Antioch, Grant suffer quarterfinal setbacks downstate

BLOOMINGTON - Both Antioch and Grant had come so far.

But in the end, their day at the dual-team wresting state finals ended more quickly than they'd have liked.

Will Borrero's team from Antioch drew into state power Mount Carmel (20-0-0) on Saturday morning for a Class 2A state quarterfinal inside U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Despite a valiant effort, the Sequoits (16-12-0) fell to the Caravan 55-18 to end a memorable season.

The narrative was similar for Grant. After a sensational night last Tuesday evening in Fox Lake, where Grant thrilled a packed house with a dazzling performance to defeat Wheeling, the Bulldogs (19-4-0) fell to Providence Catholic 41-25 in their Class 3A state quarterfinal to send Len Grodoski's club home without the hardware they had hoped for.

"We knew Providence has some very good kids at the top and lower ends of their lineup, but we also knew we could gain some ground on them from the middle of our lineup as well," said Grodoski. "But credit (Providence) - for a young team, under the big stage down here, they came through with a couple of big wins when they needed them and we end up falling short of reaching our goal of a state trophy."

Alex Paz got the Bulldogs up and running after the Celtics (15-7-0) opened this dual with wins at 220 and 285. But the freshman duo of Jake Lindsey (113) and Josh Ramos (120) connected for 7 points with a major and an 8-6 decision, followed up by another major from Ben Emery to push the Providence advantage to 23-4.

"It's tough chasing a team early on in a tournament like this," said Bulldogs senior Christian Kanzler, who in his final match at Grant was victorious to end a brilliant three-year career.

Teammates Dylan Mannes and Cole Berg gave the Grant faithful hope with back-to-back victories, but Celtics state medalist Cole Smith squashed those hopes with a pin at 152.

"It's always when a loss like this ends your season, but for many of us, it ended our career here at Grant - and that makes it especially hard for all of us," said Kanzler, who along with his senior teammates soaked up the atmosphere of this state tournament long afterward before preparing for a long ride back home.

"I'll never forget my time at Grant," continued Kanzler. "All of us had a great coach with Ryan Geist, and that continued when (Grodoski) took over this year, making our last season a truly memorable one.

"For me, a lot of this will sink in later - but I know for sure I'll be back in the room on Monday (working with the freshmen and sophomores) with the hope of seeing Grant back here again next season."

Getting downstate with this bunch isn't something Grodoski will soon forget, either.

"This has been a special group," Grodoski said. "The group of seniors welcomed me with open arms to make the transition so much easier, and they led by example in and out of the room and were a truly great bunch of guys to be around from the first day we came together."

Borrero knew his team was in a tough spot, facing one of the best teams in the state. But the Sequoits coach, his assistant, Vinny Jiudetta and senior standout Nathan Dlugopolski all agreed the day was still a success despite the outcome.

"I told the guys before we headed home, this was a season to remember," said Borrero, who had made it down here on four previous occasions. "We finished above .500, won our regional to advance, had four state medalists for the first time in program history, and so many of our guys experienced being in a state tournament while gaining so much experience this entire season."

"I love coach Borrero, he's been like a second father to me," said Dlugopolski, who leaves with two state medals (fifth and sixth) earned the past two seasons. "He's brought me from nowhere to a two-time state medalist, but more importantly, he's taught me so much about the sport, and life as well - and he's made my experience in wrestling at Antioch really amazing."

"The kids left it all out there today, and that's all you can ask of them," said Jiudetta. "For me, being around this program and especially Wilbur has easily been the most pleasurable coaching experience that I've had in a long, long time."

Dlugopolski (34-12) and teammate Jake Gross (45-13) garnered the two lone wins against the Caravan, while state runnerup Patrick Schoenfelder and George Bessette each grabbed forfeit wins for the Sequoits along the way.

Gross defeated Joey Egan for the second straight week, this time in an ultimate tie-breaker, while Dlugopolski avenged his 10-8 defeat in wrestlebacks last weekend, an outcome which ended his bid for a third-place medal.

"Those two were terrific today, but guys like our two seniors, Jeremiah Reyes (145) and Stephen Fransen at 170, were great stories as well," said Borrero. "It's the little things that matter in a long season, and we had plenty of those to go along with so many big things as well.

"It was truly a memorable season."

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