Scouting wrestling, Northwest
MID-SUBURBAN EASTBuffalo GroveCoach: Kurt Kutska (2nd year)
Last year: 4-18-0 (1-4-0)
Graduation losses: Sam Haro (220, 2016 sectional qualifier, 23w), Jack Pontarelli (170, sectional qualifier, 23w, UW-LaCrosse), Brian Marienau (195), Luis Ramirez (132), Alejandro Mejia (138, 20w, moved to Kentucky).
Top returnees: Seniors Paulie Domain (126, 5w), Tim Gerling (145, 10w), Matt Hart (126, 6w), Tommy Konwent (285, 8w); juniors Andy Polk (152, 5w), TJ West (195, 19w)
New faces in the room: Seniors Matt D'ugo (126), Dylan Horvath (145), Billy O'Connor (160), David Rizzo (195); junior David Melgoza (113); sophomore Michael Goubine (170).
Outlook: The Bison rebuilding project took a hit when talented freshman Alejandro Mejia moved to Kentucky during the off-season. Coupled with the graduation loss of its top two men, Sam Haro and Jack Pontarelli, it may slow things down at the start for coach Kurt Kutska. "We have great numbers once again this year, and from a solid group of young guys who are back after gaining valuable experience with the varsity," said Kutska. "We're looking to continue to improve on last year's success while being more competitive in dual meets." While just one of Kutska's best who return earned double-digit victories (TJ West), the coach feels his senior group exhibits the type of leadership skills needed to inspire the room each and every day.
Elk GroveCoach: Dan Vargas (4th year)
Last year: 7-15-0 (1-4-0)
Graduation losses: Eriberto Gutierrez (113, 10w), Dionte Tillman (220, sectional qualifier, 18w).
Top returnees: Seniors Anthony Greco (285, sectional qualifier, 27w), Genio Hyppolite (152, 19w), Jake Madl (132, 20w), Griffin McEnroe (106, 17w), Matt McEnroe (120, 9w), Joey Moody (170, 16w)
New faces in the room: Freshmen Joey Gaskill (152)
Outlook: It's been a while since this program has been able to field a full lineup for either duals or tournament action, and once Dan Vargas welcomes back a couple of his guys who are currently out of action, the Grens coach may come very close to achieving that goal. "Nearly our entire roster has some previous experience, which has not been the case for some time, and along with having several guys who are strong leaders, we just might be able to open fill a couple of holes in our lineup when things begin in the MSL after Thanksgiving," says Vargas. At the top of his list is big man Anthony Greco, whose postseason charge nearly saw the senior make it to state. The four-year veteran lost his state qualifier contest but had a terrific 27-win season. Vargas says Joey Gaskill will be one to watch after the freshman earned second place honors in IKWF Senior State during the off-season.
HerseyCoach: Joe Rupslauk (1st year).
Graduation losses: Julio Celya (126, 8w), Jordan Davis (145, two-time sectional qualifier, 27w), Gibby Eshoo (220, 15w), Jacob Peterson (160, 23w), Joseph Samperi, (138, 10w), Luke Schmiederer (182, sectional qualifier, 16w)
Top returnees: Seniors Matt Joyce (126, sectional qualifier, 18w), Sean Patton (132, sectional qualifier, 23w); sophomore Zac Joyce (106, 21w).
Outlook: Joe Rupslauk has assembled an all-star staff to help during his first year at the helm. "With over 50 guys in our program and a talented bunch of freshmen and sophomores included in that number, the future is extremely bright if the kids continue to fight for what's right, which is all about wanting to compete for the Hersey program, and more importantly, their teammates," says Rupslauk. "We'll struggle to provide a full lineup week-to-week, but I have a great deal of respect for the upperclassmen (Sean Paton, Matt and Zach Joyce) who have returned to lead and compete, so the staff and I will be right alongside them as we go forward." Rupslauk will have former Hersey head coach Jim Wormsley as an assistant and mentor, with former Hersey and Illinois star Jeff Koepke, 2008 state champ, Matt Boggess from Prospect as his assistants as well as one-time Prospect defensive line coach Eric Shinhoster in the room as well.
