Under the watchful eyes of a big Friday night crowd, Libertyville's Steve Polakowski (37-1) dominated Andrew Mehrholz of Deerfield with six minutes of marvelous hard work to deliver an impressive 6-1 victory and a spot in the Saturday morning semifinals when Day 2 of the Barrington sectional begins.
The No. 2-rated 120-pounder will face Cody Ferencz (33-4) of Jacobs, with the winner advancing not only into the final later today, but also to the state tournament which begins in Champaign on Thursday.
"I know a lot of people want to see a tech-fall or pin in a match between two state-ranked wrestlers, but I would be happy with a 1-point decision or a major, just as long as I wrestle and compete at a high level," said Polakowski, who is on course to meet the two-time state medalist from Cary-Grove, Michael Cullen (25-3).
Like Polakowski, Cullen will be after a second consecutive sectional championship.
Libertyville teammates Nick Andrews (145), Joey Gunther (152), Kayne MacCallum (170), Austin Koziol (182), Kevin Barbian (220) and heavyweight Chris McDermand all remain alive in the championship bracket when the action resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The No. 3-ranked MacCallum (37-1) will have his hands full when he meets No. 5 Tyler DeMoss (37-4) of Hononegah in what will be the third meeting of the season between two-time state qualifiers.
"Tyler is very solid, he knows what he's doing out there, and he does it very well," said the Wildcats senior, who won both prior bouts -- 5-3, and 4-3 in an ultimate tiebreaker.
North Suburban Conference champion and regional runner-up Grant,was strong at the lower weights, with Christian Kanzler (106, 37-4), Nick Koch (113, 37-4), Noah Drabek (126, 22-3) and Troy Parent (132, 28-9) all advancing following victorious efforts in the quarterfinals.
Drabek, who next meets pre-tournament favorite Alec McKenna (37-3) of New Trier, dispatched Parker Stratton from DeKalb (7-0) to guarantee his place in the front draw.
"I can't tell you how much I missed wrestling, and how much I enjoy being back in the room and competing in matches for myself and my team," said the junior.
Just around the new year, Drabek suffered a serious eye injury after a collision with a teammate's knee, resulting in surgery which kept him out of action for nearly a month.
"When I got the OK to come back, it meant having to wear this big mask -- but I didn't mind, I just wanted to be back out there," Drabek said.
Teammates Joey Laurie and Matt Hutchison of Mundelein steered clear of trouble to stay alive heading into Saturday. Laurie (34-9) delivered a gritty 8-7 victory over Connor Boundy of Barrington.
"He never gave in, even after falling behind on an iffy takedown near the edge, and he just battled and battled until he got back into the match, then got a late takedown to take the lead for good," said Mustangs coach Vinny Jiuditta, who will lead the cheers for his top man when he faces No. 3 Fernie Silva (40-3) of Hononegah, who sent Lake Zurich's Brandon Arteaga (30-5) in wrestlebacks after a 13-2 major decision.
The Bears' Sean Lynch (152) and Alex Zurawski (195) remain alive, with the Zurawski (18-9) next facing Mark Miller (38-6) of Zion-Benton, who sprung the biggest upset of the night when he stunned No. 4 Kailor Hecox (30-3) of Hononegah 5-0.
Around the NSC, Stevenson first-year standout Tyler Harrington (170, 34-5) cruised into the semifinals, where he will face league rival Nick Whitehead (37-5) of Zion-Benton. Whitehead won a prior meeting 10-3.
Warren senior Emery Parker (34-2) was nearly flawless in the 3:15 minutes he was on the mats Friday night. He won by pin over Prairie Ridge senior Charly Popp.
"I feel like I am at 100 percent efficiency right now, and that if I continue to stay at this level, I honestly believe that I can compete for a state title next weekend in Champaign," said Parker, who will meet Barrington junior Julius Smith (27-12) in his semifinal.
The all-important rounds of wrestlebacks will take center stage all throughout the day, leading up to the medal round, scheduled for approximately 3 p.m..