Scouting conference wrestling
Mid-Suburban LeagueWhere: Prospect
When: Saturday: 9 a.m. (2:30 p.m. finals)
Defending champ: Barrington
Lowdown: Talk to any coach in the league, and they'll agree this will be a four-team race for the championship.
Division champs Barrington and Wheeling get the edge from their brethren as the teams to beat, while divisional runners-up Conant and Prospect have plenty of firepower and are not to be overlooked.
"The top tier in the MSL is clear, but if everyone is healthy on that day, it has to be a two-team race between Barrington and Wheeling," said Schaumburg coach Michael Levanti, who last year celebrated a trio of MSL champions -- all of whom moved on to wrestle on the collegiate level.
Defending champion Barrington is widely recognized as the team best suited to the tournament format -- a fact not lost on Wheeling coach Neal Weiner, whose Wildcats presented him with his first MSL East crown since 2008.
"Barrington is an excellent tournament team, so it will be important for us to place as many as we can, while looking to add bonus points wherever possible," said Weiner, whose own Manny Ramirez is a returning MSL champ.
Says Weiner's counterpart at Barrington, Dave Udchik: "I'll give the edge to Wheeling."
Last season, a 6-3 win from Alex Crook in a third-place bout sealed a second straight MSL title for Barrington, by just 1.5 points in a 205.5-204 outcome against Prospect.
"It's a team sport this weekend, and just as we did last year, we'll need as many bonus points as we can from all of our guys, while on the flip side, avoid giving up bonus points to other teams," said Udchik.
That same recipe for success has served Chad Hay's Conant team well over the years.
"Yes, it's a four-team race, but for both us and Prospect, it might be a little more of an uphill battle," said Hay. "Barrington and Wheeling are wrestling really well right now, but in the end, it comes down to injuries, sickness and who might be held out to get some rest."
Hay figures seeds are more important than ever, as are bonus points and success in the consolation rounds since this tournament was moved from two days down to one.
"There won't be full wrestle-backs for third place, so you must make it to the semifinals to finish in the top four," said Hay. "So that fight is more important then ever."
There's little doubt that Matt Wroblewski (Prospect, 22-0 at 220) and Markus Hartman (Barrington, 32-1 at 145) have the inside track to titles, along with heavyweight standout Zack Nemec (Fremd, 30-1).
Beyond those classes, it appears the 113-, 152- and 160-pound divisions may offer some of the best viewing options for fans.
113: Andrew Baysinger (Prospect, 24-4), Alex Giuliano (Conant, 22-7), Tyler Priola (Barrington, 14-14), Manny Ramirez (Wheeling, 34-4). Three of the preceding four are state-ranked, with No. 10 Baysinger having wins against all three, including No. 11 (Ramirez), who has 1-point victories over Giuliano (5-4) and Priola.
152: Jake Cysewski (Barrington, 29-8), Adam Kemp (Fremd, 21-9), Michael Womeldorf (Rolling Meadows, 14-2), Dan Wozniak (Conant, 23-8): Broncos four-year veteran Cysweski decisioned both Kemp (6-5) and Montiel (4-2) in OT, so he's the one to beat for now. But keep an eye on the offensive-minded Womeldorf, who appears to be rounding into shape after spending time on the injured list.
160: Quinn Bergles (Fremd, 24-5), Dan Rasmussen (Barrington, 26-7), Jalen Shaw (Wheeling, 25-4): The Rasmussen-Shaw camps will have their tactical plan in place for a potential Berman Holiday Class rematch final (wich Rasmussen won). But beware of Bergles, who quietly has put together a solid season and would like nothing more to spoil their party.
East Suburban CatholicWhere: Carmel
When: 3:30 p.m. Friday
Defending champion: Marist
Lowdown: It appears that in this, his 39th and final year as head coach at Notre Dame, Augie Genovesi's team is gearing up to give the long-time coach the perfect going-away present.
The Dons appear to have enough this year to outscore the challengers, including perennial champ Marist, which has fallen on a bit of hard times after consecutive big-time graduation hits.
"Maybe this really is our time," said Genovesi after his club went 3-0 last week at the ESCC Mega-Duals, including a win over reigning conference champ Marist.
Geneovesi and his long-time friends and right-hand men, Jim Cartwright and Bill Scully, who coached at Conant and Hoffman Estates and later would go into the IWCOA Hall of Fame, have pieced together a solid state-ranked club led by 2016 state qualifier Josh Barzowski at 152 pounds.
Should Marian Catholic get back its three state-ranked stars, including 2016 2A state champs Travis Ford-Melton (120) and Kordell Norfleet (182), who were no-shows at the Mega-Duals, the Spartans immediately become a threat because of the bonus points they'd likely provide.
So, where do the rest of the teams fit into the picture?
Jason Churak (St. Viator), Bob Kuykendall (Carmel) and David Silva of Marian Central Catholic all feel their teams are within striking distance of a top-four spot.
Churak points to a quartet of athletes, beginning with No. 3-rated Class 2A heavyweight James (Tony) Valentino. He's undefeated thus far and on his way to Brown University next fall to wrestle.
Jake Wolf, in his first full year with the St. Viator varsity, has been outstanding at 170 pounds, while teammates Mike Dziedzic and Joe DeBartolo, who combined for nearly 50 wins a year ago, are expected to be in the medal mix.
Kuykendall expects the same from his big four of Christian Valadez (106), Yovanie Garcia (138), Bobby Pryhocki (145) and Tommy Hoy (152).
Marian Central's first-year head coach is leaning on his foursome of Daniel Valeria (120), Tony Randazzo (132) and brothers Anthony (145) and Luke Silva (152), who have all combined for over 110 victories in their prep careers.
"We not only just need wins from those guys, but bonus point wins if we want to have a chance at finishing top three," says Silva.
-- Mike Garofola