Strong finish earns Huntley a regional title
It was mission accomplished for the Huntley wrestling team.
The Red Raiders held a narrow lead over host DeKalb heading into the finals of Saturday's Class 3A regional, but pulled away for a 209.5-181.5 team victory thanks to a stellar 9-3 performance in the final four matches.
Huntley collected championships in five weight classes and advanced 12 wrestlers through to Saturday's Barrington sectional. For the second straight year, the Red Raiders advanced to the dual team sectional semifinals, where they will host Prospect Feb. 20 in search of their first state finals appearance.
Hononegah took third with 160 points while Jacobs qualified six individuals for sectionals and placed fourth with 115.5 points.
"Winning nine out of 12 in the final round really helped us," said Huntley coach BJ Bertelsman. "This is usually our time. We peak here. We had five get through to state last year, so we're looking for five or more this year. Some weight classes are stacked, but I like our chances."
Sophomore returning state qualifier Sam Spencer (39-1) got the Red Raiders going at 113 with an impressive 9-1 major decision championship win over Jacobs' Justin Peters while senior Luke Loprieno (32-13) captured a second straight regional title by notching a fall at 4:42 over DeKalb's Tucker Ikens.
"I wrestled him earlier in a dual and only beat him by one point, but I didn't wrestle my best. I came out here looking to dominate and I wrestled well the entire match," Spencer said. "We worked really hard this week. It was probably our toughest week all year and it really paid off."
"It was special for me to win the regional for a second time in a row," Loprieno said. "I scoped him out before so I knew what he liked to do. The fall surprised me, but it was a happy surprise."
As expected, Huntley recorded back-to-back titles at 160 and 170 behind sophomore David Ferrante (31-2) and senior Juan Quiroz (40-5).
Ferrante, last year's fourth-place state medalist, cruised to a 17-5 major decision over Hononegah's Dominic Ballano.
"I would have liked to have seen a fall, but overall it was a solid performance," Ferrante said.
For the second straight year, Quiroz took on DeKalb's Justin Schmerbach in the finals and collected an intense 11-5 decision as both wrestlers received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after exchanging words after the match.
"It was wild. We wrestled last year and it went to overtime and it got pretty heated back then too," Quiroz said. "As a team we're very confident we'll make it down to state for the first time in school history."
Senior Justin Allen (24-8) collected the final Red Raiders title at 195 with a come-from-behind 9-7 overtime win over DeKalb's top-seeded Blah Dahnweih (37-5).
"That was a great match. Hopefully they'll see each other again in the sectional final. I'll take that," Bertelsman said.
Another outstanding championship match took place at 126, where DeKalb's Fabian Lopez (40-1) secured a 3-2 overtime decision over Huntley's Zach Spencer (39-7). Nik Wise also finished second for the Red Raiders at 220, dropping a 3-2 decision to Hononegah's Nate Kaiser.
Jimmy Pellegrino (106), Gannon Kasowski (138), Rukkus Hunkins (152) and Michael Jernigan (182) all qualified for Huntley with victories in their respective third place matches.
Sophomore Jake Harrier (35-3) came away with Jacobs' lone title at 120 by posting a 12-1 major decision win over Huntley's Jeremy Jakowitsch (30-17).
"It's always fun winning," said Harrier, a state qualifier last year. "I just wanted to get after my stuff like every other match. I want to keep it going now and get a good week of practice and get ready for sectionals because I'll have some tough competition."
"It was nice seeing Jake win," said Jacobs coach Gary Conrad. "He's been wrestling all year and he went downstate last year so he knows what he's doing. He's fun to coach."
Peters (32-7) came up short in his title match with Sam Spencer, but advanced to his second straight sectional.
"I wrestled him before in a dual meet and I tried to be more aggressive at the beginning and throughout the entire match," Peters said.
Junior Johnny Ridle (28-5) also took second for the Golden Eagles at 138, dropping a hard-fought 3-1 title match decision to Hononegah's top-seeded Giovanni Cassioppi.
Also advancing for Jacobs in third place were Dominic Tenyuca (22-14), who rallied for a 5-3 decision over DeKalb's Jacob Lindemann at 132, Kevin Schultz (21-14) with a 7-1 decision over Hononegah's James Bowers at 195, and Ryan Dykes (28-8) with a 2-1 overtime win over DeKalb's Niels Lewrentz at 220.
"We were going for seven, but we did pretty well. Sectional is always a grind so we'll see," Conrad said. "Schultz qualifying at 195 was great. He had a losing record last year and now he gets to 20 wins and makes it to sectional. Dominic wrestled really well too at 132. That was a good win for him."