Wheeling wins MSL tournament

It's not easy winning a Mid-Suburban League championship.

Just ask Neal Weiner.

The longtime Wheeling wrestling coach urged his athletes to build as big a lead as possible in anticipation of an expected late run from Barrington.

And when the Broncos did make that late charge, they were unable to overcome the advantage the Wildcats had in place.

It was a test of endurance, will and a little bit of nervous patience down the stretch that the Wildcats needed to hold off Barrington and win the MSL championship on Saturday at the Jean Walker Fieldhouse at Prospect.

"We knew what was coming from Barrington in the final session, but the guys did well to get as big a lead as we could in order to stop them from passing us in the closing stages, so this ended up being an exciting, fun day for Wheeling wrestling," said Weiner, who now has a third MSL title in his standout career.

Barrington coach Dave Udchik said his team gave its all.

"I am very proud of the guys for their effort to catch (Wheeling), but they had a little too much for us in the end," Udchik said. "But I am very happy for Neal, his staff and his program for their win."

The Broncos continually cut into the Wildcats' lead down as the day wore on.

At one point, Barrington held a slim lead (185-183.5) just before the first round of consolation matches, with the eventual champs getting themselves in front for good moments before finals: 264.5-249.5.

The Wildcats finally prevailed with 286.5 points, with Barrington at 281.5. Conant took third with 212 points, followed by Prospect (175.5) and Fremd (139).

While the MSL West champion Broncos earned a tourney-high five individuals champs, Wheeling's nine medals from second through sixth, along with a handful of head-to-head wins plus bonus points, gave the Cats their first league title since 2009.

"There was a lot of talk leading up to this weekend on how important it was to win your first match and then score bonus points with that win to help the team," said Wheeling senior Tristin Guaman (26-8), who finished second to Markus Hartman (35-1, Barrington) and came in as the No. 3 rated 145-pounder in the state."We all had a job, and we were confident we could all do it." "That was our plan, and it was something that we all talked about during the week," said Hartman, who won here a year ago when the Broncos took the team title with a late surge.

Hartman was joined by freshman Kai Conway (106, 27-7), Jarid Shinhoster (132, 31-4), Jake Cysewski (152, 33-8) and Jake Meyer (170, 28-8) atop the podium. Conway, Cysewski and Meyer each defeated opponents from Wheeling to help the Broncos close the gap after they trailed by as much as 26 (279.5-253.5) during the early exchanges.

Cysewski, who has made a habit of winning low-scoring bouts (many of which were decided by 1 point), rose up to record a takedown in overtime, then got a pin seconds later to defeat Wheeling's Carlos Montiel (36-9).

"It really means a lot to me to win here today," said the junior, who won a hard-fought 1-0 contest over Adam Kemp of Fremd in his semifinal.

Meyer earned his first MSL crown with his victory over another Wildcat, Andrew Lara, using a 3-0 second-period advantage to register a 5-1 triumph.

The Broncos junior upended the No. 2 seed, Eric Hominac (24-6) in his semifinal (6-4), to book his place opposite of Lara in the final.

"I knew going in that Eric was a strong upper body opponent so I didn't get too aggressive in the early going," said Meyer, a 2016 state qualifier. "Then I took advantage of my opportunities when they were there for me,"

Hominac was one of three Cougars who garnered third-place medals, and another four finished second overall.

Junior Manny Ramirez (37-4) got Wheeling off and running in the final session with his brilliant performance at 113 pounds. It was followed by another terrific effort from his teammate, Brian Madrigal (31-11), who used a fall at 3:01 to grab top honors at 120 pounds.

The Ramirez championship was his second consecutive in the MSL Meet while Madrigal and Jaylen Shaw (160, 28-4) earned their first.

Shaw avenged a terrible loss to Dan Rasmussen (Barrington, 28-8) in the final of the Berman Holiday Classic with a gritty 3-1 decision.

"Yes, that (loss) has stayed with me, and it has helped the way in which I've trained and prepared for this weekend ever since," said Shaw, a four-year veteran who began his career at Hersey before his transfer to Wheeling.

