29-6 following a 10-3 decision over Trevor Symbal.
The Chargers crept closer (22-18) when Armando Gutierrez registered a 13-9 win at 160, setting up a Jarrod Rapp (26-9) fall at 2:43 to give the Chargers their second lead of the night.
"We changed things around at 70 and 82, but in retrospect, I should have gone a different way, and maybe we could have been in better shape, and not had to win it on the last match but everything worked out nonetheless," admitted Skillman, who bumped Gutierrez, and his top guy, Christian Brunner, who moved up a weight and defeated Mike Walker (6-2) at 195 to set up the heroics for Johnson.
Sophomore Petros Mihalopoulos (17-14) prevailed in a high-scoring, seesaw affair (15-10) at 182 over Dashun Lloyd to give Huntley its last lead of the night (25-24) before Brunner and Johnson came through for the Chargers.
"Dundee-Crown won the Harvard tournament early on and beat us by something like (9) points, so I made that trophy last night so is the first traveling trophy to be fought for between the two teams," said Bertelsman.
"I have a lot of respect for Skillman, he's a great guy, and he's done a terrific job turning their program around, as well as bringing back the tradition here at D-C but with that said, we're going to go after them next week at the FVC tournament, and the week after at regionals, and hopefully if we can be at full strength, we'll get 'em."