There were some new faces in their lineup, but it was the same great result for the Wheeling wrestling team Saturday afternoon at the 53rd Annual Rus Erb Tournament.
The Wildcats took a comfortable 32-point lead into the final round of the 19-team tourney at Glenbrook South, and they never looked back as they won the championship for the third straight year with 171 points.
Normal West and Oswego tied for second place with 140.5 points while Lake Park had a solid sixth-place showing (120 points) in the Lancers' first-ever appearance in the Erb tourney.
Batavia took seventh place with 112 points followed by Addison Trail (102.5) in eighth, Buffalo Grove (98) in ninth, and Wauconda (86) in 11th. Lakes placed 12th while Carmel Catholic placed 14th.
Wheeling's drive for first place was led by individual champion Manny Ramirez, who posted an 8-7 comeback victory over Batavia freshman Mikey Caliendo in the 120-pound finals.
The Wildcats got second-place finishes from Mason Skloot (160), and Angel Villegas (170) as Skloot had a 2-point takedown taken away from him in his 7-4 loss to Oswego's Allen Swanson. Wheeling also got a third-place medal from John Smith at 145.
"We definitely had a lot of contributors, and we've got a good group of guys who come out and fight for themselves and their team," said Wheeling coach Charlie Curran, who took over for long-time coach Neal Weiner this season. "The guys in the finals looked really good, and this is a really good step for Manny (Ramirez) to get a win in the finals after being down at least 4-1 or 5-1."
Lake Park also had an individual champion as 152-pound senior Vince Liebich (21-1) recorded a pin in 3:53 in the finals. Liebich's tourney included two pins and two technical falls on his way to the crown.
"It was a good tournament and I think I wrestled pretty well," said Liebich. "We ended yesterday in second place, but in the wrestlebacks today we lost some close ones so that set us back, but overall we had a good tournament."
The Lancers got a second from Demarco Lee at 195, and a second from Anthony Gulyk at 220 while senior teammate Zach Schleimer placed third at 182.
"Vince (Liebich) is a very tough kid, he's got a great skill set, and he's shooting to place at state," said Lake Park coach Tony Cirrincione. "They wrestled tough in moments, but we had some guys who left some points on the table."
Batavia's squad was led by 195-pound champion Ethan Towers, who recorded a pin in 3:54 for his first-place medal.The Bulldogs got a second from Caliendo at 120, and a third from Alex Cruz (126) with a pin in 5:04.
"I'm proud of Alex (Cruz) for coming back from a 7-point deficit to get that pin," said Batavia coach Scott Bayer. "We lost some scorers early which makes it hard for us to win a tournament like this, but it's early in the season."
Buffalo Grove's upper weights were impressive with 220-pounder T.J. West (15-3) taking home the title with an 11-6 decision over Gulyk in the finals.
The Bison also got a fourth from 285-pounder Tommy Konwent.
Carmel Catholic junior Riley Palm (17-0) continued to impress as he won the 138-pound crown to remain undefeated on the season. The Corsairs also got a second from 126-pounder Anthony Schaer. Palm is only ranked 10th in Class 2A, but he beat No. 8-ranked Class 3A wrestler Reece Heller of Marian Catholic for first place.
"I didn't really change my style from last year, I just changed the way I think, and I'm a lot more confident," said Palm, who placed sixth in the state as a sophomore. "I'm looking to win it this year, and I've just got to keep my mentality up."
Carmel was very short-handed for the tourney, but the Corsairs did pretty well all things considered.
"We brought six guys to this tournament and three got medals so I'm happy with that," said Carmel coach Bob Kuykendall. "He (Palm) is still undefeated, and he's a year-round wrestler and that shows through. And he will continue to work every day to get better."
Wauconda also had a champion in 182-pound senior Zac Finn (14-2) with a pin in 3:17. The Bulldogs also got thirds from Evan Husko (120), and Delon Kanari (132) while teammate Mickey Landvick (170) placed fourth.
Carmel's Tommy Hoy placed third at 152 by edging Lakes' Kurtis Smith 5-3.The Eagles also got a third from Jack Brunati at 220, and a fourth from Gavin Kafka at 160. Wheeling got fourths from Eric Le (113), Brian Madrigal (132), and Romel Hernandez (220).