BLOOMINGTON -- The star-studded and much-anticipated state dual-team quarterfinal between Libertyville and Hononegah turned out to be everything all had expected, unless you were proudly wearing the orange and black of Libertyville.
The Wildcats (21-3-0) were bounced out of the tournament following a heartbreaking 32-24 loss Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, thus ending a memorable season, as well as the wrestling careers of eight competitors in the Wildcats' lineup Saturday.
"This was a special group we had this year, especially the seniors who came in here four years ago and did all the extra work in the room and during the off-season to become one of the best we've had here in quite a while," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert, who spent a long time away from the masses with his club, before sending them all on their way.
"There was nothing we didn't know about Hononegah, and we got out to a pretty good start. However, we lost a couple of key matches along the way, and in the end, we just didn't have our best day, and now the season is over."
In the first meeting between these two Class 3A teams, the Indians eked out a 33-26 victory, with both sides winning seven bouts, with the difference coming in three major decisions and a forfeit, giving coach Jason Glodowski's club the win.
"Libertyville is so good, and their coaches are better than just about anyone else," Glodowski said. "You can imagine. All week long, me and my coaching staff were going through one scenario after another, trying to pick apart where we could get the advantage and were we might be in trouble at a certain weight. I felt we were ready on that level, but in reality, it was up to the guys today."
Hononegah (27-3) was in full confidence at the onset, with 145-pound state runner-up Fernie Silva getting a pin at 2:58 to put the Indians on top 6-3.
Nick Andrews (33-14) and Kayne MacCullum (45-2) drew Libertyville back level with hard-fought wins at 152 and 170 pounds. But when Tyler Demoss (44-6), who was runner-up at 170 last weekend in Champaign, successfully bumped up to 182 with a 14-6 major decision -- which was followed by a 9-4 win from Matt Jacobs (30-13) over Mark Dunsing -- the Indians extended their lead to 16-9.
"That was our biggest win," said Glodowski, adding his senior had been looking forward to this match all week long after losing to Dunsing (6-3) at the Dvorak Invite in December.
"(It) was a difficult match to watch because we knew we had (Kevin) and (Chris) McDermand coming up at (220) and (285)," Eggert said. "We figured there was a chance to put some distance between the both of us. So that was an important result for both teams."
True to form and, as expected, Barbian (36-6) earned a 6-5 decision, while his teammate McDermand (43-5) lowered the boom on Trenton Babcock at 2:19 to breathe some life into the Wildcats.
However, the trio of Alex Rader (106), Brady Powers (113) and Aaron Leppert (120) went to work, putting their club in the lead for good with 13 unanswered points.
Minnesota-bound and 120-pound state runner-up Steve Polakowski (44-2) throttled Keegan Powers with a fall at 1:14 to make it 29-24. But Christian Fausel guaranteed a top-four finish for the Indians with a 7-0 shutout at 132 to send the NIC-10 champs into the semifinals, where top-rated Oak Park-River Forest (28-10) took a step closer to its second state title in program history after a 62-6 blowout.
"We figured we could get six or seven wins," Eggert said. "We got six, but we just didn't win the important matches.
"Brooks, Andrews, MacCullum and Polakowski all had great matches today, and as we told all of them afterward, there was a lot to be proud of this year, including wins over several state-ranked teams, winning a regional over Grant and getting downstate. It truly was a very special year for them and the program."