The time is here.
The marathon wrestling season is about to head into the most important time of the year, and with it, there's little room for error at the various regional venues that welcome teams from our area throughout the three state classes.
What happened during the regular season is washed away to give every participant a clean slate, regardless of won-loss record.
Here's a quick look at regionals, and how they might shake down when all is over:
At DeKalb: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Barrington sectional. Team champion advances to Huntley dual-team sectional.
Teams: Huntley, Jacobs, Auburn, DeKalb, Harlem, Hononegah, Jefferson, Rockford East, Rockford Guilford.
Outlook: There's been little opponents of Huntley have been able to do this season against the No. 9 rated Red Raiders (22-3-0) who recently won its second consecutive FVC title while enjoying plenty of success against a first-class tournament schedule.
This, and a high-powered starting lineup, makes them the one to beat here, with the host Barbs, and NIC-10 champ Hononegah, the two who will look to make trouble for BJ Bertelsmans' club.
"The guys have been wrestling very well of late, and even with us missing a few guys in our lineup, we're still able to beat some very good teams. But in a regional like this, you still need some help from others who can steal a few wins and points away to help put you over the top," said Bertelsman, whose men are after that elusive first state dual-team appearance.
The field will concede the heavyweight title to one of the nation's best, Anthony Cassioppi (Hononegah), but the same can likely be said for the Red Raiders quartet of Sammy Spencer (113, 37-4), Zach Spencer (126, 38-5), David Ferrante (160, 26-2) and Juan Quiroz (170, 37-5).
DeKalb has two big stars of its own in No. 2 Fabian Lopez (126, 34-1) and No. 3 Blah Dahnweih (195, 33-3), who hope to help a cause in which Jacobs head coach Gary Conrad feels is all for naught.
"It's Huntley all the way, in my opinion," says Conrad. "BJ has a great lineup, and there will be some separation between the top two and the rest of us (depending) on how the brackets will be seeded, so for us, we're going to try as hard as we can to get six to seven to sectionals, then see what happens from there."
Conrad likes the chances of his top three: Justin Peter (113, 28-5), Jake Harrier (120, 30-3) and Johnny Ridle (23-3) who he feels will do quite well in a tough 138-pound weight class headed by No. 6 Giovanni Cassioppi from Hononegah.
"We're a little under the radar this year after losing so many quality guys to graduation, but we'll have to come ready to wrestle on Saturday."
At Dundee-Crown: Saturday 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Barrington sectional. Team champion advances to Huntley dual-team sectional.
Teams: Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Cary-Grove, Dundee-Crown, Fremd, Lake Zurich, Lake Zurich, McHenry, Mundelein, Palatine.
Outlook: Both Cary-Grove and Dundee-Crown, along with the rest of the field, are on the outside looking in with state power Barrington the clear favorite to collect a spot in the dual sectionals.
The Broncos are at their strongest in the middle of the lineup, and should send most of its starting lineup into its own sectional.
Isaih Ziegler (35-3) is the easy No. 1 seed after completing a wonderful regular season, which has seen the Dundee-Crown senior slowly climb the state poll ladder with each week, where he now stands No. 5 after his recent pin of No. 6, Jose Ramos from Prospect.
"Isaih has worked so hard this season, and his improvement from last year has been amazing," said D-C coach Tim Hayes.
Ziegler was one win away from going downstate a year ago, ending the season with a 20-8 overall record.
Hayes likes the chances of Gabriel Scales (126, 25-10), Brandon Rico (132, 29-10), Colin Mays (138, 25-8) and Wayne Griggel (192, 19-18) who have all improved their combined win totals over last season.
Senior Cadin Koeppel (195, 28-5), who missed most of last season with an injury, has enjoyed a marvelous comeback year, with several victories at 220, which has landed him at No. 10 in the most recent state rankings.
At Glenbard East: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three advance into Larkin sectional. Team champion advances to Oak Park-RIver Forest dual-team sectional.
Teams: Bartlett, Geneva, Glenbard East, Glenbard North, Glenbard West, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, West Chicago, Wheaton North.
Outlook: The group of granite is what this regional site should be called. The top two teams at both recent DVC and UEC tournamanets are here. All four are state ranked, with No. 8 Glenbard North and No. 10 Wheaton North leading the way -- plus dozens of state ranked wrestlers sprinkled all throughout the brackets, making sectional advancement a harrowing proposition for many.
Jason Potter's Saints won the UEC by nearly 60 points over Glenbard East, with the two league giants combining for eight individual champs. Glenbard North was almost 40 better than Wheaton North. The pair collected nine championships.
