No doubt about Stevenson's triumph at Leyden

 
By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/6/2018 8:17 PM
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Turnabout, in this case, was especially sweet.

After seemingly taking home the top prize last year but then being asked to return the trophy due to a scoring error, Stevenson's wrestling team made sure of its fate with a dominant performance Saturday afternoon in Franklin Park.

The Patriots earned 13 medals, won four individual titles and outscored its closest rival by over 60 points to capture the 40th annual Eagle Invite inside historic Farina Fieldhouse at host Leyden.

"It was kind of tough to leave here last year with a trophy, then get it into the hands of Jacobs -- so to see the guys come out right from the start and never let up until the very end to win it all was quite satisfying," said Patriots coach Shane Cook.

Stevenson amassed 236 points, while runner-up Jacobs totaled 175.5 and third-place Conant had 128.5. Lakes (120) and 2A power Oak Forest (107) rounded out the top five.

"With our schedule just about to ramp up for the home stretch, it was important to see the guys jump out early, getting bonus points and big wins throughout the brackets to build the type of momentum needed to win tournaments," said Cook.

Stevenson held a 35-point advantage before the semifinal rounds, then increased its lead to 42 halfway through the final session. The Pats finished in terrific fashion, with Muzi Sitshela (23-6 at 152), Danny Ganzman (17-12 at 182) and Anand Batbaatar (20-6 at heavyweight) each taking titles.

Ganzman is another in a long line of Patriots who have served a kind of apprenticeship under top-tier teammates before seizing their opportunity with dazzling results.

"I was behind Nikita Nepomnyashchly, Robert Pavlovics and Max Gomez, so there wasn't any room for me in our starting lineup," said Ganzman, characterized by Cook as an ideal team-first competitor making the most of his role this year. "But I continued to work and learn so that when my chance came, I was ready."

With the title firmly under their control, the Patriots watched others from the area share the spotlight -- namely the Jacobs duo of Justin Peters (113, 28-6) and Johnny Ridle (138, 21-1) along with Leyden sophomore Daniel Uribe (132, 16-5) and Burlington Central's reigning 2A state champion Austin Macias (18-2), who after his superb work at 126 was named tourney MVP by the 14 coaches.

The Rockets senior continues to validate his No. 1 state ranking with performances such as this one, which ended with a technical fall in the third period over Jack Coyle (23-7) of Oak Forest.

"Obviously it's nice to keep on winning matches and tournaments, but what is just as important is to get tested and challenged," said Macias. "So maybe next week at Batavia I'll move up to 132 to go against bigger, stronger guys."

Teammate Nick Termini (15-6) did just that, bumping up one weight to 145. The switch resulted in a heartbreaking 6-4 defeat in overtime to Alex Rosenbloom (18-1) of Highland Park.

Termini grabbed a 4-3 lead just seconds before regulation. But Rosenbloom, a Duke-bound senior, tied it up and then finished things off 32 seconds into the first extra session.

"That was a quality 3A guy Nick went against, and he showed he's right there," said Burlington Central coach Jordan Bakley. "But in the end, he's got to finish his chances and not let his opponent to get that 1-point escape so late in his match."

Another Class 2A standout, Eliott Stigall (170), came through in flying colors with a 15-1 major decision for the first tournament title in the Lakes senior's career.

"A win like this gives me a real boost in confidence, so now I have to take advantage of it by working and training as hard as I can each day in order to give myself a great chance to get downstate," said Stigall.

Leyden celebrated two individual titles, the first coming by Uribe, the other by Ryan Jaffray (23-3), who prevailed 3-2 over Ryan Dykes (21-9) of Jacobs at 220 pounds.

"This is a great day for me because I won my first high school tournament, and on my home mats," said Uribe. "I didn't do as well as I wanted to at the Berman during our winter break, so I put in some extra work to get myself ready for our own tournament."

The 120-pound division was easily the best of the bunch on this day, with three state-ranked athleties in the bracket, including Nos. 9 and 10 -- Tommy Frezza (Stevenson, 21-3) and Jake Harrier (Jacobs, 29-3) -- along with Conant's Alex Giuliano (18-3).

Frezza dispatched Giuliano in their semifinal, while Harrier did the same to set up a third match with Frezza in less than a year.

Last season at this tourney, Harrier defeated Frezza 5-4 in the semifinals. But Frezz later prevailed 8-3 in a sectional final at Barrington.

This time, Harrier conceded an early takedown, then saw Frezza win a tactical battle and a 3-2 triumph.

"We know that Jake is an explosive, dangerous wrestler, so Tommy did well by staying in good position and not allowing him to unleash his weapons in space," said Cook.

The two could meet once again at sectionals in mid-February.

Peters, who was one win short of going downstate, and Ridle, who didn't even make it out of regionals a year ago, continue to shine for coach Gary Conrad.

"Those two have come a long way since last season, but each of them can still get better," said Conrad. "It's been fun to watch them so far."

Conant coach Chad Hay had fun watching his group earn its third-place trophy despite having four starters out of its lineup, including No. 2 Cormac Kane.

"The guys showed me a lot today, especially those who were in our lineup for the first time," said Hay. "We should have everyone back very soon, but in the meantime it was good to get some of our guys valuable time in a tournament situation, where they could get 3-4 matches, while getting us points along the way to help the cause."

The Cougars' best man of the day was junior Filippo DeFrenza (21-5), whose gritty six-minute effort helped him to a triumph at 160 pounds.

"I never lost while on JV, but the adjustment to the speed, quickness and strength (at the varsity level) was tough early on," said DeFrenza, following his 5-1 defeat of Ryan Peck (24-7) of Vernon Hills. "But the effort and hard work paid off with my ever varsity championship."

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