Scouting Saturday's regionals / Northwest suburbs
Area wrestlers are ready to provide countless hours of entertainment beginning this weekend when the state series officially begins with regional tournaments.
The season is a long grind, much like a 26.2 mile marathon race according to coaches and wrestlers alike, but now, as the old saying goes, everyone starts with the same 0-0 record so anything can and likely will happen at some point.
Here's a quick glance at where teams from the Northwest suburbs will compete, in Class 2A and Class 3A, with the top three advancing to individual sectionals next weekend and team champions moving into dual-team sectionals after the state tournament in Champaign Feb. 20-22.
At Lake ParkWhen: Saturday, 9 a.m.; finals 3 p.m.
Advancement: Top 3 advance into Conant sectional; team champion advances into South Elgin dual-team sectional
Outlook: DuKane Conference champ Glenbard North appears too strong to overtake this weekend with its first rate lineup from 106-126 pounds, and plenty of other talent sprinkled all throughout the weight classes.
Wheaton North, over 100 points behind Glenbard North at the DuKane, along with Conant, Lake Park and Schaumburg lack the firepower to stay close to the Panthers.
"It's been one of those years when there hasn't been much to talk about," said Conant coach Chad Hay. "We've been OK at tournaments, and our outcomes at duals have been really what they should have been -- so this regional is going to be a real grind because Glenbard North is very good, and there are other teams with solid guys."
The best for Hay all year long has been Jack Hominac (170, 26-5), and for Schaumburg MSL champ Grant Hansen (27-9).
"In my opinion, 126, 138, 152 and 160 seem to be the deepest divisions so the guys that can adapt the best, gut out tough matches and be prepared to go six hard minutes each time out will have the best chance to advance," said Hay.
At Niles WestWhen: Saturday, 9 a.m.; finals 1 p.m.
Advancement: Top 3 advance into Conant sectional.; team champion advances into South Elgin dual-team sectional
Outlook: Maine South is after its second consecutive regional title following its strong all-around effort at the Central Suburban League tournament in which the Hawks finished third behind Glenbrook South and Deerfield.
With its 214.5 overall points, the Hawks would celebrate individual titles from Noah Beltran (126), Aidan Hansen (132) and Trevor Marks (138) plus eight additional top-six medals.
CPS champion Taft will offer a strong challenge to the Hawks with its seven individual champions at the recent city tournament.
With Maine East and Maine West out of the team race, the attention-then will turn to send as many individuals through to sectionals.
At ProspectWhen: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.; finals at noon
Advancement: Top three advance into Barrington sectional; team champion advances into Glenbrook North dual-team sectional
Outlook: It all begins with No. 1 Will Baysingar (106) and No. 4 Jack Milos (138) who give Mid-Suburban East champion Prospect the perfect start to any tournament their club will be compete in. At a combined 74-0, the dynamic Baysingar-Milos duo will provide plenty of extra bonus points to help the cause, something Prospect coach Tom Whalen will stress to all of his guys in order to insure CSL champion Glenbrook South, league rival Glenbrook North, and Hersey will chase the Knights all throughout the day.
Hersey heavyweight Austin Korba (29-3) appears to be hitting his stride just in time for the next three weeks, while the likes of CSL champs Will Collins (145) and Tudor Ursu (220) from GBN, New Trier's Jack Cummings (182) and Matt McKenna (160), and Evanston big men Ricardo Salinas (170) and Valerei Jean-Jacquest (285) are quite capable of grabbing valuable points away from the Knights.
At StevensonWhen: Saturday, 9 a.m.; finals at 2 p.m.
Advancement: Top three advance into Barrington sectional; team champion advances into Glenbrook North dual-team sectional.
Outlook: Most will admit MSL champ Barrington is the favorite at this venue, and why not? The Broncos (23-2-0) enter as the No. 9 team in 3A with several Top Ten men in their lineup and championship trophies earned at their own Moore-Prettyman, and most recently at the Downers Grove South mega-duals.
"We like to think we can come out on top at regionals, but there a lot of good teams with plenty of quality guys on each roster that will make for a very competitive tournament and one that we'll need to be ready to go right from the start," said Barrington coach Dave Udchik after watching his club claim the top prize at the MSL tournament.
Udchik is correct in his assessment of high profile talent from all throughout the starting lineups, however the potential of a third meeting between Nos. 2 and 3 Gio Jackson (Buffalo Grove, 32-1) and Evan Roper (Barrington, 25-3) surely will add further excitement for the fans on hand.
By now, those in the know remember Jackson's thrilling last-second match-winning takedown in the 220-pound MSL final to give the BG senior a 2-0 record against his Broncos rival.
In addition, No. 6 Lorenzo Frezza (Stevenson, 29-4) versus 2019 state qualifier Brian Beers (Barrington, 32-6) is another potential final to watch.
The individual brilliance of Charlie Fifield (Fremd, 35-2), Alejandro Mejia (Buffalo Grove, 145,152, 22-3), Kai Conway (Barrington, 160, 36-3), Luke Rasmussen (170, 36-0) Joey Mrazek (Lake Zurich, 182, 32-3) and Isiah Pettigrew (195, 28-1) adds more luster to this regional as each have a chance of bringing home a state medal from Champaign.
At WillowbrookWhen: Saturday, 9 a.m.; finals 2 p.m.
Advancement: Top three advance into Conant sectional; team champion advances to South Elgin dual-team sectional.
Outlook: It's Montini all the way here so the rest will set their eyes on advancing as many as possible while the No. 4 rated team in the nation collects most of the first place medals. Glenbard West is the best of the bunch after Montini with an impressive lineup from top-to-bottom filled with 25-match winners.
Among the several to watch are two-time UEC champion Miguel Garcia (37-3) of Glenbard East as well as Daniel Uribe (132) and Ronnie Massari (160) from Leyden and junior Tuvshin Zuunbayan of Elk Grove. No. 5 Joe Fernau (Montini, 27-8) vs. Garcia in the 106-pound final might be worth the watch.
At Notre DameWhen: Saturday, 9 a.m.; finals at 2 p.m.
Guest list includes: St. Viator, Wheeling.
Advancement: Top three advance into Deerfield sectional; team champion advances into Fenton dual-team sectional.
Outlook: This year marks the first season of 2A competition for Wheeling, which joins nearby St. Viator at a regional that will be a two-team race for top honors.
No. 4 Deerfield (22-3-0) has beaten several 3A schools, including Huntley, Jacobs and Stevenson and features No. 1 Cody Goodman (220) and a handful of others with 30 victories or more.
Wheeling, in the midst of its rebuilding program, will pin its hopes on Luis Gonzalez (220, 15-15), Aaron Hernandez 160, 17-17) and John Garcia (152), while three upperclassmen from St. Viator look to have a long postseason run. Gaetano Console (152), Nick Demunno (182) and Ryan McGuire (220) have been the Lions' three best, recording 56 combined victories a year ago and nearly 90 already this season.
"I was fortunate to make sectionals a year ago but, in this, my senior year, it would be great if all three of us get to sectionals then downstate as a group," said McGuire.