After picking up two more wins in a triple-dual meet Thursday night, the Stevenson wrestling team will be taking some momentum into the Christmas break this weekend.
After rolling past Bartlett's short-handed squad 67-9 in their first meet, the host Patriots (11-1) overcame a 16-9 deficit midway through the meet en route to a 45-19 nonconference victory over Grayslake Central in the second round.
Both the Rams (6-6), and Bartlett (6-12) were plagued by numerous forfeits, but Grayslake Central wound up with an impressive 48-18 victory over the Hawks in the first round despite only eight matches being contested in their head-to-head meet.
Starting at 132 pounds, the Rams got off to a solid start against Stevenson as Riley Gomez posted a 7-3 decision over Matthew Zimring before 138-pound teammate Joey Murphy added a 7-4 decision over Michael Karp to stake Grayslake Central to an early 6-0 advantage.
But that lead would not last long as Stevenson 145-pounder Jake Simon recorded a pin in 1:12 before 152-pound teammate Muzi Sitshela's hard-fought 3-1 decision over Austin Connelly (19-3) gave the Patriots a 9-6 lead.
The Rams bounced back strong in the next two bouts starting with No. 4-ranked 160-pound freshman Adrien Cramer (18-3) getting a technical fall with just one second left in the third period.
Then No. 1-ranked 170-pound junior Alex Cramer (21-1) only took 2:27 to eliminate his opponent with a technical fall and Grayslake Central was back in front with a 16-9 lead at that point.
Alex Cramer and Connelly are both two-time state qualifiers in Class 2A, and Cramer's only loss this season was to Huntley's David Ferrante, who placed fourth in Class 3A last year as a freshman.
"I'm feeling good, and my wrestling has been improving this year," said Alex Cramer, whose team will be hosting the individual sectional in February. "We've got some guys out, but if we have everybody healthy and ready to compete we can win regionals."
The Patriots started to take command of the meet when Dan Ganzman captured an 8-3 decision over Ethan Lester at 182 to cut the gap to 16-12. Then Max Gomez added a forfeit win at 195, and the Pats led 18-16.
At 220, Grayslake Central sophomore Kyle Amodia had a near fall against Stevenson's Ean Norenberg early in their match. But Norenberg weathered the storm and pulled out a 9-8 decision to give the hosts the lead for keeps at 21-16.
"Right now we're a little banged up, we've got some weight issues with some kids, but once we get our full lineup I think we can compete for a regional title," said Grayslake Central coach Matt Joseph, who wrestled for coach Rick Mann at Hersey. "This year he (Alex Cramer) came in a lot more focused, he's a leader in the room, and I've really been impressed with him."
Forfeits spelled doom for the Rams as forfeit victories for Stevenson at 285, 106, and 113 put the meet out of reach with a commanding 39-16 lead.
Grayslake Central's Jayson Weidman held off Stevenson 113-pounder Yoni Leibovitz 8-6 before Stevenson 120-pound standout Tommy Frezza closed out the meet with a pin in 1:22.
"We know Grayslake Central is a very competitive team, they are well-coached by Matt Joseph, and that is why we wanted them on the schedule," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "We're pleased with where we're at right now in the season, but we understand there is a lot of work to be done."
Bartlett took four forfeits against the Rams, and five against the Pats. Junior Trent Johnson (18-3) led the Hawks with two victories at 182 while 132-pound teammate Paul Kearns (15-8) went 1-1 on the night.
"Individual-wise we're doing really well improving in the room, and at Niles West we had four kids place fifth going 4-1 on the day," said Bartlett coach John Glorioso. "He (Johnson) has been our best wrestler for a couple of years, and he's going to be wrestling at 170 for the state tournament."