Title time for Antioch's Schoenfelder, Grayslake North's Arroyo
CHAMPAIGN -- Antioch's Patrick Schoenfelder and Grayslake North's Joe Arroyo have been shining all season long -- but never quite as brightly as they were Saturday night inside the State Farm Center.
On a night of firsts, both won not only win the first wrestling state championships in their programs' history, but also the first state title in any sport for their schools.
"I really don't know what to say right now," said Schoenfelder (48-2), whose stunning four-year career includes two state medals, including a second-place finish a year ago.
The humble Antioch senior said his 2016 runner-up placement fueled the inspiration for bigger and better things, and it stayed with him the day after his loss to top-rated Jake Tucker, now wrestling at Michigan State.
"Tucker was a great wrestler and a deserving state champion, but I'm telling you, that loss was bad," Schoenfelder said. "And it's been on my mind for an entire year, and it was at that point I told myself that when I get back into the finals it would not have the same outcome."
The route Arroyo (44-1) took was slightly different. His sixth-place state medal from a year ago only hinted at what was yet to come.
"I put my trust in coach (Collin) McKillip and finally made a total commitment to getting better and strong during the off-season," said Arroyo. "And even though it's hard to put into words how I feel right now, I know at this moment it's like nothing else I ever experienced."
Arroyo earned his title with a 5-4 victory over No. 2-rated Trevor Edwards (Mattoon, 28-1).
"I knew where he was in the state rankings, but if I continued to work hard each week, I figured we would meet when it really counted," said Arroyo, who said a trip to the high-profile J. Robinson 28-day camp over the summer helped him turn the corner.
Edwards struck first early in the second period, going up 3-0. But the deficit seemed to rev Arroyo's engine. And after drawing even at 3-3 with a third-period escape, Arroyo began to dictate the tempo. Sharp work on his feet led to the winning takedown at five minutes to settle an engrossing 113-pound final.
"Joe has been waiting for this weekend all year, and I think his experience in big matches here, plus his ability to put up a lot of points, gave him the killer instinct needed to win a state title," said McKillip.
Schoenfelder, who ends with just over 170 victories in his career, allowed very little over his three days against four opponents.
Just off the whistle, takedowns put the Wisconsin-LaCrosse-bound Schoenfelder in control. With plenty of steady work, he showed what has made him a cold-blooded finisher throughout his championship season.
"Patrick has been the real deal from the very beginning with us -- in fact, when I first saw him, I knew we had a future state champion in our room," said Antioch coach Wilbur Borrero.
Coach (Borrero) is so much more than a coach," said Schoenfelder. "He's been a key figure in my life here at Antioch -- teaching life lessons, and being just being there when you need him like a family member. It's going to be a little different without being around him."
Schoenfelder (48-2) built a comfortable first-period lead (4-1) then slowly doubled his advantage over Peyton West until the match ended at 12-5.
"When the clock went to zero, I had to wait a moment to see if it really was over and I was state champ," Schoenfelder said.
The sensational duo from Stevenson, Dylan Geick and Nikita Nepomynashchiy, fell short in their bid to be guests in the Grand March.
The Columbia-bound Geick started well Thursday and carried his momentum into the semifinals, where Nate Jimenez (Marmion Academy) dashed his hopes.
Later, both Geick and Nepomynashchiy (20-4), on adjacent mats, lost in their respective third- and fifth-place bouts to end a bittersweet weekend.
"Its been a rough tournament for us the past two days," said Patriots coach Shane Cook, who saw the program's medal count reach 11 with the two from this season as sophomore Tommy Frezza (38-5) came up short at 113 pounds.
Geick (42-3) entered this weekend with high hopes after his fourth-place finish here last season. But after his semifinal setback to the eventual state runner-up, it was time to regroup.
The Patriots standout earned another fourth-place medal when he dropped an 8-4 decision to Devin Donovan from Wheaton North.
"Things happen here, and for me, I was in a good spot with Nate, getting in on his legs, but a mistake near the edge cost me, and that's just the way it goes," said Geick. "My head coach from Columbia called to say all is well, and when I get there my new career will begin then."
Grayslake North senior Alex Moran (42-10) had hoped to join Schoenfelder in the final, but instead earned a fifth-place finish at 160 pounds, now the fourth medal in program history.