ProspectCoach: Tom Whalen (8th year)
Last year: 15-9-0 (4-1-0)
Graduation losses: Matt Wroblewski (220, state champ, three-time state qualifier, two-time state medalist, three-time MSL, regional and sectional champ, three-time MSL wrestler of the year, 35-0, wrestling at Illinois), Alex Koczwara (182, two-time state qualifier, two-time MSL, regional champ, 36w, Illinois), Vince Lobono (145, state qualifier, regional champ, 33w, Indiana), David Barbosa, Tom Ford, Nolan Murphy, Oliver Pagano, David Palczewski (285, football at Illinois)
Top returnees: Seniors: Ryan Cooch (182), Joe Kaiser (195, 15w), Gianni Rago (132, sectional qualifier, 21w), Anthony Silva (120, sectional qualifier, 29w), Ryan Vedner (170, sectional qualifier, 25w); juniors Andrew Baysinger (126, 2016 state qualifier, 24w), Joe Caringella (152, 8w), Liam Mikes (145), Jose Ramos (285, state qualifier, regional champ, 17w), Joe Tobin (120, sectional qualifier).
New faces in the room: Seniors Tony Choe (126), Dan Larson (160), Tom Morton (195); juniors Sam Hwang (160); sophomores Marcus Santos (106), Caleb Smith (220); freshmen Joe Miller (106), Jack Milos (106).
Outlook: The remarkable four-year career came of Matt Wroblewski came to a close when the Knights superstar lifted a state championship trophy last February on his soon to be new home floor in Champaign. His state triumph was the second in program history, and the first for coach Tom Whalen. "There isn't much more you can say about Matt that hasn't been said, except that he was an exceptional young man and one that worked harder than anyone else while also being a fantastic teammate who cared as much about their results and work in the room as he did for his," Whalen said. "He'll be missed for sure." One of the top coaches in the area returns a nice mix of talent throughout his lineup, including junior Andrew Baysinger, who was well on his way to joining Wroblewski and Co. downstate until an injury ended his hopes. Other top athletes include heavyweight Jose Ramos and Ryan Vedner, who signaled his intent for the year with a first-rate effort recently at the prestigious Moore-Prettyman, were he was the 170-pound runner-up. "The guys are training each day with a lot of intensity, and we return several who gained valuable experience last year against a very difficult non-conference schedule," said Whalen. "I expect us to keep working at a high level, and to learn to fight and bond for each other."
Rolling MeadowsCoach: John Bassler (4th year)
Last year: 12-10-0 (3-2-0)
Graduation losses: Liam Collins (138, state qualifier, two-time sectional qualifier, 30w, Washington and Jefferson College, PA.), Jackson Kohlberg (126, state qualifier, two-time sectional qualifier, 38w, Harper Community College), Manny Luna (160, sectional qualifier, 26w, Ohio State).
Top returnees: Seniors Jacob Holm (138, 2017 fifth-place state medalist in Washington state), Dulguun Tungalag (132, 11w), Michael Womeldorf (152, state qualifier, regional, sectional champ, three-time sectional qualifier, 25w); juniors Sean Boggess (126, 11w), Eric Guerra (120, 9w)
New faces in the room: Senior Bobby Calzaretta (132), Rhett Dombol (170), Alexis Garcia (195), Eric Morales (132); sophomores Omar Lopez (285), Miguel Luna (160), Gavin Vizitiu (126)
Outlook: With the creative steadiness and talent of: Liam Collins, Jackson Kohlberg, Manny Luna and Michael Womeldorf, the Mustangs always had a chance in its dual, while this foursome itself were contenders for trophies on the weekends. Collins, Kohlberg and Luna have moved on after finishing up their sensational careers, leaving only Womeldorf as John Bassler's best man in his lineup. "The good news is most of our starters have varsity experience, the bad news is finding guys to fill a couple of holes we have in our lineup," says Bassler. "The hard work and commitment is there, so that's something we will use and build from." If the first week of the season means anything, it's that Womeldorf is ready to make a serious run at a state medal after his dominant two-day performance at the Hruska Classic earned him a title at 152 pounds to ensure his top-10 spot in the state rankings.