"This regional is going to be a real buzz-saw," Potter said. "It goes four to five deep in several weight classes (meaning) there's going to be a lot of very good guys not moving on."
Three of his best -- Ben Anderson (35-1), Justin Benjamin (31-4) and Niko Derain (31-3) -- won't have that problem, with each focused on another trip to Champaign, and a state medal.
Geneva senior Michael Donatelli (160, 37-2) has been masterful thus far, and will look to continue his fine form to guarantee a top four seed next week at the Larkin sectional.
"The only thing I've been thinking about is getting downstate and onto the podium," said Donatelli, whose teammate, Honor Nguyen (126, 34-4) is poised to advance.
Bartlett's Trent Johnson (27-7) won his first UEC crown and hopes to use that to stay alive in his bid to get downstate.
No. 1 Abe Assad (Glenbard North, 170, 38-0) along with No. 4 Jaime Suarez (126, 31-4) are the ones to watch for their respective clubs.
"The only way to win a regional like this is to keep as many of your guys alive in order to collect as many points as you can, earn bonus points when you can, win head-to-head matches and hope you get some help from others, especially when you least expect it," said Potter.
At Naperville Central: Saturday 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Hinsdale Central sectional. Team champion advances to Downers Grove South dual-team sectionals.
Teams: Batavia, East Aurora, Marmion Academy, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Waubonsie Valley, West Aurora, Wheaton-Warrenville South.
Outlook: Marmion Academy dealt with more than its share of injuries during the regular season, beginning with state runner-up Nate Jimenez and third-place state medalist Brad Gross, who made his 2017 debut last week in style by winning the 170-pound title at the CCL tournament.
Trevor Chumbley (138, 35-2) has picked up the slack for his fallen mates with a sensational season thus far, which has the Cadets junior currently sitting atop the state polls at 138 pounds.
Depth, and plenty of weekend tournament experience against high profile opponents, makes the Cadets the favorites despite their injury woes, with Batavia and West Aurora their chief rivals here.
"It's hard to predict how things will shake down, because so many of us graduated top wrestlers, which makes the team title up for grabs, in my opinion," said West Aurora coach Andrew Plata, whose club is coming off a strong performance at the UEC, which included 13 individual medalists, led by Johnny Acevado's (28-7) gold medal performance at 152. That same day, Justin Major (138, 19-7) and Angel Cruz (132, 20-10) were crowned champions as well.
At Schaumburg: Saturday 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Larkin sectional. Team champion advances to Oak Park-River Forest dual-team sectional.
Teams: Conant, Elgin, Elk Grove, Hoffman Estates, Lake Park, Larkin, Schaumburg, South Elgin, Streamwood.
Outlook: Unless Conant fails to make it on time, the regional championship is theirs to win for the second consecutive time.
The Cougars' power means everyone else is playing for spots in next week's sectional at Larkin, and for the hometown Royals, and its terrific duo of Diego (23-6) and Jesus Facio (220, 23-5) that means each will be looking to finish stronger than both did at the UEC tourney two weeks ago.
Diego was given the No. 2 seed at the UEC, but had a rough go of it during his last two bouts, ending with the 182-pounder finishing fifth overall. Jesus Facio earned a No. 3 seed, finishing second overall.
The quest for a second straight trip to Champaign begins for Bobby Tornabene (21-13) of South Elgin.
At Belvidere: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Sycamore sectional. Team champion advances to LaSalle-Peru dual-team sectional
Teams: Belvidere, Belvidere North, Boylan, Burlington Central, Freeport, Hampshire, Marengo, Rochelle, Sycamore.
Outlook: The star alone at this venue will be worth the price of admission, as the presence of three No. 1s grace the program here. It begins with Austin Macias (Burlington Central, 126), Casey Allen (Hampshire, 160) and Major Dedmond (Freeport, 170) in addition to No. 2, Alex Harvey (Rochelle) and Macias's teammate, Nick Termini, whose spent most of the year at 145, but will open as the No. 4 rated 138-pounder for the postseason.
The list of state-ranked wrestlers goes on and on, but back to the aforementioned Allen.
The Whips senior appeared ready to add another state medal to the Allen trophy case after winning regionals easily last year, only to have disaster strike as he fell one win short of advancing downstate.
"Not making to Champaign stayed with me all during the offseason, and right into this season," said Allen earlier this season. "My older brother was third in 2016 in his senior year, so this is my last chance, and I plan on getting onto that podium, and hopefully winning it all."
