Host McHenry will head into the final day of the Fox Valley Conference wrestling tournament just ahead of Crystal Lake Central and CL South when action resumes Saturday morning, beginning with the semifinal round at the Warriors' West campus.
Both Central and South trail McHenry by 4.5 points, 88.5 -- 84.0, while Dundee-Crown and Huntley round out the top 5 with 75 and 71 overall points.
Cary-Grove stands sixth with 70 points.
Tournament officials plan on beginning the medal around closer to 1 p.m. than the originally scheduled 3 p.m. start time in an effort to send fans home earlier due to the expected snowy conditions.
Led by the 1-2 punch of Nick Gil (138, 32-1) and Eric Barone (145, 30-4) the Gators have six alive in the championship bracket, enough to keep the hopes of a lifting the championship trophy alive for Gil, who not only was anointed the top seed here, but also carried the No. 2 ranking in the state polls this week according to Illinoismatmen.com.
"It was great to be a part of a division championship my freshmen year and now in my final year at South, and if we come to wrestle (Saturday), and wrestle our best as a team, I believe we have a chance at winning this tournament as well," said Gil, who will meet Nick Wegner of McHenry in the semifinals.
Barone will take on Huntley senior Matt Kitsis (22-12) who defeated the No. 4 seed Elijah Velez (23-13) of Dundee-Crown (6-4) in his quarterfinal to advance.
In a key quarterfinal for the Gators, Garrett Dziedzic (25-7) shutout Cody Ferencz (28-3) of Jacobs to book his place against Michael Cullen of Cary-Grove (18-3), who was unseeded as he bumped up from 113 to join a 120-pound field, which is led by top-seed Lenny Peterson (27-7) of Crystal Lake Central, whose performance was first rate, despite being just a freshman.
Cullen would defeat Jeff Morrow (29-3) of Grayslake Central in his quarterfinal after needing just 30 seconds to dispose of his first-round opponent to setup his semifinal with Dziedzic, who is ranked at No. 12 in the state.
"Morrow came after me, and was ready to wrestle from the start, but I feel so much more confident and stronger at 120 so I was ready for whatever he threw at me," said Cullen, a two-time state medalist, who missed some time early on with an ankle sprain, but appears 100 percent fit and in form for the home stretch.
Jacobs senior Mark Mamola (29-2) secured his place in the semifinals against Roland Gastfield (Crystal Lake South, 19-9) after a sublime display of attacking helped put away Christian Johnson (23-12) of Dundee-Crown in his quarterfinal which resulted in a technical fall triumph.
"I was looking forward to meeting (Luis) Hernandez (McHenry) in the final who would have likely been the No. 1 seed this weekend, but my hope now is to see him in the finals at sectionals in a couple of weeks," said Mamola, who lost to the No. 8 rated Warrior early on.
Hernandez was on the sidelines with an injury, and will look to be back in action in time for next weekend's regional in McHenry.
Dundee-Crown had a mixed bag of results on this first day, with the good news coming from Tim Schanmier 152), Christian Brunner (182) and Jeremy Marshall (285) who each found their target early on, before finishing off their respective opponent to advance.
Schanmier (31-7) who was given the top seed, edged Jonathan Makey (29-7) of Grayslake Central after a strong opening period helped him on his way to an 8-6 decision. The Chargers' co-captain will meet Matt Hughes (Cary-Grove, 18-10) in the semifinal.
"I'd rather be in the shadows instead of getting the No. 1 seed, but it felt good to get that first match out of the way in order to focus on my semifinal," said the D-C senior, who watched Brunner (32-3) pin his only opponent, and Marshall (32-4) do the same.
Brunner is part of a wickedly strong 182-pound field, which included Mike Zelasco (Crystal Lake Central, 33-2) rated No. 2 in Class 2A, in addition to Anton Krocko (28-5) who is No. 10 (2A) at 170-pounds for Hampshire.
"(Zelasco) is the guy all of us are after, so I am excited about meeting him in my semifinal, and hopefully next weekend at regionals," said Krocko, who was a state qualifier for the first time last season.
Huntley, which along with Dundee-Crown and McHenry was in the hunt for a Valley Division title right until the very end, will send five into the semifinals, including junior Brandon Meyer (28-6) who started and finished in bullish style, pinning Jack Fischbach of Woodstock at 2:49 to seal his place in the front draw against Logan Lundelius (Crystal Lake Central).
"I lost my regional qualifying match last year, and that helped provide me with the motivation needed to not have that happen again this year, and right now my confidence is high, and I feel ready to go from here on out," said Meyer.
Sophomore Jake Wright (20-5) of Grayslake North dominated his contest (14-0 major decision) with Derek Nieses (McHenry, 23-13) and will now meet the top seed from Cary-Grove, Logan Hanselmann (20-6), who is going after his second consecutive FVC crown.
"This is a really good weight class here this weekend, but my expectations are pretty high, so I am anxious to go against (Hanselmann) and we'll see how it goes from there," said Wright, who in his rookie year was a sectional qualifier.
Teammate Cody Sawyer (170, 25-6) joined Wright in the semifinals after his fall at 3:59 over Austin Schofield (Huntley) who just returned from a long bout on the disabled list with a concussion.
Sawyer will meet Jarrod Rapp (27-9) from Dundee-Crown.