Conant takes command at Leyden
By the time it was Bobby Alexander's turn in the spotlight, the Conant star had already watched a trio of teammates before him seal the Cougars' fourth consecutive Leyden Invite crown, allowing the standout 138-pounder to focus solely on winning his own fourth straight title as well.
And after Alexander's strong performance over Mousa Jodeh of Oak Forest, the Cougars had built an insurmountable 50-point lead over the powerful Class 2A Oak Forest contingent before running up the final score with three more individual titles to lift the crown going away with 262.5 points.
Oak Forest finished at 199, while Stevenson totaled 191.5 in this 14-team annual tournament, which became a three-team race midway through the day inside Chuck Farina Fieldhouse in Franklin Park.
"Those three guys in front of me are young and very talented, and they sure got us going in that final round when we had two head-to-head matches with Oak Forest before mine with Jodeh," said Alexander, who improved to 21-0.
Conant sophomore Tyler Futris stunned top seed John Yousef (Maine East) with a late comeback to claim a 9-8 win in the 106-pound final before Danny Madonia shocked Francis Edelen (Oak Forest) 3-1 at 120.
Kyle Peisker capped the Cougars' superb start by giving another Oak Forest star, Alan Durham, absolutely nothing during his wonderful six-minute final to earn a 3-1 victory.
"Tyler was so cool and composed coming back from a 6-1 deficit," said Conant coach Chad Hay. "Then Danny was tremendous in his win over the No. 2 rated guy at 2A, Kyle was just so confident and strong against another one of Oak Forest's best in Durham, and I just cannot say enough about those three guys who got us up and running in that final round."
Madonia and Edelen played a game of cat and mouse in the first period until Madonia conceded an early escape at the start of the second period, before recording the lone takedown of the bout following a quick, well-executed scramble.
"I kind of felt him out in that first period, and kind of let him do all the work, which I felt slowly began to wear him down as the match went on," said Madonia, who later gave himself a cushion with a 1-point escape with 30 seconds to go in regulation. "Edelen was a real quality opponent, so getting a win against someone like that gives me that much more confidence from here on out."
With the wind in their sails, the Cougars added to their point total when junior Nick Catalano grabbed top honors after his 10-0 major in the 145-pound final. That set up veteran teammates Griff Rose and Dan Andress, who unloaded on their opponents at 152 and 160 to give the Cougars their last two individual titles on the day.
"Griff lost to (D.J. Penick of Highland Park) at the Lake Park tournament, so that was a real solid win for him to earn and enjoy, and Dan showed a lot in his final, which ended with a pin," said Hay.
Third-place Stevenson celebrated a pair of champions when the one-two punch of Tyler Harrington and Zach Horwitz (195) rolled through their respective divisions to give the Patriots fans something extra to cheer about.
Harrington (182) secured his second straight Leyden title with a 5-3 victory over 2A standout Ahmad Ashkar (Oak Forest) in a physically demanding six minutes. Harrington came in sharply from an angle to record a takedown in the fifth minute to go up 3-1, then added to his lead moments later before Ashkar drew closer just before time ran out.
"I am very fortunate to have a great coaching staff, and great partner like Tyler in the room each day just working me as hard as we can," said Horwitz of his teammate Harrington, currently ranked No. 5 by IllinoisMatmen.com.
"I guess I am pretty lucky to be back and at 100 percent, and having the chance to compete and win this tournament also," said Horwitz, who suffered a broken leg so badly damaged that doctors told him he likely wouldn't able to return until December.
"There was no way that would happen," said Horwitz, "and with a lot of motivation from what the doctors said, I was back on October 15th."
"Zach is a great story for our program -- making it back from that bad injury so quickly, and coming back on crutches to lift every day, working on his upper body strength during that time, and now becoming an excellent and successful wrestler," said Patriots coach Shane Cook.
Stevenson has a big dual with Libertyville this Friday, a team the Patriots program has never beaten, while Conant travels to MSL West rival Barrington on that same day, with a victory all but locking up a second consecutive divisional title.
One of the best big men in the North Suburban Conference is Joe Blitstein (22-4), and the two-time state qualifier proved it once again when he pinned his way to a second straight title here after needing just 15 seconds to claim the top prize.
"I didn't have a real good start to this season, but I sat down with the coaching staff, put a game plan together for the rest of the year, and tried to follow it as closely as I can, which I hope is going to lead to a place on the podium next month," said the senior. "I am 0-3 in Champaign, and it's time to turn that record around."