CHAMPAIGN -- Jered Cortez and Brian Murphy may be on top this season, but being there will mean overcoming the usual dangers associated with excellence.
That is, of course, if anyone can catch them.
An eye-catching performance from the top-rated 126-pounder Cortez (47-0) into Saturday night's Class 3A finals, while the overpowering performance of his Glenbard North teammate Murphy (152 pounds, 37-1) helped him sail into his final against Kyle Langenderfer Lincoln-Way East (42-0), which promises to be one of the headline acts on the big stage inside Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Neuqua Valley senior Andrew Geers (40-0) will face Hinsdale Central's Brian Allen (47-0) in a battle of unbeatens and the top two rated 285-pounders in the state.
"I know I like having that No. 1 target on my back, and I am sure Jered does as well, but that doesn't mean we don't continue to work hard at what we do and take each opponent seriously either," said Murphy, just moments after his 10-2 major decision over Nate Higgins of Belleville West pushed him forward and into the semifinals against Corbett Oughton of Minooka.
Once there, he methodically wore his opponent down, breaking open a 4-0 match in what would eventually end at 11-2.
Cortez on the other hand, terrorized both of his victims during quarterfinal and semifinal action.
The junior was spectacular in his technical fall at just 1:12 over a helpless Chris Alcock of New Trier and equally devastating against No. 5 Nick Gil of Crystal Lake South (42-6) that ended with a fall at 1:35.
Next up is No. 2 Jordan Northrup of Harlem (43-1).
Geers looked in peak form during both of his bouts, including a 12-0 major decision over Mike Hobbs of Downers Grove South in the quarters and later during a 3-1 decision against Alex Fritz from Marmion.
"It was a tough first day with all the waiting around and finally getting onto the mat to compete after 9:30, but I really feel like I came out strong today and established my game early on, and I know I am right where I want to be for this upcoming final with Allen," Geers said.
After a smooth go of things on Thursday, Friday proved to be a rough ride for Glenbard East.
Daylon Olson and Josh Martin still remain in the saddle at 120 and 138, but the same cannot be said for Jake Drew and Carlos Fuentez, who were thrown off for good
The same can be said for Wheaton North 138-pounder Sean Murray but not for a solid group of wrestlers who all have their eyes on some hardware, which will be passed out late Saturday evening.
Wheaton North 113-pounder Kegan Calkins, Glenbard North 132-pounder Johnny Gosinski, Hinsdale South 145-pounder Justin Maslow, Metea Valley's Breon Hoosier (170 pounds) and Hinsdale South freshman Joshua King (220) still are alive in the consolation bracket, as is Lake Park's Austin Schoen and Naperville Central's Luke Roth, albeit after heartbreaking defeats in their semifinals.
Schoen (37-4) was unable to get past two-time state qualifier and Fox Valley Conference champ Wade Lardy of McHenry in a 3-1 defeat at 145 pounds, while Roth (36-2) suffered a 4-1 overtime loss in a tiebreaker at the hands of Vince Ambrose of Providence.
Later, the Naperville Central star survived another OT match, this time with Wes Pasholk of St. Charles North 3-1.
Meanwhile, at Class 2A Montini advanced eight wrestlers into championship matches: Tommy Pawelski, Vince Turk, Jordan Laster, Chris Garcia, Michael Sepke, Xavier Montalvo, Jake Turk and Anthony Ferraro.