Early setback for Stevenson's Geick
CHAMPAIGN -- It was a championship bout scheduled far too early in the wrestling state tournament as the second- and third-ranked 152-pound wrestlers in the state, according to IllinoisMatmen.com, met Thursday in the Class 3A state tournament.
In a rematch of a late December bout which saw Belleville East senior Nick Foster edge Stevenson's Dylan Geick in the final of the Hinsdale Central's Whitlach tournament, the outcome was same at State Farm Arena.
Foster prevailed 5-3 this time, sending Geick (39-5) into limbo while he waits to see if Foster (42-2) can get by Tulga Zuunbayan (31-2) of Rolling Meadows in the annual game of follow-the-winner here.
The luck of the draw put Geick and Foster together early in the downstate bracketing after both fell just short in their respective sectionals one week ago.
"When I saw the brackets, I said to myself, 'Let's have the best go first,' and fortunately for me, I was able to get the win tonight," said Foster went ahead 3-1 late in the second period and increased his advantage to 5-1 before hanging on for the win.
Geick's teammate Michael Kordek (182, 39-4) fared better in his opener, defeating Ezra Avery of Lyons Township 8-7 to set up a semifinal Friday morning with Schaumburg senior Tony Vezzetti (32-6), who is fifth in the polls.
The news was brighter for several others from Lake County, including Mike Tortorice (Carmel, 36-3), who shined in a 7-0 victory in his 120-pound Class 2A bout. Second-ranked Patrick Schoenfelder (Antioch, 45-2) was equally impressive in his 4-2 win.
"It was all about going out there tonight, getting the lead, and just carrying out a plan we've put together. In the end, it was my pace that won out," said Schoenfelder, fourth here a year ago.
Tortorice was just as impressive in his outing, opening strong, and never allowing Chris Waley of Riverton to get anything going.
"That was the whole idea. It's a big deal to get that first win, so the plan was to go at him him for six minutes, get a good workout in, then get some rest for tomorrow," said the Carmel senior, who takes on Tyler Delaware from wrestling power Washington on Friday morning.
Mundelein senior Alec Riportella (31-7) stole the show at 120 when he defeated No. 3 Abe Assad (35-10) of Glenbard North 6-5 in a nerve-wracking ultimate tiebreaker.
Alex Mitchell (35-3) of Libertyville kept his fans on the edge of their seats during a 9-6 win over Nate Cummings (Downers Grove North, 36-11). Mitchell finally pulled away in the closing moments.
"Cummings comes from a great wrestling family, so we knew it would be a tough first-rounder," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "He just didn't allow much of anything for Alex, but with his motor and nonstop work rate, sooner or later things would go his way."
There were no late dramatics needed for both Grant senior Christian Kanzler (126) and Grayslake North senior Jake Wright, who cooly went past their first round opponents to send each of them into the 8:30 quarterfinals.
Kanzler (37-2) was too much for Andy O'Brien (Marist, 32-14) in a 5-2 decision, setting up a bout with No. 2 Anthony Madrigal (35-1) of OPRF.
"It's the match I want," said Kanzler, who's thrilled to back in State Farm Arena for the third time, and ready to make a run for a medal as well as to erase a disappointing end to his season last February.
"I'm ready to win it -- the third time is a charm, isn't it?" said the Bulldogs' three-year veteran. "My focus was terrible in my state medal qualifier last year with (Richard) Townsell (of Oak Park-River Forest) -- I was almost frozen at the start. Maybe I got caught up in all the surroundings and action, but it was a terrible way to go out. On the other side, it's provided the perfect motivation for my last year at Grant."
Kanzler swept through the NSC, regional and sectional tournaments for the second consecutive year, netting himself a top-four seed.
"This is what it's all about right now, getting that state medal for myself and the Grant program which has given me so much in my four years here," Kanzler said.
"That's Christian," said Grant coach Lenny Grodoski. "He's the perfect leader of this team -- a guy who leads by example and someone who has taken some of the younger guys under his wing to help them be the next wave of Grant wrestlers."
"Coach has done a great job during his first year and has helped keep up the tradition of our program, which has done really well for itself for so long," Kanzler said. "I've gotten a lot out of being here and plan to come back and put something back one day. That's the way it's supposed to work."
Wright has made his mark on Grayslake North wrestling, much to the delight of coach Collin McKillip.
"Jake has grown to be a leader this year in the room," McKillip said. "He has really drawn from a great off-season on the lacrosse team, wrestling camps, and was an integral part of the football team, so it's no surprise he's gone out this season competing at a high level, and with plenty of confidence as well."
Wright's sectional title last weekend gave allowed him to set the program record for victories with 109, while pushing his 2015-2016 overall record to 37-7, with 17 wins coming via fall.
"Coach (McKillip) has been very good for me, and my development during the past two years," said Wright. "Each day we're going one on one, helping with work in and out of awkward positions while improving my game on top. He the main reason for my success."
Wright's win in the Fox Valley Conference semifinals over No. 1 Michael Petersen (Crystal Lake Central) provided the impetus for Wright's race downstate, and no doubt a boost in the confidence for Wright, who was 1 win away from the medal stand last season.
"After falling just one victory away from a medal, Jake went out and set big goals for himself this year, and he's been chipping away at that list all season," said McKillip.
On Thursday night, Wright struggled in his opening period with Alton senior Alejandro Lopez (38-8). But after drawing even and then getting ahead, Wright went to work on riding his opponent out for good in the third period.
First round wrestlebacks will follow Friday's quarterfinals before semifinals scheduled for 7 p.m. in all three classes.