Waubonsie Valley's biggest save their best for last
When the roll of the dice decided that Friday's wrestling meet between rivals Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley would begin at 106 pounds, the stage was set for the heavier weights to have a chance to come up big late.
But when the visiting Mustangs stormed ahead 25-6 following a pin by Brandon Hing at 138 pounds, it was not clear whether this DuPage Valley Conference dual would still be undecided by the time the "big boys" took to the mat. But sure enough, the Warriors picked up three pins late -- from Anthony Alfaro at 170, Garrett St. Clair at 195 and Matt Carmody at 220 -- to set the stage for a winner-take-all heavyweight bout in Aurora.
When Warriors junior Charlie Millington defeated Metea's Henry Hartl 10-3, the hosts had rallied for a thrilling 36-34 victory. It was the rare dual that came down to the heavyweight bout -- even rarer these days now that duals don't typically start at the lowest weight.
"I'm really proud of Charlie Millington. He's my practice partner in the room. I'm glad that my wins and his wins are adding up and starting to help the team out," said team leader and 2018 state qualifier St. Clair, whose pin at 220 had closed the Warriors' gap to 34-27 with two weights left.
"It was really cool to go out there and get that win against a rival on senior night," added St. Clair, a senior with a 21-4 record this season. "That meant a lot to me and all the seniors. We got down early, but once we got our usual guys in our heavier weights we got on a roll.
"It was really cool to have it go down to the last bout because it's Metea, a rival, and we go against them all the time. We see them everywhere we go so it was really cool to beat a rival that's just down the street from us."
Millington, a junior who improved to 13-6 on the year, expected his team to rally and give him that special opportunity to decide the outcome.
"Our big guys are really the strong component of our team," he said. "We always push each other in practice and I have no doubt that we were going to go out and get wins (later tonight)."
Millington had beaten Hartl last season, but Friday's battle was extra special with the fans and his teammates on their feet at the end, cheering for the comeback victory, the 4-13 team's first DVC triumph.
"I wrestled the guy last year and it was kind of a similar result," he said. "But it was nice, yeah, to have the team cheer me on."
Warriors coach Brad Caldwell also picked up a big pin from Antonio Torres at 152 and a tough win by Justin Galler, whose 8-5 defeat of Mustangs 145-pounder Ethan Miller started the home team's comeback.
"It was a good finish. It was a good way to keep everybody in the match and focused on what the end goal was," said Caldwell, who coached against friend and former Warriors coach Claudio Torres. "It was great to send the seniors off on a winning note, but it was good for everyone, not just the seniors, to get the win. We knew at that point (late) we knew we needed some bonus points … we needed our older guys and our bigger guys to come through."
For Metea, Esteban Calderon recorded a pin at 120 pounds and Kyle Smart added a 12-0 win at 132 as the visitors built their big early lead.
"It was close and could have gone either way, but it was fun," Smart said. "I felt like I wrestled pretty well, but there's room for improvement. And it's kind of rough in the sense that we lost by so close, so that a tech or a pin could have flipped the match in a different way."