Stevenson edges Conant for Conrad crown
Stevenson and Conant have had a stranglehold on the big trophy at the Randy Conrad Invite for what seems forever to the field that visits historic Farina Field House in Franklin Park.
Saturday was no different.
The two clubs would take turns holding the lead all afternoon, with Jacobs right there with its rivals, until Stevenson took control for good midway through the final session.
The Patriots claimed their second consecutive Conrad title using inspiration from individual titles from freshman Cole Rhemrev (106 pounds, 22-6), and his senior teammates Tommy Frezza (126, 22-2) and Max Gomez (195, 20-6) to outscore rival Conant 209-196. Jacobs (184) finished third. Host Leyden (158) and Machesney Park Harlem (133.5) would round out the top five teams of the 13-team field.
"We're slowly getting everyone back and at the right spots in our lineup, so today was important for us, as will be our quad next weekend when we host three top teams in Deerfield, Huntley and Yorkville in a (quad) that might see someone leave that day after going ofer-three," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook.
"This was a good win for the team, and if all of us continue to work hard and believe in the process, big things will happen for us in the last few weeks of the season," added Gomez.
Frezza and Gomez were part of three top-flight divisions -- Frezza winning for the second straight year following his 6-0 decision over Alex Giuliano from Conant in a key head-to-head contest.
"I've had some real tough matches here the last two years with Jake Harrier (Jacobs), whose now moved up to 132 and doing great," said Frezza, a state medal winner a year ago for the first time in his career. "I lost to the eventual state champion (Travis Ford-Melton) in my semifinal (3-2) at state so knowing how close I was last year means I can be right there this year if I keep working hard and staying mentally strong."
Despite his No. 6 ranking in recent state polls, Gomez found himself as the No. 4 seed Saturday behind top seed Casey Wood (Vernon Hills), Josue Ferro (Burlington Central) and Ryan Golnick of Jacobs.
Gomez, who has spent time at 220, sent Wood into the third-place match after recording a fall at 2:48, then finished up with another pin, this one at 3:24 over the sophomore Golnick when he locked up a cradle on the talented sophomore.
Runner-up Conant, close to full strength for the first time in a while, looked the part of a threat in the Mid-Suburban League and regionals, despite falling short of overtaking Stevenson.
"We were without a heavyweight today, and Cormac (Kane) is still out with an injury, but we finally have just about everyone at the weight they will compete at from here on out," said an upbeat Chad Hay, the Cougars' head coach.
Nicky Amato (138) and Filippo DeFrenza (152, 22-2) looked sharp in their 'new' weight divisions during their championship runs.
"I took a few lumps while at (145) but I knew in the long run it would make me better prepared for the stretch run of this season," said Amato, who recently committed to wrestle next fall at Iowa State.
"It was a good test for me to wrestle the first half of the season at that weight, but it was all worthwhile."
Amato (20-3) crushed two opponents before winning it all with an 11-5 decision, while DeFrenza found success with a gritty, hard-fought 3-2 victory over Leyden's Ronnie Massari, who is now 22-3. The Leyden senior, along with teammate Daniel Uribe, was looking to win back-to-back majors after the Eagles' dynamic duo won at the Berman Holiday Classic at Palatine.
Uribe (22-2) was unable to solve the aforementioned Harrier (26-1), who continues to shine while further validating his well-deserved No. 6 spot in the state polls.
"My level of confidence is so much better than last year, and I really feel that our nonconference and tournament schedule has helped not only myself, but my teammates in our continued improvement," said Harrier, who finished fifth a year ago at the state tournament.
Harrier, who has now won three major titles thus far (Hrusko, Niles West and Leyden) recently earned third-place honors at the high-profile Dvorak over the holiday break.
Jacobs' Justin Peters (120, 21-8) and Johnny Ridle (145) were fourth and second respectively, Ridle losing to reigning Class 2A state champion and current No. 1 rated Nick Termini (Burlington Central, 28-0) in the 145-pound final.
"My four years at BC have gone so fast, but I would like nothing more to win another state title for myself and Central," said the affable Termini, who will attend Old Dominion next fall and continue to wrestle.
"Indiana, Northwestern and Northern Illinois were all of great interest to me, but after getting a home visit from Old Dominion, then being absolutely awestruck during my visit it was an easy call after that," added Termini, who joined-then teammate Austin Macias atop the podium last February in Champaign.
Termini's current teammate, Zach Collins (19-7), grabbed the 182-pound crown after his 9-8 victory over Dominee Daniels of DeLaSalle.
Lakes senior Jack Brunati continues to make a case for himself in the eyes of state pollsters following another impressive effort at 285 pounds. The senior now has three individual titles on his resume after mashing three opponents with a pair of pins, and a major to run his record to a dazzling 22-1.
"Being state-ranked doesn't mean much to me. It's just a number right now, and I know there's guys ahead of me in the polls who might not have the record I do, but my focus is only on what I can do to improve, and not others," said Brunati.