Both Wheeling and host Rolling Meadows cruised to victory in an East-vs.-West double dual night of Mid-Suburban League wrestling Thursday.
Senior Zach Schultz and teammate Kasey Jauch led the way for the Mustangs, who opened with a 52-21 win over Hoffman Estates before using a half-dozen falls to finish off Fremd 48-29.
"We lost three great wrestlers from a year ago, and we're so young this season, but a lot of our younger guys are beginning to understand the importance of wrestling smart, and staying away from getting pinned for 6 points, and that's the way you stay in matches and win the close ones," said Schultz, who despite an early season injury last year came back to earn a place in the sectionals.
"Zach is really our only experienced senior back this year," said Rolling Meadows coach Dave Froelich, "and after missing over 30 percent of last season with a variety of injuries, then coming back after suffering a bad cut over his eye at the MSL tournament to make it into the sectional, he looks like he can have a very good year, along with Kasey."
Rolling Meadows takes on division rival Hersey on Friday before traveling to Rockford East on Saturday.
Jauch ensured victory for the hosts against Fremd after the Vikings came within 10 points (39-29) as Felipe Ruacho's dominant performance at 126 led to a fall at 4:53.
"That was an exciting, hard-fought and thrilling effort from Felipe -- it's what high school sports is all about," said Fremd coach Ralph Cortez. "I thought coming in all four of us were pretty even, but (Meadows) has about 5, 6 kids who are very good, and they deserved to win both of their matches.
"For us, both Cody (Hauser) and Andrew Narter were strong tonight. Andrew's focus from day No. 1 has been where it should be in order to compete with the best, and Cody, who is just a junior, has really picked up his game, and should easily improve upon last season."
Hauser (160) and Narter (182) were a combined 4-0, with a pair of falls, one major (for Harter) and a tech-fall from Hauser, who won 19 bouts last season.
Two-sport star Alex Tooren (182) appeared to be in midseason form after putting the hammer down on both of his opponents, including a pin at 1:01 against Rolling Meadows. That was one of two pins for the Hawks, the other coming from Robert Alvarado (120), who along with teammates Tooren and David Witczak drew praise from coach Tony Ganas.
"Both Alex and Robert have been ready to go from the very start of the season, and (they're) the two guys who have led with their work and effort in and out of the room, which is so important when you look at how super young we are," said Ganas. "David is improving with each day, and he's another guy who we've seen grow in his wrestling from all of the hard work he put in during the off-season.
"While it's going to take time for us to get to the next level, it's great to see the passion the guys have for this sport, and how they all show up and go to work each day."
Tooren won 30 matches last season as the Hawks' lone sectional qualifier.
Wheeling coach Neal Weiner, who helped orchestrate double-dual night in the MSL this season as an effective way to cut travel costs, was thrilled to see the results from his wrestlers after a rough weekend at the Moore-Prettyman tournament at Barrington.
"We didn't wrestle well as a team over those two days, so it was good to see the guys come out and compete as well as they did tonight," said Weiner, now in his 27th year leading the Wildcats.
Wheeling broke open a close match with Fremd in its opener, erasing an early 17-7 deficit by going on a 41-0 run fueled by 5 pins and a tech-fall from Jacob Deltoro at 106 pounds.
"Jacob, David Rodriguez (113) and freshman Tulga Zumbayan at 138 were all very good tonight," said Weiner. "We have to remember we start six sophomores and one freshmen, so it's going to take time for us to get better. Every team here tonight is all in the same boat, so I look for each of us to all have better days ahead."