Stevenson goes 3-0 at Conant quad
Jason Bickers, Ivor Gueorguiev and Michael Phelps provided heroics for Stevenson late in its match with Neuqua Valley to help send the Patriots (11-4-0) past the Wildcats to ensure a perfect 3-0 day Friday afternoon at the Conant quad.
After senior Jacob Killacky doubled the Wildcats advantage (25-12) following his 5-3 decision at 138 pounds, pins from Bickers and Gueorguiev around a forfeit at 152 would set up Phelps (182) who put this one out of reach with a pin of his own.
A six-point forfeit victory by Max Gomez (195) increased the Patriots' lead to 42-31 in what would be an eventual 42-34 result.
"This was a terrific way to end the first half of the year (and) a great way to send us into the most important part of the wrestling season," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook.
"Yoni (Leibovitz) at 120 gave us a big effort in his match against Conant to help us win that one, and he came back and pinned his guy against Neuqua, which really helped us out because (they) put 13 unanswered points on us after his pin."
"Yoni came through, Bickers and Ivor did as well, but Michael (Phelps) closed out both Conant, then Neuqua with pins."
The aforementioned Gomez, ranked sixth in a top-flight 195-pound weight class, feels his club is close to being ready for a strong run at several goals set forth by the coaching staff.
"Once we get everyone back and where they belong, our lineup should have what we need to challenge for a team championship at regionals in February," said Gomez, a state qualifier a year ago.
"I have a lot of faith in our coaching staff to get us ready for the postseason, but it's up to all of us to continue to work hard and prepare for what's ahead."
The eight-point loss to Stevenson put a damper on what was an otherwise solid day for Neuqua Valley inside Perry Gymnasium, particularly for its two top men, Denis Murphy (126, 20-5) and Jacob Boumans at 170.
The 2018 state qualifiers were a combined 6-0 on the day, albeit with two of Boumans' wins coming via forfeit.
Murphy, seventh in the most recent state polls, was one and done at the state tournament a year ago, after earning a regional title and 37-10 overall record.
"Going out so quickly at state made me work that much harder during the offseason, because with this being my last year (here) you want it all when you get back downstate," said Murphy, who is looking to continue wrestling at the collegiate level at either UW-Oshkosh, or UW-Eau Claire.
"We've got a lineup that is senior dominated, so we know if we are at our best, we can make run at a regional title, and more."
Boumans (20-2) just as his teammate, used his 1-2 record at state last February as the perfect inspiration to one last chance at the big trophy.
"I honestly feel that I can get on the podium and challenge for a state title," said Boumans, No. 3 in the state this week, and one week removed from a fourth-place finish at the prestigious Dvorak.
"Being in two big-time tournaments almost back-to-back (Neuqua will compete at the Cheesehead in Wisconsin next week) it was the perfect way to get all of us a taste of top level talent in advance of the postseason," added Boumans, who won 41 last season.
The Wildcats fought off a late charge by host Conant (9-4-0) who came all the way back from a 33-12 deficit to make it close during a 39-33 final.
Nicky Amato (145), Jack Hominac (152) and Filippo DeFrenza (160), all 3-0 on the day, led the Cougars fightback in the opener for both sides.
"We're not anywhere near to be 100 percent (both) with our health, and at the proper weight(s), but we should be soon, and that's when we'll look like the team all of us expected us to be," said DeFrenza (19-2) who stepped in for head coach Chad Hay who was en route to the Sears Centre to weigh-in at the prestigious Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, where he will compete at 149 pounds.
"We have one of the top 170-pounders in the state on the injured list right now (Cormac Kane) our two-time state qualifier, Alex Giuliano is out of town on vacation, and we had a lot of young guys in our lineup," continued DeFrenza.
"That's not an excuse for us being 1-2 today, or losing MSL West duals to Schaumburg and Fremd, but I know we'll be better when everyone gets back."
The Cougars' lone win on the day was over league rival Hersey, which despite winless in three matches, still brings a smile to face of Joe Rupslauk.
"When I took this program over two years ago, we had 6-8 guys on our roster. (Today) we have 60 in the entire program, and just one senior on our varsity lineup. So with everyone coming back, the future is finally brighter after several dreary years for us," said the Huskies coach.
"We have a great coaching staff with Hunter Rollins, Matt Boggess, Jim Wormsley and Eric Shinhoster, and a great group of kids who are committed to the program and each other, and in (it) for the long haul."
Rupslauk points to Zach Joyce (120), Paul Jacks (138) and Chris Hendrich (152) as standout performers thus far for a team which has surprised in the MSL East with its current 3-1 divisional record.