Last year a broken leg prevented Naperville Central wrestler Ben Cianchetti from advancing past the regional. This year the Redhawks' 220-pounder is wrestling so well he often appears to not even break a sweat.
At Saturday's Class 3A regional at Naperville Central, Cianchetti followed a first-round bye with a pair of first-period pins to improve to 32-6, win his first regional title and advance to next week's Hinsdale Central sectional.
"It's my first healthy year, so I was pretty excited to come back fresh," said Cianchetti, who recorded his 27th pin at the 1:43 mark in his title bout with Wheaton Warrenville South's Ramiro Ferrer. "I had a bye so I didn't wrestle until a bit later and I had some time to kind of get my mind right. Then in the semis that was a quick one (0:53 fall) and I went straight to the finals, where I got another first-period (fall)."
Fellow Redhawk Jackson Punzell claimed top honors at 182 pounds with a similar path as that turned in by his teammate: first a bye and then a pair of pins. Punzell, who won by fall over Metea Valley's Mekhi White in 3:17 in the championship match, was happy to be on familiar turf.
"It was really nice (to be home). I had some friends come out to watch me and my teammates are all here," the 36-3 Punzell said. "It was really nice having it in the home gym. It felt right; real comfortable. It was awesome."
Marmion was awesome in claiming its sixth straight team regional. The Cadets won nine titles and advanced 10 wrestlers to the sectional. Marmion piled up 247 points to easily outdistance runner-up Wheaton Warrenville South (168 points) and third-place Naperville Central (160.5).
"We're starting to peak at the right time as we usually do this time of year," said Cadets coach Donald Reynolds, who was without two injured regulars and had a third wrestler injured in a third-place bout. "So hopefully we can keep wrestling well for the next few weekends and bring home some hardware."
Naperville North talented 120-pounder Ben Kruk brought home a title in impressive fashion, winning twice by technical falls before pinning Tiger Hunter Edwards in the finals.
In one of the top matches of the day, Waubonsie Valley's Lucas Bratland rallied to edge Naperville Central's Nick Keating 8-7 for the title at 145. Keating had reached the finals with a tight 5-3 defeat of Marmion's Jacob Tinajero in the semis.
"Last week I hurt my knee so I defaulted out of conference," said Bratland, who improved to 29-9. "That kind of put me down, but then just rest and recovery and I was looking forward to this week. Looking forward to bouncing back stronger, and to really go for the title."
Bratland and Keating had squared off a couple times earlier this year, with the Warrior taking the opener and the Redhawk winning at the DuPage Valley Conference meet.
"It was a close match. It started off a little shaky and (Keating) took the lead," the Waubonsie Valley senior said. "I've wrestled him so many times that he knows what moves I like. He knows all that. So toward the end I started switching up. Instead of my usual fireman (move) I started going around for a single leg. And that really opened things for me. I was able to get more things going and win the close match."
Bratland will be joined at Hinsdale Central by teammates Garrett St. Clair (second at 195) and heavyweight Charlie Millington, who recorded a pin in the third-place match. Metea Valley's Harsh Anchan (126 pounds), Kyle Smart (132) and Josh Labarbera (170) each prevailed in third-place bouts to move on to the sectional.