WheelingCoach: Charlie Curran (1st year)
Last year: 25-5-0, MSL, regional champions, Elite 8 qualifier
Graduation losses: Scott Anderson (182, sectional qualifier, regional champ, 32w, wrestling at Harper), Tristan Guaman (145, two-time sectional qualifier, two-time regional champ, 30w, wrestling at Harper), Andrew Lara (170, two-time sectional qualifier, two-time regional champ, 26w), Carlos Montiel (152, two-time regional champ, 41w, wrestling at Harper), Jaylen Shaw (160, two-time state qualifier, two-time regional champ, 35w), Zach Yfantis (220, state qualifier, regional champ, 41w, playing baseball at Harper)
Top returnees: Seniors Eric Le (regional champ, 27w), Brian Madrigal (sectional qualifier, 34w), Manny Ramirez (state qualifier, two-time regional champ, 41w), Mason Skloot (two-time state qualifier, 2016 regional champ, 35w); juniors Andy Madrigal (sectional qualifier, 25w), John Paul Smith (sectional qualifier, 14w).
New faces in the room: Seniors Willy Giles (160/70), Manny Rodriguez (106), Angel Villegas (160/70); junior Johnny Quintero (138); freshman Ryan Tinsley (106)
Outlook: What a send-off the Wildcats gave long-time coach Neal Weiner, who stepped down after 31 years and over 500 victories by winning 25 times, in addition to MSL and regional titles, and later a spot in the 3A Elite Eight. Weiner, who remains Wheeling's athletic director, turned things over to former Hersey star and West Aurora coach Charlie Curran, who served his apprenticeship last year under Weiner. "We have a lot of experienced wrestlers back with us, and also plenty of other excellent guys who who were ready last year but unable to break the lineup due to our senior firepower from a year ago," says Curran, who welcomes back six sectional qualifiers and nearly 200 victories. "The leadership is first-class around here, and program-wide the kids want to improve their skills on a daily basis. So now we have to go out and work on getting better in one way or another."
MID-SUBURBAN WESTBarringtonCoach: Dave Udchik (4th year)
Last season: 15-8-0 (5-0-0), MSL, regional champions
Graduation losses: Jake Bentle (195, sectional qualifier, 6w), Alex Crook (220, two-time sectional qualifier, 32w, Harper fire science program), Jake Cysewski (state qualifier, MSL, regional champ, 39w, Ohio State engineering program).
Top returnees: Seniors Markus Hartman (152, 2017 state runner-up, two-time state medalist, two-time MSL, regional champ, sectional champ, 44w), Xander Kazanowski (182), Jake Meyer (182, 2016 state qualifier, MSL champ, two-time sectional qualifier, 32w), Tucker Priola (113,120, two-time sectional qualifier, regional champ, 22w), Dan Rasmussen (170, state qualifier, two-time sectional qualifier, 37w), Rami Sakka (152, 8w), Jarit Shinhoster (fifth-place state medalist, two-time sectional qualifier, two-time MSL champ, 42w); junior Connor Prettyman (sectional qualifier, 6w); sophomores Kai Conway (132, sectional qualifier, MSL champ, 31w), Trey Cysewski (113, 6w).
New faces in the room: Junior Sean Cleary (126); sophomore Dayven Shinhoster (182); freshmen Chris Allegretti (106/113), Marko Hennin (106/113).
Outlook: The Broncos' pursuit for postseason silverware can be crystallized in one simple question: will perhaps the most balanced, battle-tested and senior-dominated lineup in the area overcome a lack of experience in the three biggest weights of its starting fourteen? "We have a terrific core of seniors that have been putting in a ton of extra work on the mats and in the weight room, a good mix of freshmen and sophomores who are ready to go," said coach Dave Udchik. "And although we don't have a ton of numbers, the guys we do have are totally dedicated to working hard every day to improve and have success." For the record, Udchik's answer to that big question this year is an emphatic 'yes.' He believes his team must be willing to "roll up their sleeves and put in the work to get it done." The Broncos have three athletes looking to reach 100 career victories -- Meyer, Dan Rasmussen, Jarit Shinhoster -- alongside top wrestler Markus Hartman, a state runner-up at 145 and currently the No. 10-rated 152 pounder in the nation by the Flo Wrestling website.
