In its sixth year as a program, IC Catholic Prep continues to make impressive strides.
One year after Joey Bianchini earned a historic feat by claiming an individual state championship, the Knights qualified all 12 of their wrestlers out of the Class 1A Lisle regional over the weekend.
All of the individuals' accomplishments were needed as the Knights scored 177 points to ease past runner-up Westmont (170 points) and Lisle (168).
The three local programs combined for 12 of the 14 champions.
Even more important for IC Catholic Prep, the first regional championship extended the season -- regardless of what happens at the Hope sectional this weekend in Chicago -- for the team.
"We were offered a chance to host the (dual-team) sectional," ICCP coach Kevin Sliva said. "We are actually wrestling on our home court. It's going to be fantastic."
Bianchini, an uncommitted senior, improved to 33-3 on the season with his regional title at 138 pounds.
Fellow returning all-stater and classmate Victor Vargas emerged victorious at 195 pounds.
Freshman 160-pounder Kyle Franklin claimed the last of the three championships for the Knights.
"All of our guys qualified," Sliva said of edging out Westmont and Lisle. "That made a huge difference. All the guys (five) who were wrestling for third won."
"If we would have wrestled the way we should have, we would have won it," Lisle coach John Ruettiger said.
Joe Chan (113 pounds), Jack Kelly (145), Connor Keebaugh (182) and heavyweight Kevin Paz won titles for the Lions.
After 36 years of service to the program, Ruettiger will retire at the conclusion of the season.
"I feel like I am ready to go," Ruettiger said. "It's time for someone else to take over."
Ruettiger mentored eight state champions during his tenure.
"We were a perennial (small-school) power the whole time," Ruettiger said.
Westmont has five regional champions in the sectional mix in Bryan Baldwin (106 pounds), Anthony Salgado (126), Christian Zubiate (132), Curtis Green (152) and Jake Juska (220).
"We will be respecting all of our opponents and not overlooking anyone," Sliva said of the Knights' sectional approach.
The first road trip:
As the lone local entrant in the Class 3A Alton sectional, Neuqua Valley had two champions and seven total qualifiers out of the Joliet Central regional on Saturday.
The Wildcats finished a distant runner-up to defending state champion Lockport in the team competition in Joliet.
DuPage Valley Conference champion Jacob Boumans and Denis Murphy were the Wildcats' regional victors at 170 and 126 pounds, respectively.
"I think they both wrestled one of their best matches of the season," Neuqua Valley first-year coach Mike Mucha said. "There's no reason why they shouldn't be competing in Champaign for a medal."
Neuqua Valley more than doubled its output of sectional qualifiers from a season ago.
"It was a step in the right direction," Mucha said of the regional. "Last year we only had two qualifiers. It's an improvement. That's what we're trying to do."
An amazing field:
The bulk of the local large-school programs will be at the Class 3A Hinsdale Central and Larkin sectionals this weekend.
The Hinsdale Central complex once again has engendered fundamental issues of equity among local coaches.
Juggernaut Montini -- along with Chicago Catholic League rivals Marmion and Mt. Carmel -- headlines the field along with south suburban powerhouse Sandburg, the Marist champion, which has multiple team state titles in its illustrious history.
"I have been at Hinsdale for nine years, and the sectional has always been brutal," Red Devils coach Jason Hayes said. "You have to deal with it."
"We have to try and do our best," said Metea Valley coach Claudio Torres, who qualified five wrestlers to Hinsdale out of the Naperville Central regional. "I was hoping the IHSA would seed (the sectional) like they do for the other sports. It's about the same difficulty (to advance to state) as last year (at Downers North)."
"That all these teams are put in the same sectional is ridiculous," said Waubonsie Valley coach Brad Caldwell, who will have Naperville Central 145-pound champion Lucas Bratland to anchor the Warriors' fortunes.
Both Hayes and Caldwell said advancement out of the Red Devils' sectional could have major implications at the University of Illinois' State Farm Center the following weekend.
"Your probability of getting on the (state) podium is higher," Hayes said.
"You have a pretty good shot at placing (at state)," Caldwell said.
Like Glenbard North junior Abe Assad (170 pounds) and Willowbrook senior Jack Jessen at Larkin, Downers South top-ranked 195-pounder Sergio Villalobos seeks to extend a perfect season this weekend at Hinsdale Central.
Going for a record:
Jessen was on track to make history for Willowbrook in the first of the two state preliminaries at Leyden. But there were only seven wrestlers at the Leyden regional at 182 pounds.
"They didn't have a full bracket," Willowbrook coach Brandon Murphy said. "He only had two matches. He was positioned to break the record."
But the Northwestern-bound Jessen will have to settle for tying the all-time wins record by running the table in his seven remaining matches, assuming he goes to state.
Jessen enters the Larkin sectional with 44 consecutive victories to start the season; the two-time state runner-up has a varsity mark of 194-7.
"The record is 201," Murphy said. "I am just going to enjoy him (the last two weeks of his career). I don't like big surprises. I will be paying attention to the guys he may face."
Hearing a pin drop:
Assad was one of nine Glenbard East regional champions who had a fall in the climatic match.
Jamie Suarez and Antowon Tolbert did likewise for Wheaton North -- third to Glenbard North and St. Charles East at Glenbard East -- in advancing to Larkin at 126 and 195 pounds.
"At this kind of meet, you expect guys to go all six minutes," Tolbert said.
"I don't know what it was," Glenbard North coach Mark Hahn said of the inordinate number of pins in the championship round in Lombard.
"We preach bonus points," said Wheaton North coach Travis Cherry, who will have nine qualifiers at Larkin. "That's how you win tournaments."
The traveling Bison:
Grayslake Central will be the preferred destination for the heart of the local Class 2A programs.
In capturing its third consecutive regional championship Saturday at Fenwick, Fenton, which earned a date with Antioch at its dual-team sectional in two weeks, had returning state qualifier Dylan Butts (182 pounds) as one of its four champions in Oak Park.
Fenton, which also crowned David Burch (120 pounds), Anthony Park (170) and heavyweight Isaiah Brock, has nine total qualifiers.
In addition Glenbard South, St. Francis and Wheaton Academy produced four combined champions and 11 other qualifiers.
"We are going to have to beat some pretty good kids to qualify," Fenton coach Brian Hastings said. "I think we will be up for the challenge. (Butts) is wrestling a lot more intelligently."
Hector Andres and Minani Alexis emerged victorious for Glenbard South at 106 and 152 at Fenwick.
Connor Scanlon (160 pounds) and Danny Skold (220) won respective titles for Wheaton Academy and St. Francis.