Grayslake North third at Bison Invite
The wrestling teams from Grayslake North, South Elgin and Fenton were stronger than nine others but not strong enough to stop the individual star power of Thornton Fractional North, which lifted the championship trophy Saturday afternoon at the 39th annual Steve Bison Invite in Bensenville.
The top-rated Class 2A duo of brothers Sincere (138 pounds) and Bilal Bailey (152) inspired TFN with masterful performances at host Fenton High School, each pinning their ways to their weight class titles, along with two other teammates, to help their team score 182.5 overall points.
Grayslake North, led by 126-pound champ Jake Joswiak finished second with 155.5 points, followed by South Elgin (145), Fenton (117) and Proviso East which would round out the top five with 103 points.
Jamier Castleberry (Proviso East), Jeremiah Duty (North Chicago) and the Bailey brothers collected their second consecutive Weiss championships with Castleberry's title coming at the expense of area wrestlers.
Jeremy Piskorz, one of two from Fenton in the finals, was beaten by Sincere Bailey, while Grayslake North senior and 2018 state qualifier Adam Blonski dropped his 152-pound final against Bilal Bailey.
"Both of the Baileys are great wrestlers, so there's no shame in losing to either one of them," said Grayslake North head coach Collin McKillip, who watched the Blonski final after guiding Jake Joswiak on to victory at 126.
"Jake is always in a match because he's able to win the big points," said McKillip of Joswiak, who was 26-13 a year ago at 120 pounds.
Jozwiak was one of three from the area who would hoist traditional championship brackets, the other two coming from Elijah Lopez from South Elgin and Palatine junior Gio Jackson, who was not even in the Pirates' regional starting lineup last season.
"This feels great right now," admitted a thrilled Jackson, who navigated his way through his 220-pound bracket before recording a 10-1 major decision over Basilio Betancourt of Bremen Township.
"We have a great new head coach (Chris Winters) who has really brought out team together, so I feel he's been a big reason for my early-season success, as well as all of the lifting I've done during the offseason to prepare for the football and wrestling seasons," said Jackson, who finished a high single midway through the second period to open a 6-1 advantage.
South Elgin welcomed a new head coach this season as well, and if you ask Lopez for the reason for his 160-pound title it would be that of head coach Adam Lehnus.
"Lehnus is a great guy. He's brought a lot into our room this year and for me, he's more than a coach, he's like a good friend," said Lopez, who was one win away from advancing into sectionals a year ago.
"Elijah executed his game plan really well today, and in his final he stuck to it, and that's why he won," said Lehnus, an assistant for three years before taking over.
Vince Clinite finished second at 195 for the Storm as did Hayden Groesser, who lost his 285-pound final (6-1) to Ahmed Suleiman.
"Hayden came in at 210 pounds. His opponent was massive. He must have had 60-70 pounds on him," said Lehnus. "But Hayden is the ultimate team guy. He knew we might be without a heavyweight this season, and he came to me and said he didn't want us to have a hole in our lineup but he goes out there nonetheless and gives us everything he has."
St. Viator had three of its wrestlers finish third -- Gaetano Console (132), Nick Demmuno (182) and heavyweight Brandon Flores, for his second time in two seasons.
"Those three, plus Michael Purk (170) are the leaders of this team, and although they have to fill the big shoes of Jake Wolf (2018 state qualifier) they will do just fine because they saw how Jake led this team, both in and out of the room," said Lions coach Jason Churak.
The Lions were missing their 195-pound star, Ryan McGuire (flu), who won 30 matches last season as a sophomore.