Libertyville roars back to beat Stevenson

After falling behind visiting Stevenson 26-12 after eight matches, Libertyville had to be wondering if the Patriots would have its number again Friday night in North Suburban Conference wrestling action.

But unlike the previous four seasons of losing to their No. 1 rival, the Wildcats responded with 21 unanswered points on their way to an exciting 37-29 NSC victory to take their first step toward snapping four-time defending champion Stevenson's hold on the conference title.

Starting the dual meet at 170 pounds, Libertyville (2-0, 1-0) got on the scoreboard first when a 9-3 decision by Bennett Whitney and a 5-2 decision by 182-pound teammate Ryan Damenti made the score 6-0.

Stevenson (2-1, 0-1) bounced back strongly with a technical fall by Matt Millman at 195 and a pin by Max Gomez at 220. But Libertyville's Jordan Smith moved up a weight class to 285 and got a pin with just one second left in the first period to give the Wildcats a brief 12-11 advantage.

The Patriots took control of the meet after that with 106-pound freshman Cole Rhemrev's major decision, 113-pounder Randy Lu's pin in 59 seconds, and 2018 all-stater Tommy Frezza's technical fall at 120 giving Stevenson the 26-12 lead.

But the momentum would end abruptly at that point for the Pats as Libertyville senior Brandon Murphy's pin at 126 quickly cut the gap to 26-18.

Then came a technical fall by all-state junior Danny Pucino at 132, and a pin by senior teammate Michael Gunther in 57 seconds, and the Wildcats had the lead for keeps at 29-26 with three bouts left.

"We knew that this was going to be a competitive dual, Libertyville has a great team, and they have one of the best coaches in the state of Illinois (Dale Eggert)," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "Hats off to Libertyville tonight,- they were ready to go, and they executed better than we did."

A 15-6 major decision by Libertyville's Alec Goodman at 145 extended the lead to 33-26. But Stevenson's Jason Bickers kept the Patriots' hopes alive with a 5-2 decision at 152 making the score 33-29 with one match to go.

Sophomore Chase Baczek (160) put the finishing touches on the huge win with a 14-4 decision over Ivor Gueorguiev to end it as Gueorguiev took one for the team and moved up a weight class.

"We haven't beaten them (Stevenson) in four years so it was a nice time to get a win and it came down to not giving up extra points," said Murphy, who qualified for state last year. "We're looking to win another regional, we think we have the team to do it, and we're a good dual-meet team too."

Eggert's squad has the inside track to taking back the NSC crown although there is still almost an entire season of wrestling remaining.

"They (Stevenson) had a great run, four years in a row they beat us and it's a great program," said Eggert, who now has 559 career wins in dual meets. "Maybe the biggest win was Jordan Smith going up to 285 and getting the pin, and Chase (Baczek) really shined in that last match."

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