Prospect's wrestling team remains on course for a trip to Bloomington and the Class 3A dual-team state tournament later this month after winning the Glenbrook South regional title Saturday afternoon in Glenview.
For the second consecutive week, it was a masterful performance in the front draw as well as in wrestleback semifinals as the Mid-Suburban League champs took over the tournament.
Prospect outscored runner-up Stevenson by 34 points (237-203), with Wheeling taking third at 201.
The Knights collected their third regional title in four years.
"It all begins with a great bunch of kids who have bought into the system, and an even greater coaching staff which has helped set the standard during the eight years I've been head coach," said Prospect coach Tom Whalen, who finally allowed himself to grin when it was clear both Stevenson and Wheeling were out of the team title running with three finals remaining.
"It's good to see (Whalen) finally smile," joked Prospect senior Ryan Vednar (37-3) following his major decision (16-7) win at 170 pounds.
Stevenson was a regional runner-up for a fourth straight year, but that didn't diminish Patriots coach Shane Cook's admiration for Prospect's accomplishment.
"To see Prospect have all 14 of their guys still alive going into the final round in a regional is a real credit to Tom and his staff, plus his kids, who really showed up to wrestle when it counted," Cook said.
The team race was close, with Prospect protecting a narrow lead most of the way. That kept Whalen constantly working the numbers, with an eye on how his athletes were doing in the bonus-point count.
Prospect's Andrew Baysingar, the champ at 126 pounds, was also keenly aware of the importance of winning the right way.
"Today, just like last week, it was all about winning your match first, then getting as many bonus points for the team," said Baysingar (36-3). "It's what makes wrestling truly a team sport, and why at this time of the year, it is so much fun to be a part of."
As the final session was about to begin, Prospect led by 23 (204-181) over Stevenson -- with Wheeling right there with 180.
"We had a very good day, but it we had trouble in wrestleback (semifinals), and that kind of led to us falling short of our bid to win here," said Wheeling coach Charlie Curran.
The Wildcats started finals on a high note with senior Eric Le (32-11) winning his second straight regional crown after an impressive effort at 106, which ended by technical fall at 3:16.
Teammate Manny Ramirez (24-9) fell to Jack Milos (Prospect, 35-3) for the second consecutive weekend at 113 pounds, but the Wildcats stayed close to their MSL East rivals after Brian Madrigal (132, 31-7) and Johnny Quintero (138, 17-8) won their weight classes.
"My performance last week at the MSL tourney wasn't very good, but it was the wake-up call I needed as a reminder that this is my last year, and if I want to get downstate, I'd better get my mental game back together," said Madrigal, a regional champ a year ago.
Another senior, Mason Skloot (160, 29-6), gave Wheeling its fourth and final title when he recorded his third and final pin of the day.
Wheeling and Prospect both sent eight competitors into next weekend's Barrington sectional, while Stevenson advance nine -- including a trio of individual champions.
The Pats' first win came from Tommy Frezza (33-4), who pinned his way to a 120-pound crown. The last two for Stevenson were earned by first-time regional champs -- Danny Ganzman (182, 26-17) and Max Gomez (195, 34-8).
"Danny was a JV guy last year, but he never complained and instead just kept working -- and today, he's a regional champ and sectional qualifier," said Cook.
Gomez breezed through his bracket, but ran into a tough customer in his final, Joe Kaiser (Prospect), who took him into overtime. Gomez's takedown with 14.4 seconds remaining gave him the title he was after.
"It's always about the team first at Stevenson, but to win a regional title is a great feeling, and one that could never happen without the guys in the room, my workout partner, and the coaching staff," said Gomez, who earned a top-four sectional seed with his victory.
The strength of fourth-place New Trier lies in its two middle-weight giants, Patrick Ryan (145, 41-0) and Jack Tangen (152, 39-1).
A much-anticipated final of Ryan versus John Paul Smith (41-7) of Wheeling went all in favor of the No. 4 rated Trevians standout. At 152, Stevenson senior Muzi Sitshela (30-11) stunned No. 5 Michael Womeldorf (Rolling Meadows, 27-3) in the semifinals, using a thunderous first period takedown to defeat the 2017 state qualifier with a fall.
Womeldorf suffered an injury in his bout and withdrew from the tournament, while Sitshela was beaten by Tangen 6-0.
Junior Jose Ramos (35-4) put the icing on the Prospect championship cake with a 10-3 victory in his heavyweight match with Stevenson's Anand Batbaatar (29-9).
"This past week we all worked harder than ever, and it showed today, especially when we needed it to in wrestlebacks and our semifinal round matches," said Ramos.
Hersey advance three, including runners-up Zach (24-4, 106) and Matt (25-8, 120) Joyce. Rolling Meadows sends four ahead, led by junior Rhett Dornbos, who upset the top seed (Cam Casey) in his 182-pound semifinal.
"Rhett is an absolute workaholic, he never stops, and even though he lost in his final, it was great to see all of that work pay off for him," said Mustangs coach John Bassler.
The regional championship advances Prospect into the Huntley dual-team sectional, were it will face the host Red Raiders. They won the DeKalb regional on Saturday, topping the host Barbs by 28 points.