Libertyville collectively flexed its muscle Saturday in Barrington, and Warren's Emery Parker validated his chances as a trophy chaser in the upcoming week as the Class 3A state tournament begins.
The Wildcats, who are on their way to the dual-team sectionals later this month, won four individual titles and will send six downstate after a successful second day of sectional wrestling Saturday at Barrington.
North Suburban Conference champion Grant will have five in action Thursday in Champaign, including 132-pound champion Troy Parent (30-9). Lake Zurich will send three into action later in the week.
Libertyville's Steve Polakowski won his second consecutive sectional title with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Cary-Grove's Michael Cullen at 120 pounds. Their meeting was the result of two fierce days of battling in a talent-laden group which left behind state-ranked Keegan Powers (38-6) of Hononegah, who fell to Andrew Mehrholz (46-4) of Deerfield in a wrestleback semifinal Saturday afternoon.
"This was a tough group right from the start, and as I said from the very beginning, it didn't matter whether I won by 1 or 11," said Polakowski. "The idea coming in was to wrestle smart, be sharp in each match, keep focused and get myself ready for what I hope will be a state title next weekend."
Polakowski improved to 39-1.
"Steve is all business this season, and where he lacked the focus needed in order to challenge for a state medal, he definitely has it this year," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert.
The Wildcats senior slipped free of Cullen after starting down in the second period, then scored off a low shot to make it 3-0 until Cullen drew closer with an escape with 35 seconds remaining in the period.
The two-time state medalist pulled nearer with an escape midway through the final period, but Polakowski, who showed early on against Mehrholz that he could ride out a victory, did just that.
The Wildcats' Kayne MacCallum, who last season here lost an epic 11-10 OT title bout to eventual state runner-up Hunter Rollins of Hersey, erased those ghosts with an 8-4 victory over Stevenson junior Tyler Harrington (35-6) to win the 170-pound crown.
"When I went into (OT) with Tyler Demoss (Hononegah, 39-5) in my semifinal on the same mat that I lost to Rollins on, I said to myself there's no way that's happening again this time around," said MacCallum, who went on to defeat the No. 2 rated Demoss 3-2 in an ultimate tie-breaker to firm up his No. 3 ranking in the state, and more importantly, a top-four seed at the state tournament.
The Wildcats senior followed Joey Gunther's title run at 152 pounds over Matt Macarus (DeKalb, 32-10) to give the club its third title in three tries before Chris McDermand (37-3) made it four-of-five after an impressive 5-0 decision over Jeremy Marshall (40-6) of Dundee-Crown.
"It feels good to come out of here with a sectional championship, but I feel like the best is yet to come if I continue to wrestle as well as I have of late," said the big senior, who earned a second trip downstate.
Kevin Barbian (220, 35-4) fell just short in his bid to climb atop the podium when he dropped a heartbreaking 4-2 decision in overtime to Sage Hecox (36-2) of Harlem.
Warren's Parker had the look of a champion from the very start of action late Friday afternoon, recording a fall at 3:15 in his tourney opener, followed by a nifty 4-0 win over Julius Smith of Barrington and ending with a commanding performance in the 160-pound final with a pin over No. 3-rated Zach Benkovich (36-7) of Hononegah.
"I accomplished what I set out to do this weekend, and that was to win a sectional title and establish myself as one of the favorites to win a state championship next weekend," said the Warren senior.
"Emery didn't play football this fall in order to concentrate solely on wrestling, and his work ethic and focus are right where they need to be for a serious run at state, and he showed just that in beating a top ranked opponent like Benkovich," said Warren coach Jim Ouimette.
Fans of Grant saw their heroes come through when called upon, as Parent outlasted Matt Conrad (31-11) of Barrington (4-3 in OT) to capture his first sectional title and Nick Koch (38-5) coming close to doing likewise after a 2-0 loss to Travis Piotrowski (Prairie Ridge) in the final at 113 pounds.
Sophomore Christian Kanzler (39-5) came all the way through wrestlebacks to earn a third-place finish at 106 pounds and a trip downstate. Joining him will be junior Mike Kouvelis (36-9), who won three straight in wrestlebacks to advance before falling to Brandon Arteaga (34-5) of Lake Zurich in a third-place bout.
The topsy-turvy world of wrestlebacks was never so stunning as in the case of Bulldogs junior Noak Drabek (24-4), who fought for his wrestling life in his last two bouts to live another day at 126 pounds.
"I don't think I've ever been put to my back in my last three matches here, but after losing in my semifinal to (Alec) McKenna from New Trier, the eventual division champion, I don't know what happened against Chris Danka (Jacobs) but I was on my back and down 5-2," said Drabek, as he recounted a scary moment during his wrestleback semifinal.
Not to worry -- Drabek finally got back even at 5, then again at 10 before a takedown with 9 seconds to go in the first OT session put him into the state tournament. He later defeated Ricky Vigil of Huntley (8-5) to win a third-place medal.
"Noah was basically on his way home and out of here, then he somehow found a way to pick himself up, and stay alive -- it was ridiculous," said Grant coach Ryan Geist.
Koch, who finished fourth here a year ago and sixth at the state tournament at 106 pounds, heads downstate with a 38-5 record at 106 pounds.
"There's a certain comfort level this time around after going downstate for the first time last year and dealing with all the nervous moments that go along with being down there on the big floor, so I feel very confident how things will be for me this year," said Koch.
Despite not reaching the championship bout, LZ's Arteaga was nontheless thrilled to finally cement his first trip to Champaign.
"It's a huge weight off my shoulder to get there after not making it down there after qualifying twice before into the sectionals, and it was really something to do in a weight class that was as tough as 145 was," said the Bears senior, who had to beat NSC rival Nick Andrews of Libertyville in his state qualifier match.
One of the casualties of this terrific group was Mundelein senior Joey Laurie, who lost to Kouvelis in his state qualifier bout, thus ending a great career and 2014 season in which he finished 34-11.
Lake Zurich's Sean Lynch will be joining Arteaga as well as senior Alex Zurawski (195, 20-10) on the bus trip down following a fourth-place medal at 152 pounds. Hounded by a nagging shoulder injury, Lynch (8-1) will be making his third appearance downstate. This one, he says, is the sweetest of all three.
"Dealing with this injury has been frustrating, as it limited me to just a few matches before getting here," said Lynch, who will attend Drake University next fall and play football. "But I've never felt better about making it downstate than this year, and it's going to be great getting down there one last time, to see what I can do when I get there."