Mitch Stathakis maintained his perfect postseason record following yet another sparkling weekend performance on the wrestling mats.
The Barrington sophomore was virtually flawless on Saturday at the Broncos' home, using a lethal attack to defeat two challengers, the last coming in the 106-pound final against Ulises Jacobo of DeKalb. Stathakis pinned the sophomore at 1:47 to capture the only championship crown for the Mid-Suburban League at the Barrington sectional.
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The Broncos' Stathakis, Matt Conrad and Julius Smith will lead a contingent from the MSL to the state tournament in Champaign starting Thursday. Also advancing were first-timers Tulga Zunnbayan of Wheeling, James Ford of Prospect and heavyweight Tyler Cooke of Hersey.
"I don't think it can get any better than this," admitted Stathakis, now 32-3 overall after capturing his third consecutive tournament crown before a big crowd. "It's kind of a dream to win a sectional championship here at home, and in doing so, qualify into the state tournament."
His 14-2 major decision on Friday was just a hint of what was to follow, and on Saturday morning, a fall at 3:01 over Michael Lynch of New Trier showed Stathakis meant business.
"Last year I qualified here but I was out pretty quick. This year, I felt like I belonged, and that I was capable of winning it all if I did everything that Adrian (Gonzalez) has shown me along the way, and the things he and I have trained on."
The final was a technical beauty, when just 1:47 into the first period, and out of a scramble, Stathakis produced a lower leg cradle to put away Jacobo for good.
"He was just hanging over me, and I hit the cradle, and there's no real way out," said Stathakis, who with this title has likely earned a top-four seed downstate.
Conrad (31-11) put himself into a position to do the same -- but Troy Parent of Grant put a wrench into those plans.
The Barrington senior looked on course to ride off with a championship ring himself when Grant's senior came back from a 2-0 deficit to level things later at 3-3 and send the final into overtime. An escape with 14 seconds remaining in the third extra session did in the Broncos veteran.
Smith, who has been living on the edge during the past three weekends, with one exciting last-minute victory after another to keep his postseason hopes alive, ran out of good fortune when the junior dropped a 5-0 decision in his third-place bout at 160 pounds to Charley Popp (32-5) of Prairie Ridge. Earlier in the day, Smith (28-14) lost to eventual division champ Emery Parker (36-2) of Warren in the semifinals at 160 pounds.
Zuunbayan made his second straight trip here his most memorable when the Wheeling sophomore marched all the way into the 138-pound final, where he came up short against No. 2 Nick Gil (40-1) of Crystal Lake South in a 5-3 decision.
"If I had that match over I wouldn't have made so many little mistakes, so I guess this week I'll have to work on improving in many things with my wrestling," said the Wheeling sophomore, who is now 39-8.
MSL East and recent regional champion Prospect had a rough day all the way around, with only Ford, a junior, making it out. Teammate Tanner Strobel (182, 31-12), came close to joining him, and workout partner Jackson Wrede (195, 30-13) appeared on course as well until a quarterfinal loss in wrestlebacks to state-ranked Kailor Hecox (Harlem) ended that possibility.
Ford booked his place in the 220-pound state bracket with a thrilling 4-3 ultimate tiebreaker victory over Jack Resnick of Grant. It's Ford's first trip downstate.
"James is such a great kid and great teammate, and someone who never stops working. And it showed when he needed it last night with his OT win in the quarters, and again when it really counted," said Prospect coach Tom Whalen.
Both coach Jim Wormsley and assistant Al Zinke predicted early this season that Cooke (27-11) had the best chance to make it downstate for Hersey, and they proved to be correct.
The junior from Hersey won three straight wrestleback matches, including his state qualifer over Alex Roach (30-8) of DeKalb, before falling in OT to Denatra Moshi of Glenbrook South in the third-place match.
"Coach Wormsley and Zinke only recently told me (they) thought I'd be going downstate, so I wasn't aware of that, but it still felt pretty good when I heard it from them," said Cooke.
"The reason Tyler is going because he has never stopped working the entire season," said Zinke, "and most of the time, that will get you where you want to be."