CHAMPAIGN -- The medal count might not have ended up exactly as expected, but for Conant's Bobby Alexander, Schaumburg's Matt Stopka and Barrington's Mitch Stathakis, the weekend at State Farm Arena still proved most memorable.
Alexander, who awoke a sleepy crowd on Friday when he briefly put No. 1 Jered Cortez (Glenbard North) to his back in the semifinals, came out firing once again Saturday afternoon, getting a pin in his opener to ensure a second state medal.
Alexander later put a ribbon on a marvelous three days by defeating Ameen Hamdan of Marist to capture Class 3A third-place honors at 132 pounds as the state tournament drew to a close.
"People were coming up to me today still excited about his pin in 46 seconds in his semifinal against Dan Ratcliffe," said Conant coach Chad Hay, "And his brief moment of surprise against Cortez, and the way he pinned his guy so quickly in his first wrestleback . . . and there's a lot of excitement when his name is mentioned this weekend."
Alexander earned the 39th state medal in the program's storied history.
"Yeah, I guess it's all kind of exciting," said Alexander (39-4), who remained very matter-of-fact after his best finish here, following a fifth-place result two years ago. "The plan at the start of the year was to get back down here and come away with a better finish than my first visit here. Although I would have rather been wrestling tonight for a state championship, there's a lot to be happy about with this third-place finish."
The three-time MSL champ will enter his final high school season next November with 111 careeir victories.
"You have to remember that two of Bobby's losses this season where to the No. 6-rated guy in the country (Cortez), so he's right there with all of the best and I know with the way he trains and works in the off-season he will be one to keep an eye on down here next February."
Conant next prepares for No. 1 Oak Park-River Forest in Tuesday's 3A dual-team sectional match at home.
After falling one win short of a medal last season in his first trip here, Stopka (36-7) made sure his second time around had a better result.
He made his second trip to the state tournament a success, as the Schaumburg senior emerged with a fifth-place trophy after defeating Josh Meyers (35-9) of Marmion Academy 10-5 in his last match under coach Mike Levanti.
"That was a tough loss to the top-rated kid from Lockport, Tyler Johnson, last night in the semifinals, and the real difficult thing is to come back the next day with a strong mental approach in order to wrestle that first match in wrestlebacks, knowing a win means a medal and a loss sends you home," said Levanti after his two-time MSL champ defeated Eric Johnson (10-2) of Plainfield Central to secure a top-six finish at 195 pounds.
A rough third day at the tournament for Barrington super soph Mitch Stathakis (34-6) didn't dampen the spirits of coach Ken Hoving and assistant Adrian Gonzalez. Stathakis suffered a 5-2 loss to Jimmy McAuliffe (Marist) in the fifth-place bout.
"You have to remember this is his first trip down, and as a sophomore he advanced into the semifinals on his second day here and came away with a medal," said Hoving. "That says a lot about this young man."
Hoving's team is at Libertyville Tuesday night to take on the host Wildcats in another 3A dual-team sectional.
"This last day of results will stay with Mitch long enough to help motivate his off-season, and his desire to get back here next year and compete for a state title," said Gonzalez. "So leaving here with three straight losses will eventually become a real positive instead of a negative, which he's probably feeling right now."
Early in the day, Barrington junior Julius Smith (29-16) was eliminated from the tournament (5-1) in his second round match in wrestlebacks by eventual fourth-place medalist Tom Brewster of Maine South.
Maine West junior Joey Vogeney was victimized by a fall in the closing moments of the second period from eventual sixth-place medalist Dru Worker (Mt. Carmel, 35-16).
"Joey is obviously disappointed with that result, especially when he got out (in) front and looked so good in that first period," said Maine West coach Lance Weber.
"But he wrestled into the third day of the tournament, and that says a lot about him. He gained so much valuable experience during his first trip down. He had a great year, with 41 wins, and he's back next year. I know these three days will go a long way in his development."