CHAMPAIGN -- Lake County's elite competitors outclassed their foes competition Thursday night as the state wrestling tournament got started at State Farm Arena on the University of Illinois campus.
Jordan Reich (Vernon Hills, 120, 39-4), Nate Magiera (Wauconda, 220, 45-1) and Libertyville's Steve Polakowski (120, 40-1) and Kayne MacCullum (170, 40-1) each trumped their opponents, sending all four into Friday's quarterfinals. The road will only get tougher for this quartet and the others competing in the championship bracket.
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The Class 2A quarterfinals are set to begin at 11:30, with 3A following immediately thereafter. Semifinals are scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Princeton-bound Reich drew into the toughest side of the bracket, as his 5-4 win sets up a date with No. 1-ranked Kyle Akins (43-0) of Sycamore, who is after a second straight state title this weekend.
"I obviously would have rather seen (Kyle) later in the tournament, which would hopefully have meant the championship match, but I am still looking forward to seeing him again, after losing (3-1) at the Mid-States tournament earlier in the year," said the Cougars senior, who was third here last season.
Reich's NSC Prairie peer Magiera looked in championship form after dominating Geri Mallett (Oak Forest, 27-11) in his first-rounder, which ended with a fall at 3:09.
"That loss to (Edgar) Ruano last weekend for the sectional title stung a little bit, but it helped me focus and work a little harder during this last week to get me ready for a run at the title," said the Wauconda senior, who entered the tourney as the No. 2-rated '20-pounder behind Montini's Ruano (33-4).
In a terrific 120-pound division, the No. 2-rated Polakowski, under the watchful eyes of the competition, sent a clear message to his rivals that he is a serious contender for a title.
"I just wanted to go out, wrestled hard from the very start, and get six strong minutes in to help me get ready for tomorrow," said the Wildcats senior, who did everything but reach the six-minute mark as he recorded a technical fall at 5:08 over Anfarnee Rodgers (35-11) of Glenbard East. Next up for Polakowski is Colt Kielbasa (31-17) of Marist.
MacCullum, who last week validated his No. 3 ranking at 170 pounds with a sectional crown at Barrington, opened up with a strong 5-2 victory over Joey Vogeney (41-7) of Maine West.
"He's a little like me -- we're both kind of long, and our style is kind of funky, but he wrestled well and was tough in the tie-ups," said MacCullum, making his third straight state appearance. "But on the first night of the tournament, all you're trying to do is get the win and move on."
Antioch's Briley Schultz (34-4) began well, with an 11-1 victory at 106 pounds, and next meets No. 2 Francis Edelen (39-3) of Oak Forest in a Class 2A quarterfinal.
Lakes senior Kavan Mulloy (145, 34-6) impressed in an 8-4 decision over Brayton Williams (29-10) of Civic Memorial to erase a disappointing one-and-done here a year ago. He'll next meet No. 2 Jose Champagne (27-0) of Marian Catholic.
"What a great start for Kavan tonight -- he came out and pushed the pace from the very beginning, and never let up," said Lakes coach Mark Stave.
Carmel Catholic senior Anthony Swindell (35-9) was all smiles long after his first win, a 4-1 decision over Jermaine Pryor (40-5) of Carbondale, to advance in the quarters at 138 pounds against No. 6 Stephen Richardson (38-3) of Pontiac.
"First time downstate in my final year at Carmel, so it was great to get the win to stay alive," said the Corsairs star, who used a nifty throw-by for 2 points to help his cause.
Freshman George Bessette (Antioch, 195, 38-5) will be in the 2A quarterfinals, as will Joey Gunther (152, 37-6) and heavyweight Chris McDermond (38-3) of Libertyville. So will Emery Parker of Warren (37-2), who picked up where he left off after a marvelous sectional tournament with a pin at 1:20 at 152 pounds.
Stevenson junior Tyler Harrington (36-6) won a high-scoring affair against Colton Wegner of Glenbard North (14-11) and next faces No. 2 Bryce Gorman (42-0) of Lincoln-Way Central, with a chance to shake up the top half of the 170-pound bracket.
"I was a little nervous out there before the match, but I felt really good out there, but I need to clean a few things up before my next match in order to give it a real go against Gorman," said Harrington.