With the top-ranked Class 2A wrestling team in the state in the field, getting out of the Antioch individual sectional was going to be a difficult task Saturday.
Ten-time state champion Montini headlined the powerful meet with eight champions going to Champaign next weekend for the state meet.
The top four finishers in each of the 14 weight classes earned a berth to the Assembly Hall, and the Broncos had qualifiers in every division except for 285 pounds.
Carmel Catholic proved to be the big winners out of Lake County, as the Corsairs will send four individuals downstate, including No. 1-ranked senior Jake Cochrane (40-1).
Cochrane placed fourth in the state last year and his only loss this season was to a Class 3A wrestler.
"I wrestled really well in my first two matches getting the pins, and I felt if I scored in the first period (in the finals) I could win the match," said Cochrane, who beat Northridge Prep's Ben Mauk O'Connor 3-1 for the title. "I'm just going to go out there (at state) and do what I know I can do and I can't lose."
The Corsairs got fourths from Brodie Palm (106), Jake Morgan (120) and Jimmy Dandino (160), all of whom are headed to state.
"I'm really happy for the kids, and I think they wrestled as hard as they possibly could," said Carmel coach Bob Kuykendall. "Jake (Cochrane) is focused, he has one job that he wants to accomplish, and he wants to be state champion."
Vernon Hills has two state-bound wrestlers, including second-ranked Jordan Reich (42-5). The junior rolled to the 106-pound crown with an 11-4 decision over Montini's Jimmy Paweleski.
Reich weighed only 84 pounds as a freshman and 95 pounds as a sophomore.
"My goal is to win state, and I feel I've got some momentum going into state," Reich said. "I think the key is to get my top moves working, just wrestle smart, and don't give up any points that I don't have to."
"Jordan is just a solid wrestler," Vernon Hills coach Jerry Miceli said. "He's very coachable. He was undersized as a freshman."
After missing last year's postseason due to a knee injury, Vernon Hills senior David Pierce will be heading to state for the second time in three years. Pierce took third at 145 on his 18th birthday Saturday with a 6-4 decision over Ridgewood's Sam Karim. Pierce qualified for state as a sophomore, but he injured his knee last year, denying him a chance to wrestle in regionals.
"He's a good kid," Miceli said.
Wauconda will send a pair to Champaign. Senior Devin Tortorice (37-4) toppled Antioch's Mike Gussarson for the 132-pound for the second straight weekend. Gussarson knocked off No. 1-ranked Jose Champagne of Montini 7-2 in the quarterfinals. But Tortorice led 4-0 early before holding on for a 6-5 decision in the finals. Tortorice had never beaten Gussarson before regionals.
Previously undefeated Wauconda junior Nate Magiera (33-1) settled for second place, losing 4-3 to Montini's Edgar Ruano in the 215-pound finals. Tortorice, Gussarson and Magiera will all be making their third appearance at state.
"It just feels unbelievable honestly," said Tortorice, who is ranked sixth. "My coaches (Tom Nance and Bob Kenison) just kept telling me I could do it, and I bought into it. This year I'm going for it all. It's my senior year, and I truly think I can win it if I wrestle my match."
Antioch junior Briley Schultz will be making his second trip to state after placing third with a pin over Palm at 106.
"I think our two guys (Gussarson and Schultz) can do well at the state tournament if everything goes well," said Antioch coach Wilbur Borrero, whose team will host Amundsen Feb. 19 in the dual team tourney. "The rest of the team has to get ready for the team tournament."
Grayslake Central sophomore Jon Makey shined at 138 pounds, placing second.
"From the start of the year, we considered this a rebuilding year, and it's just exciting for his (Makey's) future to make it to state as a sophomore," said Grayslake Central coach Dan Catanzaro. "Champaign and the Assembly Hall can be intimidating, so to get it out of the way as a sophomore gives you a better chance to place as a junior and a senior."
Lakes senior David Gregory (160) and sophomore teammate Levi Smith (132) were unable to make return trips downstate.
Fox Valley Conference entry Hampshire had two state qualifiers. Senior Travis Keeling (38-6) placed third at 170 with a wild 5-4 decision over Fenwick's Dubem Ikedionwu in triple overtime. The Whip-Purs also got a fourth-place finish from 182-pound sophomore Anton Krocko (30-9).
"Travis has wrestled some really tough kids, and I would be really hard-pressed to find any kid in the state who works as hard as he does," said Hampshire coach Terry Wilkinson, whose program is in its fifth year. "We're a very young program, and we have two more years with Anton after this year. We hope we can make this an annual trek downstate for him."