Marmion, Aurora Christian eye conference crowns
Here's a look at this weekend's conference wrestling tournaments.
2018 champion: St. Charles East
Outlook: With the departure of Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles East to the newly formed DuKane Conference, it has left Glenbard East as the lone wrestling power in the league -- a statement agreed upon by others around the UEC, including Rams coach Kevin Carlson and his counterpart at Bartlett, John Glorioso.
"I feel like we're the one to beat, but we still have to wrestle our best in order to win the conference title," says Carlson, whose club has been runner-up to St. Charles East the past two seasons.
The Rams have quality and experience throughout their lineup beginning with Reese Martin (120, 33-4) and Alex Posada (145, 25-2) and ending with the dynamic duo of Ben Pham (195, 31-3) and Jesus Lopez (29-5) at 220.
No doubt fans will enjoy a talented group at 195 pounds: Dhabrail Khurshidov (West Aurora, 29-10), Joey Vinson (Bartlett, 25-7) and Pham, who edged Khurshidov for the title at Geneva two weeks ago.
Lopez will be after his third straight UEC title, but he'll have to wrestle it away from Larkin senior Diego Facio at 22-1.
The aforementioned Glorioso has six of his guys with 20 wins or more, including Oliver (113, 30-6), Cody Rivelli (138, 27-8) and Trey Johnson (160, 27-8), all of whom he believes will be in the championship conversation.
"No doubt Glenbard East is the favorite. (They) are real physical at the lower weights and have some terrific guys up top, but we feel we have a real good shot at a top three finish," said Glorioso.
"We're finally healthy, and have everyone back and ready to go, so we're looking forward to the weekend for sure."
Metro Suburban Conference
2018 champion: Fenton
Outlook: The minute Aurora Christian was brought into the MSC they immediately became the favorite to carry away the conference title, and why not?
AC returned nearly everyone back from its 2018 Class 1A state championship club, including individual champs Cameron Johnson and Noah Villareal along with four other state medal winners.
It's been a little bit of a rough go for AC thus far. However, Johnson (20-4) feels he and his mates are ready to go when the postseason begins.
"We had a lot of injuries early on (forcing) coach (Justin) Pearch to play with our lineup while guys were out, but everyone is back, and our lineup is full, so I expect us to be the favorite from here on out," said Johnson, who went 38-6 a year ago en route to his second consecutive state title.
Johnson says a diverse nonconference schedule which features 3A (Montini Catholic) and 2A (Washington) state champions, in addition to other high profile programs, has been a terrific way to measure the progress of the team, while helping all of them fine tune their game in advance of the final month of the season.
Fenton coach Brian Hastings admits Aurora Christian is the definitive favorite this weekend, but feels there's four of his men who have the best chance for success on its home floor.
"Jeremy Piskorz (138), David Burch (145), Danny Ramirez (152) and Ramiro Bracamontes (160) have been going real well of late, so they absolutely can challenge for a top three finish," said Hastings.
Chicago Catholic League
Host: St. Rita
2018 champion: Montini Catholic
Outlook: If there was ever a group of granite, this is the place to find it.
Boasting three of the top four clubs in the state, all of which are also nationally ranked -- with Montini leading the way at No. 5 -- the CCL tournament will give fans just about everything it yearns for.
No. 1 Montini, No. 3 Mt. Carmel and No. 4 Marmion are the headline acts while nearly 20 returning state medal winners and three state champions fill the weight classes.
What makes for even more intrigue is the fact that this trio of all-star teams will all meet at the Bolingbrook sectional on the second weekend of February.
Last year's 3A state champs Trevor Chumbley (Marmion Academy, 145) as well as the Montini Catholic duo of Peter Christensen (192) and Jake Stiles (152) lead their respective clubs into action.
The Cadets received a devastating blow to their postseason chances when Harvard-bound and top-rated 170-pounder Peter Ferraro suffered a season ending shoulder injury recently.
Coach Nate Fitzenreider will now lean more heavily on: Nathan Callaway (132), Patrick Daum (182), Brad Gross (160), Michael Jaffe (120) -- all of whom find themselves in perhaps the most challenging weight divisions in this tournament, according to Fitzenreider.