Jacobs nails down first FVC title
After finding itself on top of the competition at the end of day one of the Fox Valley Conference Tournament on Friday, Jacobs' wrestling team had one goal in mind: win the FVC for the first time in school history.
Despite being one of two Top 10 teams without an individual conference championship, the Golden Eagles had 14 wrestlers battle for a Top 5 spot and needed every one of them to hold off McHenry and win the conference title.
Jacobs finished with 208.5 points, 7 ahead of the host school, Saturday afternoon at McHenry.
"This is the first time as a high school to win the conference," Golden Eagles' coach Gary Conrad said after the results were announced. "Unfortunately we couldn't get an (individual) champion, but we had a lot of guys there with an opportunity. To have 14 guys medal, that's pretty dang good."
That would be one wrestler at every weight class to medal for the Golden Eagles, far and away the most for any team at the tournament.
Perennial tournament champs and first and second runners-up, McHenry (201.5) and Crystal Lake Central (195.5), had 10 medalists each. Huntley (163.5) and Cary-Grove (144) would round out the Top 5.
"Our kids just had to grasp it and believe. The first year I walked in it was a disaster. We built it up and the kids started to believe (in the program), and success is contagious." Conrad said.
Jacobs had 9 wrestlers fighting for at least a third-place finish, starting with Beau Harrier at 113 pounds. Harrier fell in his first match of the day to Huntley's Josh Stenger before rebounding nicely and capturing third place with a pin of Hampshire's Jake Szlenk early in the third period. Chris Dranka (132) also took third for Jacobs.
The Golden Eagles would get their first shot at a first place medal in the 120 match with Cody Ferencz.
After earning a 7-1 victory over Crystal Lake Central's Austin Ernd in the semifinals, Ferencz could not find a way past top-seeded Travis Piotrowski of Prairie Ridge.
Piotrowski pinned Ferencz one minute into the first period to give the Wolves their only conference champion, sending Ferencz to settle for second.
It would be much the same for Jacobs throughout the day, with Jacob Ourth (152), Loren Strickland (160) and Michael Ricks (170) all taking home second place medals, though it could be said that Strickland was the key to winning it all.
Unseeded coming into the tournament, the freshman shocked everyone by making it to the finals and giving the Golden Eagles valuable points along the way.
"He stepped up for us. He got us this tournament win, I think," Conrad said about Strickland. "We are all really excited to see what he becomes because this is just his second year wrestling."
Early on Saturday it looked as though Huntley, which finished Friday in fourth place, had a chance to take control with two wrestlers gunning for a first place finish.
Second-seeded Zach Spencer (106) started the day by with a close decision, 5-4, over Joe Arroyo (Grayslake North) in the semis. Stenger (113) also had a hard-fought decision to advance as well, earning a 3-0 win over Harrier.
That set both Red Raiders up to face a pair of top-seeded Warriors in the finals where Huntley could not cash in on the early opportunities.
Spencer was pinned by Ian Mullen late in the first period while Stenger lost a close 6-5 decision to Britches Sikula.
Two other Huntley wrestlers fell just short, with Ricky Vigil (132) losing by default to Crystal Lake South's Garrett Dziedzic and Dominic Swanson (285) getting pinned against Michael Gomez of Cary-Grove.
Brandon Meyer (152) finally broke through for the Red Raiders to give them their first champion for the tournament Meyer started by pinning Jake Oury (Hampshire) in 13 seconds in the semifinal before earning a 9-1 major decision over Orth.
Meyer got up early in the match, refused to let Orth gain any momentum, shutting Orth down until the final period when Orth earned a point for standing up.
"I shut him out the last time I faced him so I knew he was going come out and wrestle me tough," Meyer said.
A rematch could be looming next weekend as both Huntley and Jacobs are in the Class 3A Rockford East Regional.
With just five wrestlers looking for a Top 3 finish, Cary-Grove did not have many chances to get ahead but the Trojans did capitalize on what they had thanks to a now 4-time conference champ.
Michael Cullen (126) moved up in weight class before the start of the tournament, a move he had done three times prior. And, just like every other time, Cullen was a conference champion.
Facing down the same opponent as last year in Lenny Peterson (CL Central) yielded a similar result with a 7-1 decision for Cullen.
Gomez (285) was the other conference winner for the Trojans as he took down Swanson with a pin in the third.
Probably the most anticipated match of the day came when Christian Brunner (195) from Dundee-Crown met with Andrew Marsden (CLC). Both were undefeated on the year going into the finals but it would not stay that way for long.
With almost all eyes in the gym, including every team crowding around the mat, on the two wrestlers it did not go as planned for Brunner. An early takedown in the first period gave Marsden just enough of an edge to hang until late in the third when a reversal all but sealed the match.
"I came in confident, but it was hard," Brunner said. "I tried to wrestle him a little bit different and it didn't work out, but it was a fun match. He got the win but it's a learning experience for me now."
Crystal Lake South would finish just outside the Top 5 with a score of 115 and a pair of champions as well.
Dziedzic (132) was first on the board for the Gators while Eric Barone (145) took down Logan Lundelius (CLC) 7-3 for his win. Ethan Weinandy (160) was the lone Gator to finish in third.
With just two players in the semifinals, Hampshire did not have many chances to increase its score but the Whip-Purs made the ones they had count. Anton Kracko (170) earned a hard fought 1-0 decision in the semis over Randy Kline of Woodstock North before defeating Ricks 3-0.
Grayslake Central had its lone champ come when top-seeded Jon Makey (160) put a stop to the upstart Strickland with a convincing 17-2 win, while Grayslake North had Arroyo (106) and Jake Wright (152) finish third.