Oak Park rises up, claims top Whitlatch honors
Oak Park-River Forest led from start to finish to win the team title at the 52nd annual Rex Whitlatch Invitational at Hinsdale Central for a second consecutive season Saturday.
The Huskies blew away the competition with three individual champions and 11 top eight-medalists to outscore runner-up DeKalb (266.5-170.5), with third-place Providence Catholic far behind at 145.5.
Sandburg (145.5), Minooka (140) and Stevenson (123) were the next three in this 24-team field, which saw a young OPRF team validate its 3A state ranking. The Huskies stood at No. 4 in Illinois when the week began.
"It was quite a weekend for us," said OPRF coach Paul Collins, whose club was without nationally ranked Anthony Madrigal, out after suffering an elbow injury last weekend.
While the Huskies excelled despite five sophomores in the lineup, so did Stevenson senior Muzi Sitshela (14-6). He defeated the Nos. 1- and 4-seeded 152-pounders to advance into the final before falling to Jack Tangen (17-1) of New Trier.
"I had to wait my turn after being behind two great teammates and state qualifiers, Dylan Geick and Eric Carter," said Sitshela. "But the wait was worth it, and getting into the final today shows what hard work and training in the room with guys like them can mean."
Sitshela looked like a four-year veteran while sending Logan Johnson (Belleview West) and Kevin Countryman (Providence) into the consolation bracket with sterling performances. Countryman had upset top seed Michael Womeldorf of Rolling Meadows in the quarterfinals.
"Muzi worked incredibly hard last year and was a great teammate despite not getting into our lineup very much, so it's great to see him have the success he's had thus far," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook.
Junior Tommy Frezza (15-3) who was the 113-pound champ here last season, fell short of a second straight title but walked away with a third-place medal at 120 after a 7-6 loss to Kyle Schickel (Lemont) in the semifinals.
"This is the second time I've lost to Schickel this season, but coach told me to put both of those losses behind me, and just look ahead to the coming week," said Frezza, a returning state qualifier.
Downers Grove North senior Nate Cummings (113) won for the second time here and improved to 18-0 following his pin at 3:44 against Glenbard West senior Catron Frazier.
"I circled this date on my calendar because this big-time tournament starts what hopes to be a great second half of the season, and the state tournament in late February," said Cummings, most recently fifth in the state polls and a two-time state medalist.
Frazier, ranked No. 10 in the state polls, looked sharp en route to his appearance in the final -- especially in a 7-2 decision over No 2 seed Matt Strauss of Downers Grove South, who suffered his first loss of the season in the quarterfinals.
Frazier said he felt fortunate to have had plenty of training time with former teammate Charlie Faber, now wrestling at Brown.
"I was lucky to have Charlie in the room with me last year," Frazier said. "He helped me so much, and showed me to be tough and to wrestle my style when I go out there."
Downers Grove South senior Sergio Villalobos improved to 19-0 by topping Blah Dahnweih of DeKalb 8-2. It's Villalobos' first Whitlatch title; the Mustangs finished seventh overall (118.5), just ahead of Glenbard West (110).
West Aurora freshman Dzhabrail Khurshidov (14-6) was his team's top finisher after he earned a fourth-place medal at 182 pounds.
Hinsdale South sophomore Derrick Singleton (113) went home with the lone Hornets medal when he finished fifth overall.
Womeldorf (19-1), who came into the tournament as the state's No. 4-rated 152-pounder, came away with an eigthh-place finish.