Around the rest of the classes, there were plenty of sparkling moments from others beside the top two teams.

Among those was the Fremd senior duo of Cole Riemer (138) and heavyweight Zach Nemec, who rivaled the pair of Matt Wroblewski and Alex Koczwara of Prospect for the way they dismantled their respective weight divisions.

Riemer (33-3) went through nearly unscathed at 138 pounds, using a 7-0 shutout in his final to secure his first MSL crown. Nemec won his second straight by pinning his way past a trio of victims.

"This feels real good right now, and the results from here are the perfect springboard to regionals next weekend," Riemer said.

The No. 6-ranked Nemec (33-1), whose lone loss of the season is to top-rated Anthony Cassioppi of Hononegah, credits a change in his approach from last season for his success in his final year with the Vikings.

"I'm much more aggressive with my attack and have used my speed and quickness to push the pace, and score more points off it instead of sitting back and being too passive," said Nemec, who will wrestle next season at Michigan.

Wroblewski (25-0) was dominant during his short time on the mats Saturday. Highlighting his day was a pin at 1:22 to win his third straight MSL title, this time at 220 pounds.

"It's great to win another, but it would all have been better if we were in the mix for a conference championship," said the two-time state qualifier and 2015 state medalist, who sits at No. 2 in the state just behind Marist senior Diata Drayton (34-0).

Koczwara made it two MSL titles in a row with his impressive 11-3 major decision win at 182, running his record to 29-4.

"This is were it all started for me last year, and I fully intend to use this day to jump-start my postseason and hopefully get myself into the state final in three weeks," said Koczwara.

One match after the Koczwara win, senior Nolan Warner of Schaumburg (28-8) pinned his good friend, Artis Hudson of Conant, to give the Saxons their lone title.

"The only time I am not a friend of Artis is when we're wrestling, but he's still a great guy and person," said Warner, who was a sectional qualifier last year.

Senior Jackson Kohlberg extended the family tradition one last time when after his comprehensive 6-0 win over Tyler Futris (Conant, 27-4) to win the 126-pound trophy and provide a third MSL title for the Kohlberg clan.

"My brother (Aaron) won, and before it was James, so to win today and give our family three conference titles is something that I am very proud of," said Kohlberg (30-3) who pinned his way into the 126-pound final before slowly building a lead and closing out the Conant senior with a late takedown.

  Wheeling's Manny Ramirez handles Conant's Alex Giuliano at 113 pounds in the Mid-Suburban League wrestling tournament at Prospect on Saturday. Mark Welsh/
  Barrington's Jarit Shinhoster gets Conant's Nicky Amato into position for a takedown and eventual victory at 132 pounds in the Mid-Suburban League wrestling tournament at Prospect on Saturday. Mark Welsh/
  Rolling Meadows' Jackson Kohlberg is headed for victory as Conant's Tyler Futris go over the top in their 126-pound bout in the Mid-Suburban League tournament Saturday at Prospect. Mark Welsh/
  Fremd senior Cole Riemer gets Rolling Meadows' Liam Collins into position for a victory at 138 points in Mid-Suburban League wrestling tournament Saturday at Prospect. Mark Welsh/
  Barrington's Markus Hartman gets Wheeling's Tristin Guaman into position for the win at 145 pounds during the Mid-Suburban League tournament at Prospect on Saturday. Mark Welsh/
  Barrington's Jake Cysewski nets an overtime victory over Wheeling's Carlos Montiel at 152 pounds during the Mid-Suburban League tournament at Prospect on Saturday. Mark Welsh/
  Barrington's Jake Cysewski nets an overtime victory over Wheeling's Carlos Montiel at 152 pounds during the Mid-Suburban League tournament at Prospect on Saturday. Mark Welsh/
  Barrington's Jake Cysewski prepares to finish his 152-pound matchup with Wheeling's Carlos Montiel in overtime as the referee is moments away from slapping the mat in the Mid-Suburban League tournament at Prospect on Saturday. Mark Welsh/
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