Warren, Libertyville wrestlers shine at Barrington sectional
Libertyville's Danny Pucino continues to be near flawless, his teammate Michael Gunther is not far behind, but what can you say about the Warren wrestling lineup from 106 pounds to 126 pounds?
During the last few weeks of the 2018-2019 season Sawyer Nash (106) and Austin Nash (113), Cameron Domke (120) and Joel Vandervere at 126 have quietly coalesced into a wrestling juggernaut which few have been able to solve.
While Pucino (41-1) and Gunther (138, 39-3) were dominating their opponents over the two days of the Class 3A Barrington sectional, the aforementioned Warren quartet were something special as well.
The Nash brothers opened the final session on Saturday with championship trophies, followed by Domke (37-3) and Vandervere celebrating the same to earn top four seeds when the state tournament begins on Thursday in Champaign.
"We just kind of feed off one another, and we haven't really stopped since I returned from my injury just before the Lake County Invite," said Vandervere (9-0), who underwent surgery last June to repair a torn ACL, and looks to be more than ready to improve on his third-place finish at state last February.
The No. 6 rated sophomore sent No. 4 Sam Spencer (Huntley, 39-4) off in his final with a 5-0 decision, while Domke never slowed down during his dazzling 14-0 major over Peter Kafkis (28-12) of Libertyville in his final.
"I was happy with my win over Tommy (Frezza, Stevenson, 36-4) in my semifinal. It was my second straight over him after he pinned me earlier in the year," said Domke. "He's one of the top guys at our weight in the state, so to beat him twice gives me a lot of confidence heading into state."
The Warren foursome will arrive in Champaign with a combined 110-4 overall record, with teammate Isaiah Parker (26-7) along at 152 for his first state appearance.
Pucino, the likely No. 2 seed at 132 when the first day of action begins on Thursday, started on his front foot on Friday, and never let up en route to his third consecutive sectional title.
"It will be a loaded bracket at state, but I feel like I am more than ready for what's ahead; better than I've been during my first two times downstate," said Pucino, third a year ago at state, with his lone defeat on the season coming at the hands of No. 5 Dylan Burnoski from Montini.
Gunther, now a two-time sectional champ, allowed little to his three opponents over the two days, including freshman phenom Brody Hallin (McHenry, 36-9), who was unable to solve the Wildcats' senior during a 6-3 final.
"I feel like I am in a real good spot right now, but there's still a lot of work to be done before state begins next weekend," said Gunther, who will be joined in Champaign by: Kafkis and Brandon Murphy (126, 39-8), who gave Spencer all he could handle in his second round match on Friday.
The senior would defeat Zach Fausel (Hononegah, 33-9) in overtime, 5-3 with a takedown to send the Wildcats' faithful into orbit.
Stevenson's Frezza is back for a third time, while Max Gomez (195, 37-8) is now a two-time state qualifier, with freshman Cole Rhemrev (106, 34-11) obviously enjoying his first.
Gomez, No. 8 in the state polls before sectionals, overcame a 13-4 drubbing from his good friend, No. 3 Cody Goodman (Deerfield, 45-4), in the second round with three dominating performances to earn third-place honors.
"Cody is a great wrestler, and he was so much better than I was on Friday but the most important thing for me was to get myself composed and relaxed for the consolation bracket, and to get myself downstate where I'll go after the big prize next weekend," said Gomez.
Lake Zurich senior Ian McGee (113, 34-3) earned himself a well-deserved ticket to Champaign at 113 with a third-place finish, as did the Grant duo of Ethan Geist (152, 34-13) and junior Justin Brown (182, 34-9).
"Justin was a little behind the eight-ball at the start of the season after dealing with some shoulder issues during the offseason, but he's looking good at the right time because his overall approach is so much better than it was last year, when he counted more on his athleticism to win matches," said Grant coach, Lenny Grodoski.