Pucino's sectional repeat leads Libertyville

 
By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/10/2018 9:47 PM
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Danny Pucino doubled his wrestling pleasure Saturday evening by winning his second straight Barrington sectional crown.

The Libertyville sophomore heads into next week's Class 3A state tournament as one of the top four seeds at 132 pounds.

Teammate Michael Gunther (138, 24-3) soon followed with his own individual title to give Lake County schools five champions on the day, and a total of 14 competitors who will compete in the state tournament beginning Thursday in Champaign.

Second-ranked Dane Durlacher (Mundelein, 41-0) started a run of ten state qualifiers in the first six weight classes by capturing the 106-pound title. A freshman sensation from Warren, Joel Vandervere (120, 39-2), added to the title run shortly thereafter.

"Now it gets not only fun, but it's the best time of the year," said Durlacher, who topped Warren's Sawyer Nash 5-0 and placed fourth at state a year ago. "And this time around, I'm going to Champaign with the idea of bringing back a state title."

Pucino's triumph confirmed what coach Dale Eggert already knew.

"Danny enjoyed a terrific two days -- he just turns up the pressure on his opponents, because he gets stronger and stronger at the match goes on, never stopping until the end comes," Eggert said.

"I felt like I saved my best for last today," said Pucino, "and that's really the way I wanted to end this tournament so I can go into state next week with momentum. Because this year I know I'm going down there to win it all -- unlike last year, when I was just happy to make it there for the first time."

Pucino (40-2) advanced with a major decision victory over Kai Conway of Barrington.

Gunther, who'd missed nearly four weeks with an injury, has returned to action looking fit and at 100 percent, according to Eggert, following a 6-3 decision over John Ridle (29-5) of Jacobs.

"After one week back in our room, he looked like he didn't miss a beat," said Eggert.

Gunther came up with a takedown with 13 seconds remaining to earn his second trip downstate.

Libertyville's Matt Templeton (126, 32-9) is headed to state for a second straight season, while heavyweight Charlie Schmidt (35-5) makes his state debut after surviving one of the top divisions here.

Durlacher was masterful throughout his run, as was Mustangs junior Logan Kvien (182, 37-4), who last season earned his first state appearance via wrestleback survival.

"(That) wasn't the easiest way to qualify, but it was a lot better than not," said Kvien, who has set a program record for pins at 27. "But this year, after spending extra time lifting, going to camps, and getting as much time on the mats, my confidence is so much better and I feel like it shows in the way I wrestle and compete."

Mundelein junior Reese Durlacher (38-4) joins his brother in Champaign for the second time after surviving in wrestlebacks at 126.

Earning their first trips are Austin Nash (Warren, 113, 17-7), Justin Brown (Grant, 182, 33-9) and Max Gomez (Stevenson, 195, 36-10).

"This is my final year at Stevenson, and to punch my ticket downstate is the most amazing thing to happen to me," said a thrilled Gomez, who won a regional title at Glenbrook South last weekend and on Saturday eliminated Mundelein junior DJ Preston in a state-qualifying bout.

Brown said things began to look bleak for his state chances, bounced from the front draw after conceding a major decision loss to Jake Leske (31-7) of McHenry. But the Bulldogs sophomore lifted his spirits when he recorded an impressive 12-1 major decision triumph to advance downstate.

"I put a lot of pressure on my myself before that semifinal with Leske, but after that I figured there wasn't anything for me to lose as a sophomore, so I opened things up in my qualifying match, and it worked for me," said Brown.

Tommy Frezza (36-5) showed little disappointment despite falling short in his bid for a second straight sectional title after the Stevenson junior earned his second trip downstate in as many years.

Frezza fell to nemesis Jake Harrier (35-4) of Jacobs in the semifinals but came back to beat Libertyville junior Brandon Murphy for third place.

"If I had a do-over with Jake, I would have picked up the pace from the start and attack more as well," said Frezza. "But that doesn't matter -- all that does is me getting back downstate, and going after the big prize."

Vandervere impressed from his opening bout, and right on through the finishing touches in a hard-fought 9-8 victory over Harrier.

"It feels great to win regionals last weekend, and sectionals today," said Vandervere. "But I always felt like it was possible for me to do it in my first year, and to realize it is even better than I thought."

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