"Casey has been working hard all year to accomplish his goal of getting back to state and placing, and every match of his this year has been done with purpose, and it's his continued work ethic, in and out of the room that will help him realize his goals," said coach Randy Mitty.
The Whips' first-year head coach likes the chances of Christian Rivero (120, 19-8) who won the Richmond-Burton Invite, as well as seniors Nathan Price, Mark Brown and Dominic Senese to move on as well.
At Harvard: Saturday 10 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Grayslake Central sectional. Team champion advances to Fenton dual-team sectional.
Teams: Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Harvard, Johnsburg, Marian Central Catholic, Richmond-Burton, Prairie Ridge, Woodstock, Woodstock North.
Outlook: The first foray into the world of 2A wrestling landed Crystal Lake South in the land of giants with No. 2 Crystal Lake Central and No. 8 Marian Central Catholic, who'll wage a mega-battle for regional supremacy.
"We have a good team, but Marian is very good as well, and for one of us to come out of here with a regional championship, we'll have to take care of our own business, then get some help from a field which includes plenty of talented individuals who could alter the final outcome with where they finish," said Justen Lehr, whose CLC Tigers have made a habit of collecting regional crowns.
This will be the first time in program history that Crystal Lake South will compete in the 2A state class, and its entry led to this response from its long-time head coach, Ross Ryan.
"We're obviously thrilled and excited to be a 2A team. It will give a lot of our guys chances they would never have had at 3A, so we'll look to take advantage of this opportunity here in Harvard, which will be a very tough first regional for us."
Ross has deployed Christian Olson (36-1) and Peyton Timmons (33-3) at the lower end of his lineup, and the pair have been sensational, earning high praise from the aforementioned Lehr, and voters in the polls, who rated Olson 10th, Timmons eighth.
Olson's lone defeat is to Jacob Rundell (Oak Park-River Forest) who is No. 1 in 3A, while all of Timmons' loses are to 3A opponents, including No. 2, Dane Durlacher from Mundelein.
Ross adds the trio of Alex Picchi (126), Jason Burburijia (170) and heavyweight Alec Natrop have legitimate chances to advance.
At Sandwich: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Sycamore sectional. Team champion advances to LaSalle-Peru dual-team sectional.
Teams: Kaneland, Kankakee, Joilet Catholic Academy, Manteno, Morris, Ottawa, Plano, Sandwich, Streator.
Outlook: Former Marmion Academy head coach Ryan Cumby has already begun to assemble a solid bunch in his first year at Joilet Catholic Academy, including the No. 1 man at 106 pounds, DJ Hamiti (33-4) who claimed the top prize at the ESCC tournament one week ago. Cumby doesn't have the horsepower to match favorites Ottawa or Manteno, but JCA could surprise the favorites before the tournament is over.
Kaneland was in the race last year right until the end, but big-time graduation losses have robbed them of four state qualifiers, and three state medalists, leaving sixth-place medal winner, Nathan Orosco.
The junior is sixth in the polls, one behind Rafael Munoz (Ottawa, 32-5) who defeated Orosco (26-6) in the NI-BIG XII final, 7-3, making the 120-pound bracket here the one to watch for the Kaneland faithful.
Calvin McDonald (220) figures to advance, while also challenging for a regional title as well, while Trevor Jones (170) returns after missing all of the regular season due to a knee injury suffered early on.
At Aurora Central Catholic: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Advancement: Top three individuals advance into Oregon sectional. Team champion advances to Morrison dual-team sectional.
Teams: Aurora Christian, Aurora Central Catholic, Genoa-Kingston, Hebron-Alden, Mooseheart, North Boone, Ottawa Marquette, Seneca, Somonauk.
Outlook: Aurora Christian would enjoy a memorable inaugural season a year ago, including a regional title, and three state medal winners, including a state championship from Cameron Johnson, who finished the season a perfect 35-0. Johnson, Zeke Marshall and Noah Villarreal went a combined 99-8, and the trio is at it again, making the Eagles the easy choice to repeat as regional champs.
A new and improved tournament schedule, designed to ready the Eagles for the postseason, included a stop at the DeKalb mega-duals, where Johnson and his mates went 3-2 against 3A teams, and 4-2 overall.
"There's no doubt our schedule this season will better prepare us (both) individually and as a team at regionals, and later dual-team sectionals," said the sophomore.
"We also went to the Cheesehead in January, which is a big-time tournament that gave all of us another great experience."
The Eagles finished 10th out of 32 teams there.
Johnson said newcomers Joel Mylin (106), Tyler Iby (113) and Eli Ibarra (145) have been terrific additions to the team, which this season will field 13 out of 14 starting spots.