ConantCoach: Chad Hay (9th year)
Last season: 17-5-0 (regional champions, 3A Elite 8)
Graduation losses: Noah Davis (145, sectional qualifier, 23w), Lee Fuller (182, state qualifier, 20w), Joe Gomez (138, sectional qualifier, 26w), Eric Hominac (170, state qualifier, regional champ, 32w), Artis Hudson (195, sectional qualifier, 31w), Tyler Futris (126, state qualifier, 32w), Dan Wozniak (152, state qualifier, 34w).
Top returnees: Seniors Jeremy Conroy (126, sectional qualifier, 13w), Ed Gosche (285), Tommy Santangelo (106, sectional qualifier, 18w); juniors Nick Amato (132, state qualifier, regional champ, 26w), Lester Gonzales (182,195), Alex Giuliano (120, state qualifier, regional champ, 28w), Cormac Kane (160, 170, state qualifier, 23w),
New faces in the room: Senior Brayden Cosgrove (145); juniors Filippo DeFrenza (160), Dominic Laskero (113); sophomore Patrick Kane (126,132).
Outlook: The Cougars wasted little time stewing over a third-place finish in the MSL tournament last season, as they rebounded in sensational style a week later with a 31-point difference to win the Streamwood regional, followed shortly after by a victory over Notre Dame to earn a spot in the 3A dual-team state quarterfinals. The Cougars advanced 12 wrestlers to the individual sectional, and seven made state. "The strength and weakness of our team is very similiar to last year in that we've got a solid core group returning, with good depth which includes three state qualifiers (Amata, Giuliano, Kane) plus two more who made it into sectionals," said coach Chad Hay. "But we graduated seven starters from last year." Of that group who've moved on, four went downstate, while all but one were part of the Cougars' lineup from 138 pounds and up. They were responsible for a total of just under 200 victories. "We'll lean on our veterans early on while others get their feet under them at this level," said Hay. "And if we can sort things out, we can be right there in the fight for a MSL and regional title once again, plus another dual-team state appearance." During the off-season, Kane was runner-up at Preseason Nationals in Iowa at 182 pounds.
FremdCoach: Dan Ruettiger (4th year)
Last season: 8-12-0 (3-4-0)
Graduation losses: Quinn Bergles (160, state qualifier, two-time sectional qualifier, 31w), Connor McMillan (220, 17w), Mike Ratlin, Zach Nemec (285, third-place state medalist, two-time state qualifier, two-time MSL, regional champ, 2016 sectional champ, 100-17 career record, 42w, wrestling at Michigan).
Top returnees: Seniors RJ Cortez (152, sectional qualifier, 23w), Adam Kemp (160, state qualifier, 30w), Cole Riemer (145, state qualifier, MSL champ, 40w).
New faces in the room: Juniors Michael Mondus (138), Brian Morel (220); sophomore Leo Joerger (106), Jack Riemer (132).
Outlook: The Vikings' vaunted big five from a year ago has been reduced to three after superb heavyweight Zach Nemec moved on to college and Quinn Bergles, another three-year starter, graduated. "We have a great big three and a cohesive and motivated group of guys this season," said Fremd coach Dan Ruettiger, "but we're still young and inexperienced in spots, which is something we'll have to deal with in the first part of the season." Nemec will be impossible to replace, but the heart of the order with Cole Riemer, RJ Cortez and Adam Kemp will be difficult for most to beat as this group accounted for nearly 100 wins a year ago. Riemer and Kemp, national qualifiers at Fargo during the off-season, are among the best in the state in their respective weight divisions.
