Deerfield, Stevenson begin postseason tune-up
It was playoff wrestling Saturday afternoon in Lincolnshire.
That's where longtime rivals and recent regional combatants Stevenson and Deerfield faced off in the final dual of the day at the annual Stevenson duals.
After two straight regionals decided by the slightest of margins between these two team, fans got a close look at what a third consecutive monster battle in a few weeks might look like.
Eight-ranked Deerfield (23-2-0) pulled away from the host Patriots in the late stages to secure a 34-23 victory to finish 3-0, setting the tone for the upcoming Libertyville regional.
Stevenson (15-3-0) finished 2-1 after its earlier victories over Yorkville (41-18) and Huntley (41-31), while the Red Raiders ended the day winless after dropping its finale to Yorkville 40-33.
"It was a day filled with some great wrestling from four state-ranked teams. For us that last one against Deerfield was an exciting one -- and one that we'll take a look at and go to work on getting ourselves ready for our conference tournament, then regionals," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook.
Last season, the Patriots fell to the Warriors by a single point (164-163). The year before, the margin was just 7.5 points (184.5-177).
"We did some very good things on the day," said Cook. "Guys like Jake Simon (152) had a terrific day, especially against Deerfield when he fought hard to get us 8-4 win to finish 2-1."
Cook also saw the return of Nikita Nepomnyashchiy from a shoulder injury; he went 3-0.
Just before a late 5-point explosion allowed Simon to defeat Brock Emmerich, teammate Eric Carter squeezed past Kenny Kerstein in a controversial 5-4 ultimate tiebreaking bout at 145 to jump-start the Patriots, who'd fallen behind Deerfield 12-0 during the early exchanges.
Senior Dylan Geick (160) completed his perfect day with a pin at 51 seconds, which was followed by a Nepomnyashchiy technical fall at 170.
Robert Pavlovics made it five straight for the home side when he grinded out a 4-3 victory at 182 pounds, giving the Patriots a 20-12 advantage. But the Warriors won four of the last five bouts to take the lead for good.
"This is why we come to this place every year," said Deerfield coach Marc Pechter. "We obviously have plenty of history with Stevenson, and you saw today how intense it can be."
The reigning Central Suburban champs will look to repeat next weekend when Maine South hosts the conference tournament.
Huntley and coach BJ Bertelsman turn their attention to an Fox Valley season finale with Prairie Ridge before competing at the high profile Oak Park-River Forest Invite.
"I don't mind losing to both Stevenson and Deerfield -- we wrestled them tough, and they are top-ten teams in the state," said Bertelsman. "But with all due respect to Yorkville, we didn't compete at all against them -- we went belly up against them, and although we've got some sickness running through the lineup and a couple of guys aren't at 100 percent, that's no excuse for the effort we put out in that last dual of the day."
Despite the 0-3 team result, Bertelsman did point to a few who enjoyed perfect efforts, including senior Josh Stenger (30-4 at 120) and freshman David Ferrante (17-1), who looks every bit the part of a state qualifier after recording a pair of tech-falls and a pin at 145 pounds.
"We had some ups and downs this season, but we're starting to come around, the new guys are beginning to find their way, and if we stay healthy, we can compete for a regional title in a couple of weeks," said Stenger, a state medalist a year ago.
Sammy Spencer (106) was 3-0, while his older brother (Zach, 126) could have been 3-0 but fell after a hotly contested call in overtime against Deerfield.
Stevenson's Tommy Frezza (113), Carter, Geick and Nepomnyashchiy would each won three times. But the Patriots also received some bad news on Friday in regard to their tournament championship at the Leyden Invite last weekend.
"We found out there was a scoring error at both 170 and 182, and instead of us beating Jacobs by 1.5 points, they ended up with 4.5 points better than us," said Cook. "I feel bad for their guys because they wrestled really well, and weren't able to receive the first-place trophy. But it's funny, because I told our guys afterward the effort we put in at Leyden would not be good enough for our conference tournament, and one week later we found we fell short at Leyden."