Cook and Lake County wrestling notes: New year brings plenty of storylines after promising end to 2022

With the month of December barely in the rearview mirror, it was the final two weeks of 2022 that helped give wrestling fans a look at what to watch for once the second half of the season gets rolling.

High profile tournaments such as the Rex Whitlach (Hinsdale Central), Dvorak (Rockton Hononegah) and the Flavin hosted by DeKalb High School were all venues that provided sensational team and individual competition to give hope to a handful of teams, and plenty of wrestlers who are looking ahead to the state series.

It's clear from the results at the famed Flavin that Prospect has what it takes to enjoy a lengthy run in the 3A state dual-team race, while its fierce rival Hersey - the reigning MSL champion - is right there in the conversation.

Prospect went into the Flavin at 15-0-0, and after wins over 2A state power Washington and No. 5 Lockport, the Knights fell short against No. 1 Marmion Academy on the first day of play to dash the hopes of a reaching the final.

"I was really happy with the performance of our team. We came into DeKalb with the hope of seeing as many state-ranked teams as we could, and to see where we stand after two days of wrestling," said Knights star Will Baysingar, who has collected three top three medals at state, was runner-up a year ago, and is the hunt at 132 along with Sergio Lemley (Mt. Carmel) and Vincent Robinson from Homewood-Flossmoor.

"We basically have a lineup of upperclassmen. But with the addition of a couple of new guys like our two freshmen, Jaxson Penovich (195) and Jeremy Huf (113, 120), we were able to fill in the holes to make our lineup so much more complete," added Baysingar, who went 6-0 at the Flavin with three pins and a pair of tech-falls, plus a major decision victory.

"We all know there's still a lot of work to do, and if we all continue to do the work, there's no reason why we cannot compete for a state title this year."

Hersey, just behind the Knights at No. 4 in the most recent Daily Herald top 20, has shown to be a terrific tournament team which is capable of picking up bonus points wherever available in order to finish atop the field.

The Huskies won the Moore-Pettyman, finished sixth overall at the Dvorak, and last weekend outlasted the 41-team field at the Mid-State Classic in Whitewater, Wis., to lift the championship trophy with a 40-point margin.

The Huskies are led by their trio of returning state qualifiers Esteban Delgado (120, 16-7), Aaron Hernandez (160, 17-3) and heavyweight Oleg Simakov at 20-5.

Hersey was to host Prospect just before the holiday break, only to have this key dual erased due to inclement weather. No make up date has been announced.

In the MSL West, it appears to be a two-team race for top honors between Conant and Schaumburg, which boasts its own trio of terrific returning state qualifiers.

Sophomore Brady Phelps (113) is the highest rated in the state among his teammates at No. 4, with Caden Kirchner (120) and his older brother, Callen (152) at No. 9 heading into the new year.

Phelps, sixth a year ago at state, has won two majors this season thus far, including a win over No. 5 Ino Garcia (Batavia) in the final at the Glenbrook South Rus Erb.

Ethan Stiles (10-0) continues to dominate at 160, and if his recent championship performance at the prestigious Ironman in Cleveland says anything, it's that the Conant senior is the heavy favorite to win his third consecutive state title.

"Ethan is constantly improving as a wrestler, but his real growth has been his leadership," said Conant coach Andrew Guilde. "He takes his role as captain very seriously, and he has that 'X-Factor' about him that you cannot teach, or coach, but everyone in the room feels it, and feeds off it.

"Ethan's goal is to be the best in the country, and he's proven he's right there by winning the Ironman, then dominating at the Dvorak - two tournaments that don't get much bigger nationally, and locally."

Two men in Lake County have been pleasant surprises for Libertyville and Warren, respectively.

Junior Owen McGrory (23-5), a two-year under level starter, has flashed some exciting potential during his first full year on the varsity club for coach Dale Eggert.

"I rarely get too amazed too often by something in high school wrestling. Development comes so slow in this sport at times, and with a lot of effort," said Eggert earlier this season. "(But) what Owen has accomplished this year has been amazing, he's always had a lot of mat awareness, and is a very bright wrestler, with a lot of tricks up his sleeve."

With the addition of McGrory at 220, the Wildcats' upper-weight strength is something to take notice of beginning with Matt Kubas (170), Austin Gomez (182), Cole Matulenko (195) and heavyweight Caleb Christensen.

NSC rival Warren showed its stuff with a second-place team finish at the Rex Whitlach behind reigning 2A state champion and No. 1 Joliet Catholic Academy.

Not mentioned in the early state polls, Warren freshman Aaron Stewart, known by many from his success prior to high school, captured the 152-pound title with a win over two-time state medal winner Harrison Konder (Downers Grove North). He took over the No. 2 spot in the polls ahead of Konder.

During the offseason, Stewart won Freestyle, Greco, and Folkstyle National titles in Utah.

With the postseason assignments out in full view, the 2A regional at Grayslake Central figures to be the one to watch up north.

Antioch, looking to advance to dual-team state for a second consecutive year, will look to use its lower weight power to outscore Wauconda and the host Rams, who boast three potential state champions in Anthony Alanis (106), Matty Jens (182) and Aaron Cramer at 195, all of whom were state runners-up a year ago.

Antioch, which claimed its fourth dual-team state trophy last season, is led by No. 2 Edgar Albino (126) and No. 4 Anthony Streib at 138.

With the third major girls tournament now in the books following the 21-team Sally Berman Holiday Classic at Palatine, remember the names of Riley Kongkaeow (Round Lake, 100), Ayane Jasinski (Grant, 110), Sophia Ball (Hoffman Estates, 120) and Jasmine Hernandez (155) from Palatine, all of whom would star at the Sally Berman on their way to championship trophies.

Kongkaeow is the lone freshman in this group who all brought home a state medal at the first IHSA sanctioned girls state tournament, with the junior (Jasinski) claiming fourth overall at 100 pounds.

Jasinski has a freshman brother, Vince, wrestling at 106 for the Bulldogs, and their father (Charlie) won a third place state medal at 130 in 2000.

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