Hoffman EstatesCoach: Tony Ganas (9th year)
Last season: 8-16-0 (1-4-0)
Graduation losses: Seth Caro (120, 25w, wrestling at Dakota Wesleyan, SD), Malik Walker (145, sectional qualifier, 23w).
Top returnees: Seniors Ryan Edwards (285, sectional qualifier, 22w), Reis Ginter (132,138, sectional qualifier, 18w), Miguel Gomez (126,132, 20w); junior Johnny Perez (113,120, 16w).
New faces in the room: Kameryn Goddard, Ted Lawler, Noel Pena.
Outlook: Continued improvement up and down the Hawks' lineup produced the type of results Tony Ganas had been looking for when his men jumped from just 2 wins in 2016 to 8 last season, which included sending a trio into the Conant sectional. "The steps forward at times have been small, but nonetheless, the program continues to grow in many ways, and the guys clearly understand in order to compete and have success, you have to fight hard in each time you go out on that mat," Ganas said. "Having two returning sectional qualifiers (Ryan Edwards, Reis Ginter) helps raise the intensity, as well as the expectations of others. So with the terrific senior leadership we have in the room, the young guys who are showing promise are now inspired to work even harder to expedite their individual growth."
PalatineCoach: Jeff Keske (1st year)
Last season: 7-11-0 (0-4-0)
Graduation losses: Jose Aragon (152, 9w), Johnathan Alanis (220, sectional qualifier, 26w), Sam Cercas (285, 14w), Chris Flores (145, 10w), Ethan Huber.
Top returnees: Seniors Jaime Martinez (182), Eddie Orozco (220), Jason Saravia (113).
New faces in the room: Sophomore Gio Jackson (195).
Outlook: There's a new man in charge at Palatine, where Jeff Keske takes over for long-time head coach Dan Collins, who stepped down following the 2017 campaign. "Our numbers are good, and the program has guys who want to be here and want to put the time in to get better," said Keske, who excelled at Libertyville and Augustana before handling assistant coaching duties and Warren and then Libertyville. Palatine has just three returns from a year ago, so the coach intends to be patient and begin developing his group. "We have a lot of inexperience, so that means all of our weight classes are up for grabs right now."
SchaumburgCoach: Michael Levanti (7th year)
Last year: 10-11-0 (3-2-0)
Graduation losses: Colin Egan (145, 13w), Zach Hosp (132, 23w), Brandon Schaar (160, sectional qualifier, 23w), Nolan Warner (195, state qualifier, two-time sectional qualifier, regional champ, 32w, SIU-Carbondale).
Top returnees: Seniors Gustavo Avila (285, 12w), Joe Cunha (195, 11w); juniors Jaylan Claudio (120), Matt Hosp (145, 7w), Tony LaRocco (113, sectional qualifier, 16w), Jack Lingle (126, 2016 state qualifier), Hadi Mashhadiabolghasem (220, sectional qualifier, 19w).
New faces in the room: Sophomores Anthony Komperda (170), Dane McMahon (182); freshman Grant Hansen (132).
Outlook: The Saxons experienced their first sub-.500 season in some time last year, fueled partly by the loss of a terrific trio of state medalists. Coach Michael Levanti intends to follow a different narrative this season. "In contrast to the past few years, the strength of our lineup this season will be from 152 and down, and although we're still a young club with just three seniors, this group is also quite a bit more athletic than we've been in the last few years," he said. One key returner is 2016 state qualifier Jack Lingle, who missed his chance for a second consecutive trip downstate after suffering a season-ending injury a year ago. Levanti tweaked his weekend schedule last year to lighten the load for his inexperienced roster, but this time around his team will face state powers Libertyville, Marian Catholic, OPRF and Sandburg.
WEST SUBURBAN GOLDLeydenCoach: John Kading (2nd year)
Last year: 9-12-0 (3-4-0)
Graduation losses: Shane Dziadosz (132, two-time sectional qualifier, 29w, wrestling at Wisconsin-Oshkosh), Alex Solano (120, 13w).
