Little by little, defending tournament champion Marmion Academy chipped away at Libertyville's lead Saturday at the 23rd Annual Moore/Prettyman Wrestling Invitational in Barrington.
And when all was said and done, the Cadets were able to pull away from the Wildcats in the final round 241.5 to 233 to claim the championship of this powerful 23-team meet to mark the opening of the season.
It was the second straight year Marmion Academy won the tourney in only its second appearance in the meet. The Cadets also edged runner-up Libertyville for the 2012 crown.
The Wildcats led the Cadets 221 to 211.5 heading into the final round.
But Marmion Academy's dominance at the lower weights proved to make a big difference as the Cadets rolled off four straight first-place finishes from weight classes 113 to 132. Marmion led Libertyville, 234.5 to 223 after the completion of the 152-pound bouts.
The Wildcats were still within striking distance at that point. But they just didn't have enough points left in their tank in the final six weight classes to turn the tide in their favor despite some great individual performances.
"We didn't really worry too much about the team points and we have a senior-dominated team that is going to score well in tournaments," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert, whose team had 11 wrestlers place in the top seven. "It (11 place-winners) shows we're a team with some balance and we got contributions from a lot of people."
Libertyville got huge contributions from No. 3-ranked senior 170-pounder Kayne MacCallum (4-0), who won the title with an impressive 14-5 major decision over Stevenson junior Tyler Harrington.
At 220 pounds, senior Kevin Barbian (4-0) also took home first place for the Wildcats with a hard-fought 3-1 decision over Hinsdale Central's Matt Allen.
"I thought it was a good tournament," said MacCallum, who won the Barrington tourney for the second straight year. "I wrestled really well and made sure I didn't make any stupid mistakes that would cost me a match."
The Wildcats also got second-place finishes from elite senior Steve Polakowski (4-1) at 120, junior Joey Gunther, with a tough 3-1 overtime loss to Marmion Academy's Trace Carello at 152, and senior Chris McDermand at 285.
After the dominance of Marmion Academy and Libertyville at the top of the final standings, Joliet West was able to hold off a hard-charging Grant squad, 169.5 to 159.5 for third place. Stevenson (96 points) was the next highest finishing Lake County team in 13th place.
Grant did not have any individuals reach the first-place match. But the Bulldogs did look great with third-place finishes from sophomore Christian Kanzler at 106, junior Noah Drabek at 126, senior Troy Parent at 132, and junior Mike Kouvelis at 152.
"Going through the wrestlebacks is always very difficult, but it shows the character the guys have to win their last match of the day," said Grant coach Ryan Geist. "We have some guys out of the lineup that we hope to have back by the end of the year. But we showed we can be competitive in big tournaments like this."
Libertyville's depth showed through with fourth-place finishes from seniors Tyler Brooks (138), Austin Koziol (182), and Tim Grote (195).
The Wildcats also got a fifth from sophomore Joey Locascio at 106, a sixth from senior Nick Andrews at 145, and a seventh from senior Colton Bast at 160.
Besides Harrington's second-place finish, freshman teammates Robert Pavolics (sixth at 152) and Eric Carter (eighth at 113) were promising young wrestlers for the Patriots this weekend.
The Pats still do not have their full varsity lineup intact due to their football team making the Class 8A state semifinals last weekend.
"To come in here in his first tournament in Illinois in one of the most competitive tournaments in the state and get all the way to the finals says a lot about his (Harrington's) character, his commitment, and his work ethic," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "For the two freshmen to be able to come in here in not only their first varsity tournament, but their first high school tournament and get on the podium, is pretty special."
Lake Zurich was fielding a skeleton lineup this weekend as the Bears' football team lost to Mt. Carmel 30-0 in the Class 7A state football championship game Saturday evening in DeKalb.
But Lake Zurich did still have a few bright spots in its lineup with senior Brandon Arteaga placing fourth at 145, sophomore Travis Nix placing seventh at 106, and junior Josh Spiwak placing eighth at 120.
"I think he (Arteaga) is being handicapped in that all of his practice partners are playing football right now and he needs to be pushed," said Lake Zurich coach Dan Strickler. "I thought he wrestled a really good match in the semifinals even though he lost, and in the third-place match (a 9-0 loss) he kind of looked flat."
Grant got fifths from senior Nick Koch at 113 and junior Cristian Coronado at 138 while teammates Gage Datlovsky (120), and Steve Herrington (195) both placed seventh. Grayslake North sophomore Jake Wright placed seventh at 132.