Stevenson finds leverage in showdown vs. Libertyville
Starting at 126 pounds, visiting Libertyville got off to a good start Thursday night in a pivotal North Suburban Conference dual meet at Stevenson.
But after taking an 11-0 lead and holding a14-10 edge after four matches, the Wildcats could not prevent the Patriots from going on a roll at the middle to upper weights.
And after building a 32-14 advantage with four bouts remaining, Stevenson (17-3, 6-0) came away with a 36-24 victory to put itself in position to win the NSC championship outright Friday night at Warren.
Libertyville (8-10, 5-1) defeated the Blue Devils to open the season. But if Warren could pull off the upset over the Patriots, the newly aligned, eight-team NSC would end up in a three-way tie.
This year instead of an NSC meet, there will be a 14-team Lake County meet at Zion-Benton.
"We're going to enjoy this win for about 10 minutes, and then we will prepare to go to Gurnee (Warren) tomorrow," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook, whose team is the two-time defending NSC champion. "We know it's going to be a contended dual meet, and bonus points are always the key."
Freshman standout Danny Pucino got Libertyville going against the Pats with a technical fall at the end of the third period, before sophomore teammate Michael Gunther pinned his opponent in 3:03 to stake the Wildcats to an 11-0 lead.
Stevenson 138-pounder Brandon Zisman recorded a 19-6 major decision over Will Bertaud, before Stevenson 145-pound senior Eric Carter (27-4) pinned his man in 1:46 to cut the lead to 11-10.
Libertyville's Jack Damenti posted a 10-6 decision over Muzi Sitshela at 152. But the Patriots won the next five matches to take control of the meet.
No. 3-ranked Dylan Geick (28-1) got a 16-7 major decision over Libertyville's Tyler Padilla at 160, before 170-pound teammate Jake Simon's pin in 3:30 gave Stevenson the lead for good at 20-14.
Recently back from injury, Stevenson 182-pounder Nikita Nepomnyashchiy (10-0) added a technical fall in 5:08 over Ryan Cleary, before senior teammate Robert Pavlovics (24-7) won a 13-1 major decision at 195 to boost the lead to 28-14.
Then at 220, Stevenson's Max Gomez (20-9) pulled out a 2-1 decision over Adam Koziol, and the Pats had a commanding 32-14 lead.
"They're the better team. They proved it tonight," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert, whose team was without key senior Alex Mitchell (106). "I thought we could get five wins. We got six wins. It was a good meet."
Junior Charlie Schmidt kept the Wildcats' hopes alive with a 4-0 decision over Anand Baatbatar at 285, before 106-pound sophomore teammate Peter Kafkis' 11-3 major decision over Andrew Chang made the score 32-21 with two matches left.
But Stevenson sophomore Tommy Frezza (24-3) clinched the Pats' victory with a 22-8 major decision at 113. Libertyville's Drew Onufer captured a 5-2 decision over 120-pounder Matt Zimring to account for the final score.
"We know that Libertyville is always a highly competitive team so we knew it was going to be a battle, but that string we had there winning seven out of eight was a key," Cook said. "The seniors that helped build the program the last four years really came through for us tonight."