Patience pays for Stevenson's sectional champ Kordek
Last year at this time of the season, Michael Kordek was on the sidelines after being eliminated at regionals.
So he spent his time at the sectional watching teammates such as eventual state medalist Tyler Harrington roll through the competition, knowing all along his own time would eventually come.
Fast forward a year, and when Kordek climbed atop the podium at Barrington to claim his sectional championship, the Stevenson senior understood that patience and plenty of hard work pay off.
Kordek (182, 38-4), along with North Suburban Conference peers Christian Kanzler (Grant) and Alex Mitchell (Libertyville), each lifted sectional championship trophies on Saturday. So did Grayslake North's Jake Wright (145). They'll all earn a trip to Champaign's State Farm Arena with a top-four seed when the Class 3A state tournament beings on Thursday.
"Michael made a big sacrifice last year by wrestling all the way up at 220, because we had Tyler, and Zach (Horwitz) going at 182 and 195," " said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "But he always worked hard and gave us what he could, to do what was good for the team first. And tonight, he was rewarded with a sectional title."
"My teammate Nikita Nepomnyashchly said that you have 365 days to get better," said Kordek, "and that's exactly what I tried to follow, beginning last year. To be honest, I always felt I could be in a sectional final if I continued to work hard and do all the right things."
Kordek defeated Jordan Shahrikian (29-7) of Hononegah 6-4 for his title. Also advacning for Stevenson were Dylan Geick, Robert Pavlovics (160) and Nepomyashchly (170). They're all first-time state state qualifiers, and earned their way by coming back through the consolation bracket.
For Geick (39-4), it was a tough ending. The Patriots junior met Fernie Silva (Hononegah, 36-2) in a highly anticipated semifinal featuring two of the best 152-pounders in the state.
"With the way the brackets fell, we obviously both knew we would see each other in the semis (and) not the finals -- that's the way it falls sometimes, but I was looking forward to a rematch with Fernie all along," said Geick, who'd beaten the three-time state qualifier in the first weekend of the season here at the prestigious Moore-Prettyman Invite.
Silva struck first with an early takedown and had a 5-3 advantage into the middle part of the third period. Geick drew even with a takedown at the edge before an escape by Silva was the difference in a 6-5 decision.
"I didn't come out as quick and strong as I can, and I knew his tank was getting near empty toward the end and mine still felt full," Geick said. "But I didn't push the pace in order to take advantage, and that was that."
"I've had this date in written in my locker ever since losing to Dylan here back in November," said Silva, "hoping I'd have the chance to get him again.
Kanzler (36-2) made it two straight sectional titles after defeating Barrington's Markus Hartman (38-6) 2-1, one week after beating the Broncos star for the regional crown.
"It was a little bit different out there today," said Kanzler, who earned a third straight state trip. "(Hartman) is a very good opponent, and the main thing for me was to wrestle smart and play it safe, keeping his chances to a minimum."
Grant seniors Cole Berg (145) and Justin Gilich (160) both advanced, as did junior Jacob Melton (170), who was recently brought up from the junior varsity team.
Berg (36-5) finished third behind Wright (37-7) and Deerfield star Andrew Mehrholz (26-5), who suffered a dislocated elbow during his final with Wright and was forced to take an injury default, potentially ending a brilliant four-year career for the Warriors.
"It was a tough thing to be a part of, and I feel bad for him, especially with him leading the match at the time," said Wright, who has now qualified at both 2A and 3A in his career.
Wright has been riding big momentum since defeating Michael Petersen (Crystal Lake Central) at the FVC tournament.
Teammate Joe Arroyo (113, 30-7) matched Wright with his second state appearance after a third-place medal behind champ Alex Mitchell (Libertyville, 34-3), who got by Reece Heller (Deerfield) 23-5 to ensure a top-four seed in Champaign.
"Alex has come a long way since last year, and he just loves the sport and competition," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "It shows in the way he trains and takes each day in the room.
"He's just a go-go type of guy, and it's great to see him enjoy this success."
The NSC will be sending four others to the state tourament, including Alec Riportella (30-7) of Mundelein, who just missed state advancement last year only to see his postseason end abruptly with an injury, just a few days after winning a regional title.
"Finally, what a relief to be making downstate, and in my senior year," said Riportella, who won three straight on Saturday to earn a third-place finish. "This is what I've been training for since I was 6 years old, and now it's happening for me."
Josh Dyer (Lake Zurich, 28-7) went 3-0 in wrestlebacks to secure a state visit for himself at 220 pounds, as did the Warren pair of Sergio Sosa (285, 30-9) and Grant Zamin (138).
Zamin's state-qualifying bout with Chris Dranka of Jacobs was was decided with an ultimate tiebreaker. In a see-saw contest, the match was sent into its last extra session when Zamin misunderstood a directive from the Warren corner, and was hit with a penalty point for stalling.
"It's a mistake I cannot make next week," said Zamin, who improved from 18-20 to 36-10 this season. "But I stayed composed after it happened, something I might not have done last year."