"I didn't want to end my career with a loss, but I knew I had to do everything and anything possible in that match to make sure I didn't," said Moran, who will attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering next fall.
Mundelein junior Dane Durlacher (42-7) completed a memorable first state visit when he collected a fourth-place medal after a solid three days of work, which included a couple of key wins over high-profile opponents in wrestlebacks to secure the second consecutive medal for the program, and fourth overall.
"I couldn't sleep at all last night -- I bet I was up at least 4-5 times, but it was worth losing sleep with this fourth-place finish," said Durlacher, who topped No. 8 Enzo Silva and then No. 2 Matt Ramos to advance into the third-place bout.
"That was two straight weeks of impressive wrestling when he needed to compete at a high level in order to stay alive," said Mundelein coach Roy Seeger.
Durlacher's teammate, sophomore Logan Kvien (39-13), saw a wonderful postseason run end one victory short of a medal when he lost in his semifinal wrestleback to McHenry star freshman 170-pounder Jaden Glauser.
Kvien came on strong in the consolation bracket one weekend ago to advance from the Barrington sectional.
"Logan just got better with each week during the last month, and enjoyed a great state tournament in his first visit here," said Seeger, who had praise for sophomore Reece Durlacher (113, 40-9) as well, who showed he can go with the best during his first state appearance.
On Thursday, Warren star, Andrew Demos lost a heartbreaking opening-round match to Matt Hennessey.
Head coach Jake Jobst reported Friday that the No. 4-rated Demos (40-1) was hospitalized with pneumonia after winning a sectional title last weekend, then missed three days of school before arriving here in Champaign less than 100 percent healthy.
Demos, who will wrestle at Nebraska-Kearney next season, did not have his usual explosive, dominating style against Hennessey, and when the Plainfield North junior lost his quarterfinal to eventual state runner-up, Mason Kroening (Waubonsie Valley) Demos' season came to an end.
"It was a tough break for Andrew, who we all know had high hopes for reaching the finals at 195 pounds, but sometimes this sport, just like life, isn't very fair," said Jobst.
Warren's Grant Zamin (39-6) was unable to reach the medal round at 145 pounds, thus ending his terrific three-year career, that saw him earn two straight visits to Champaign.
Day No. 1 of the tournament sent state finals hopeful Alex Mitchell of Libertyville crashing out of the tournament following an upset loss to Luke Badger of Lake Park.
"It was a tough way to begin and end the tournament for him," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "Alex came on really strong about midway through (that) match, but there wasn't enough time for him to catch Badger."
Mitchell was a two-time state qualifier, and three-time NSC champion.
The Wildcats' three-day participants -- Danny Pucino (126, 39-6) and Jack Damenti (152, 38-7) -- were unable to solve their competition. A freshman, Pucino (39-8) who was in position to compete for a medal but saw the chance end 1 win short against Marmion Academy sophomore Trevor Chumbley.
"Pucino has a great motor, and is a really great freshmen also," said Chumbley, who finished fourth overall.
Carmel Catholic sophomore Riley Palm (16-7), back recently from the injured list following knee surgery, still managed to navigate his way to a second consecutive sixth-place state medal, this year at 126 pounds.
The deciding bout for Palm came when he defeated David Spencer (Mahomet) with a 13-3 major to ensure his spot on the podium. He would later injury-default his final bout of the tournament.
Christian Valadez was eliminated one win short of a state medal at 106 pounds, still finishing with an impressive 34-10 overall record in his rookie season for the Corsairs.
Wauconda coach Mike Buhr had a successful first visit here when senior Michael Turzynski (285, 36-14) grabbed a sixth-place medal.
"I didn't even think I'd get downstate at the start of the year," said the Wauconda heavyweight, who was light for this class, weighing in at just under 225. "It's still really amazing to get down here for the first time and to win a medal."
Vernon Hills junior Jessie Goldufsky (113, 41-12), who nearly earned himself a state medal, remained upbeat despite just missing out on coming back through the backdraw.
"I worked a lot on my set-ups and my feet during the off-season, which really helped me improve," said Goldufsky, "and after being here for the first time, I know the experience will help me a lot next year."