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Dual-team sectional preview / Northwest

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By Mike Garofola

Dual-team sectional preview

This is the 30th dual-team state series, and the sixth since moving to a three-class system. There will be eight sectionals contested around the state this evening, with Conant, Libertyville and Marist hosting a doubleheader, much to the delight of wrestling fans who are still on a high after three days of competiton last weekend in Champaign at the individual state championships

Not to put a damper on the hopes of many clubs throughout the three state classes, but it sure appears everyone will be chasing second-place trophies this weekend behind the No. 1-rated 3A, 2A and 1A teams: Oak Park-River Forest, Montini Catholic and Dakota are far ahead of their competition after dominating their classes individually over the weekend.

One thing is for sure -- fans of all eight Class 3A teams travel strong. They are a fiercely loyal, and will be their in full force to show their support. The atmosphere should be electric, which is wonderful for those on the mats, as many of them will be competing for the final time in their prep careers.

Here's a look at who might survive Tuesday's action and earn the chance to eventually earn some state hardware in Bloomington.

at Conant6 p.m.: Conant (16-2-0) vs. Glenbard North (19-4-0): How they got here: The Cougars fought off a ferocious attack by Mid-Suburban League rivals Barrington and Schaumburg to eke out the conference crown. A week later, fueled by five individual champs, and 11 sectional qualifiers, Conant finished 41 points clear of Schaumburg to win a regional title. Conant has quality throughout the lineup but will be tested by Glenbard North's dominant lower-weight power, which includes four-time state champion Jered Cortez. In order to make a run at its first trip downstate since 2003, the Cougars will need to generate some extra offense and bonus points from their area of strength up top. And Conant will count on junior Bobby Alexander to rally his mates on the other side of their lineup, much like he did last weekend in Champaign, where he earned a well-deserve third-place medal.

Conant standouts: State qualifers Bobby Alexander (132, 39-4), Griff Rose (152, 30-8) and Kyle Preisker (113, 32-8), plus Danny Madonia (120, 34-5), Nick Catalano (138, 21-3), Gus Karapanos (145, 28-10), Dan Andress (160, 34-10), Michael Meier (220, 21-11), Tyler LaBarbera (285, 26-10). The Cougars have been proven to be strong in their duals as well as tournament action , and do well in the tactical side of each type of contest by grabbing bonus points when available. What has made this bunch so successful, however, is it's ability to generate valiant comebacks, even when things look nearly impossible, with a never-say-die attitude.

Glenbard North standouts: State qualifiers Kirk Johansen (106, 37-8, 3rd), Austin Gomez (113, 43-4, 3rd), Patrick Augustyn (120, 36-10), Jon Marmolejo (126, 44-2), Jered Cortez (132, 44-2), Colton Wegner (170), Luke Greenberg (195). The lower weight list of the Panthers just completed a very successful trip downstate, with all but one competitor -- Augustyn -- returning with a state medal. Marmolejo fell just short in his bid to join Cortez atop the podium stand when he dropped a 5-1 decision to another four-time champ, Johnny Jimenez from Marmion Academy. The Panthers are looking to make a seventh consecutive state appearance under coach Mark Hahn.

Oak Park-River Forest (22-1-0) vs. Notre Dame (25-5-0):The No. 1-rated Huskies, who also are second in the latest national poll by Intermat Magazine, arrive here with four state champions and five medalists in the lineup. The quartet of champions -- Walter White Jr. (138), Larry Early (145), Kamal Bey (160) and Devonte Mahomes (170) -- have a combined record of 152-19.

If Augie Genovesi and his assistant, former long-time Conant coach Jim Cartwright and their club pull the upset, it would be a huge upset. With that said, the Dons have a talented roster which includes state qualifiers Jimmy Gallardo (113), Marco Orlandi (160) and big men Robert Hill (182, 42-12) and Michael Mulcrone (285, 40-4).

Next move: The winner tonight advances into the dual-team state quarter-finals to face either Conant or Glenbard North this Saturday (11:00) at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

at Libertyville6 p.m.: Barrington (13-7-0) vs. Libertyville (20-2-0). How they got here: Ken Hoving's club from Barrington was fighting all season long to stay healthy, and its inability to be 100 percent at various points of the season led to several double-digit losses, including one to Conant. But when the Broncos finally were in form, they showed just how dangerous they could be, as witnessed by a strong run in the conference tournament. They got even better after that, generating a terrific team performance to capture the title at a talent-filled McHenry regional.

Sophomore Mitch Stathakis was a pleasant surprise for the Broncos, earning a sixth-place state medal last weekend, while others, such as Julius Smith and Travis Cysewski, enjoyed breakout seasons to help offset heavy graduation losses.

Barrington will have its hands full with the power-packed Wildcats lineup, beginning with state runner-up Steve Polakowski at 120 and a star-filled bunch up top that earned three state medals to bring the final count to four under Hall of Fame coach Dale Eggert, who earlier in the season won his 500th career victory. Libertyville bounced back from a heartbreaking second place finish to Grant at the North Suburban Conference tournament to win its own regional by 21 points over the Bulldogs.

Barrington standouts: State qualifiers Mitch Stathakis (106, 34-6), Matt Conrad (132, 32-12), Julius Smith (160, 29-16) plus Connor Boundy (145, 29-16), Travis Cysewski (170, 30-15), Colin Thomson (182, 24-15), Jack Bornhofen (220, 26-11).

Libertyville standouts: State qualifiers Steve Polakowski (120), Joey Gunther (152), Kayne MacCallum (170, 44-6), Austin Koziol (182), Ken Barbian (220), Chris McDermand (285) plus Nick Andrews (145, 29-15), Colton Bast (160, 25-13).

Next move: The winner tonight advances into the dual-team state quarter-finals to face either Prospect or Hononegah this Saturday (11:00) at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

Prospect (22-4-0) vs. Hononegah (20-2-0) How they got here: The Knights had a wonderful regular season, one year after losing nearly all of its top talent in the upper weights. Prospect finally got a long-awaited title at the Glenbrook South regional when it outdistanced postseason nemesis New Trier. Prospect coach Tom Whalen's club was handed a tough sectional draw with its No. 4-rated opponent. The strength of Hononegah is right in the middle of its lineup, with state runners-up Silva and Demoss leading the way. Prospect will look to neutralize that edge with an evenly balanced group which came to life in the regionals.

Prospect standout: State qualifiers James Ford (225, 35-14) plus Mike Ragucci (152, 19-6), Matt Wroblewski (160, 34-9), Brian Maigler (170, 30-12), Tanner Strobel (182, 31-12), Jackson Wrede (195, 30-13).

Hononegah standouts: State qualifiers Fernie Silva (145, 44-5), Tyler Demoss (170, 42-6), Zach Benkovich (160, 37-8) plus Keegan Powers (120, 38-6), Tanner Anthony (152, 40-8), Jake Flower (182, 28-12), Matt Jacobs (195, 29-13).

Next move: The winner tonight advances into the dual-team state quarterfinals to face either Barrington or Libertyville at 11 a.m. Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

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