Top returnees: Senior Shouwayne Johnson (170,182, sectional qualifier, 15w); juniors Erik Aguilar (160, 11w), Fernando Corona (285, 20w), Ryan Jaffray (220, sectional qualifier, 20w), Alejandro Quinonez (170, 8w); sophomores James Lonigro (140, 11w), Daniel Uribe (132, sectional qualifier, 25w)
New faces in the room: Travon Thomas.
Outlook: Coach Kading and his young roster went through a necessary breaking-in period a year ago, and it appears all parties survived and made plenty of progress as they came out on the another end yet full of vigor and anticipation, knowing better times are ahead. "All of us had to know each other -- my habits, rules and requirements as a new head coach, and for them, who had little or no experience, the terminology, technique and all the other nuances associated with the sport," said Kading. "When you consider how young and inexperienced of a roster, to have seven first-year guys in our starting lineup at regionals, we did very well for us. And now we look to make a big step forward in year No. 2 around here." Kading liked what he saw from many during the final stages of last season and expects the duo of Daniel Uribe and Ryan Jaffray to take off. Both showed from their opening weekend at the Hruska Invite that they can meet the expectations of their head coach.
CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTHMaine WestCoach: Chris Brassell (3rd year)
Last year: 12-10-0 (2-3-0)
Graduation losses: Keon Boyd (220, 4w), Monica Mendoza (120, 11w, wrestling on women's team at Oklahoma State), David Perez (152, 10w, U.S. Marines), Aydan Schweig (145, 21w), Sage Shanahan (182, 16w, U.S. Marines)
Top returnees: Seniors Arsalan Afshar 138, two-time sectional qualifier, 26w), Jayton Hall (145, sectional qualifier, 28w); juniors Jake Belizzi (195, sectional qualifier, 30w), Zak Christovitsiotis (120, 15w), Steve Christovitsiotis (132, 9w), Nick Hernandez (182, 8w)
New faces in the room: Juniors Joe Bux (160), Sean Muellner (152), Ilia Tomav (126).
Outlook: The former Maine South star and now Maine West head coach, Chris Brassell, is beginning to see a turnaround in the Warriors program, in this, his third year at the helm. "We have a strong core of returning guys who are leaders and terrific role models for everyone to follow, plus there's many dedicated newcomers who are making progress with each day, who understand they will need to step up as the season goes on," says Brassell, who named seniors Arsalan Afshar and Jayton Hall as his captains along with junior Jake Belizzi. All are coming off exceptional seasons a year ago, combining for nearly 90 victories while earning well deserved spots in sectionals.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLICSt. ViatorCoach: Jason Churak (4th year)
Last year: 15-6-0 (3-2-0)
Graduation losses: James Valentino (three-time state qualifier, three-time regional champ, 2017 ESCC, sectional champ, wrestling at Brown, 38w), Jack Augustyn (120, St. Norbert, Minn.), Joe DeBartolo (145), Matthew Dzuibyk (160, 14w, Clayton College), Mike Dzeidzic (152, 21w, Miami), John Finnegan (195, 16w, Illinois State)
Top returnees: Jake Wolf (182, sectional qualifier, ESCC champ, 26w), Steven Chiovari (170, 14w), Jackson Churak (152, 25w), Patrick Churak (160, 12w), Mike Fitzpatrick (152, 8w).
New faces in the room: Juniors Kentaro Lim (145), Mike Whelan (138); sophomores Nick Demunno (160), Ryan McGuire (195), Step Starris (106); freshmen Giatano Console (120), Brandon Flores (285)
Outlook: When James Valentino walked into the room in 2013, the wrestling program appeared to be on life support, according to Jason Churak. "We were really down and out, and we needed someone or something to jump-start things around here. James was that guy, and every since his first day here, it was nothing but one good thing after another for him, and the program," says Churak. After another record-setting season, Valentino has moved on to Brown University of the Ivy League, leaving behind impossibly big shoes to fill. "The way he went about his work was second to none, so the hope is others learned from that and will take the lead this season," Churak said. "I'm hoping that others who watched that work ethic will continue." Senior Jake Wolf appears the one most likely to do so after a breakthrough 2017 season.