Stevenson stands tall against Deerfield, Huntley
It's difficult to gauge the overall strength of the Deerfield wrestling regional set to begin in three weeks, but if Saturday afternoon's final dual in Lincolnshire is any indication, it's at least clear who the favorite is.
Stevenson (16-2-0), ranked No. 11 in the state, got late heroics from Eric Carter, Dylan Geick and Robert Pavlovics to earn 33-30 thriller over No. 6 Deerfield (24-3-0).
Earlier, the Patriots defeated No. 17 Huntley 41-21 after the Red Raiders (16-7-0) dropped their opener to Deerfield 37-24.
"That was fun wasn't it?" said delighted Patriots coach Shane Cook, who got plenty of air between him and the fieldhouse floor after a pin by Pavlovics (160, 18-9) against Will Carona (19-16) at 2:43 shut the door on Deerfield.
"I knew before my match that a tech-fall or pin would seal the deal for us, but everyone on this team knows it's not about the individual, but instead about the team," said Pavlovics, who was mobbed by teammates after the outcome of his bout. "So I just went out there to try to win for my teammates, and it worked out great for all of us today."
Including Cook, who cautioned that one day's outcome doesn't necessarily predict the future.
"This is why we schedule this dual, because of these two highly rated, and talented wrestling teams," Cook said. "And when you beat a program like Deerfield, which has a terrific coaching staff and not only one of the best teams in our area but also the state, it's something that the boys can be proud of, and celebrate. But only for today, because we have a lot more work to do in order to prepare for the coming weeks."
The Patriots started well against Huntley, capturing the first three bouts beginning at 170. Stevenson then watched its 15-0 lead slowly shrink when Jalen Blanchard (220) , Dominic Swanson (285, 31-4), Gannon Kosowski (106), Zach Spencer (113) and Josh Stenger (120, 31-4) put 17 unanswered points on the board to give Huntley a brief 17-15 lead.
"We had our moments today where we wrestled very well and competed at a high rate in a handful of matches, but it wasn't a complete effort from top to bottom, as we won just 12 matches out of 28-plus," said Huntley coach B.J. Bertelsman. "We lost a few we should not have, just as we did the other night against Jacobs. But this for us is a great measuring stick because of the quality of both opponents, so we'll pick ourselves back up and get ready for the week ahead of us."
Swanson and Stenger solidified their lofts status in the state polls; both are ranked No. 7.
"I think we both agree that our dual with Jacobs was winnable, and maybe even one of these duals today, if we had wrestled better," said Swanson. "But the good thing is we feel that we're a very good tournament team, and we'll have that chance to show it at the FVC tournament in two weeks, then regionals at DeKalb after that."
The Red Raiders were unable to get back on track after Stenger's victory, dropping the next five of six bouts as they conceded 3 pins and a tech-fall which in a 41-21 defeat.
In their 37-28 tourney-opening loss to Deerfield, the Red Raiders started slowly but came alive on the strength of pins from Petros Mihalopoulos (195), Jalen Blanchard (220) and Swanson. But the Warriors' lower-weight power took control as Deerfield reeled off 5 wins during the next six bouts.
In the finale, both Deerfield coach Marc Pechter and Cook expected a tight afffair in front of a revved-up audience.
The Patriots' dynamic duo of Nikita Nepomnyashchiy (182, 22-4) and Michael Kordek (195, 24-4) fueled the hosts with back-to-back majors to open things up. And after heavyweight Nick Grujanac added 6 more points with his pin at 1:19, things were looking good for Stevenson.
The Warriors roared back with Dylan Utterback (106) Holden Heller (113), Kyle Clough (120) and Aaron Brailov (126), who have combined for 101 victories this season, each recording impressive victories for Deerfield.
Stevenson's Carter (16-8) brushed aside Nick Kupers in OT (4-2) on a controversial ending which saw Carter appear to go ahead 4-2 only to allow a reversal as time ran out.
Carter's stunner, followed by a tech-fall from Ben Ponto at 138, pushed the Patriots in front 22-19 before three-time state qualifier Andrew Mehrholz put Deerfield back in front one last time with a pin at 25-22.
Gleick (26-2), the No. 2 rated 152-pounder in the state, registered his second tech-fall of the day to set the stage for Pavlovics, who make his mark on this match midway through the second period.
"This match was so much fun, and for me, who is a loud guy, it was great to get up and start a few cheers and see our fans go crazy," said Kordek.
"The atmosphere is much like our regional will be in a few weeks, and although it's a precursor to that tournament, there's some gamesmanship going on between both clubs with some moving and shaking around of certain matchups," Pechter said. "But as long as we continue to get healthy, I believe we'll have a chance to repeat last year's success where we made it to the dual-team state tournament for the first time in program history."