Libertyville's Gunther, Pucino lead a succesful day for Lake County

 
By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

CHAMPAIGN -- Libertyville has proved to be a green pasture for young incoming wrestlers who have gone on to gain state prominence through the watchful eyes of its brilliant hall of fame coach Dale Eggert.

Joey Gunther was one of those who has enjoyed a successful career under Eggert, leading to a state second-place medal in 2015, one year after claiming a sixth-place finish.

Michael Gunther matched his older brother with a second consecutive sectional title last weekend, and if the Wildcats' 138-pound star has it his way, he will add another top-six finish to the family trophy case.

"(Coach) Eggert has taught me so much about wrestling, and about life in general away from the sport, while my brother has been a big influence by showing me things he's learned at the collegiate level, plus a lot of things which have really helped my overall game improve," said Michael Gunther.

Gunther entered the state tournament with a 111-25 career record, which includes a sparkling 40-3 season, with 12 of those victories coming via fall, and the confidence knowing he can be in the hunt for a state title on the final day of action.

"I'm fortunate to have a partner in the room like Danny (Pucino) who is one of the best in the state at 132, while also having a great coaching staff to help all of us."

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Michael Gunther is following in the footsteps of his all-American brother at Illinois next fall, where he will be a redshirt freshman, while training to compete at either 141 or 149.

Pucino (42-1) was magnificent on Thursday, scoring at will, and, as always, as the match went deeper into regulation.

The junior will face Nathan Callaway (34-6) of Marmion Academy following his pin at 5:41 over Bryce Boumans of Neuqua Valley.

In addition to Pucino and Gunther, the Lake County area enjoyed plenty of success on the first day of the individual state tournament, including reigning state champion Alex Cramer (Grayslake Central, 45-0) who cruised into the 2A semifinals.

In this double-elimination tournament, wrestleback action will take place all throughout the day Friday inside State Farm Center.

Another state champ from last season, Riley Palm (Carmel, 30-1) looked sharp in both of his bouts on Thursday, each ending with a pin to send the Corsairs' senior through.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I felt good, was moving good and worked up a real good sweat in both of my matches today," said Palm after recording a pair of falls at 138 to insure safe passage into the semifinals where he will take on Ryan Gardner (43-8) of Bloomington.

Palm's teammate Tommy Hoy (36-3) fell in his quarterfinal match to Champaign Centennial senior Cam Nesbit, and will now look to make his medal run in wrestlebacks.

Warren fans experienced several nervous moments, beginning with a win in overtime by No. 3 Sawyer Nash (40-0) who edged Guillermo Juarez 4-3. His brother Austin was not as lucky in his overtime contest with Austin Spacht (Bradley-Bourbonnais) which ended at 2-0.

Teammates Cameron Domke (120, 38-3) and Joel Vandervere (126, 10-0) had an easier time to advance.

Tommy Frezza (120, 37-4) and Max Gomez (195, 38-8) were part of several high profile opening-round matches on Thursday but the Stevenson pair did not disappoint the Patriots' faithful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Frezza, here for the third time and in search of a second state medal, outlasted Montini Catholic sophomore Nain Vasquez, while No. 8 Gomez showed his mettle during a key moment early on in a 6-0 shutout over No. 6 Ben Cianchetti (32-4) of Naperville Central.

"Max being able to defend that great early shot from Cianchetti was the match, then to get the first takedown really set the tone afterward," said a proud Pats coach Shane Cook.

Frezza has No. 1 Noah Surtin (Edwardsville, 48-1), Gomez No. 5, Ben Stemmet (36-6) of Yorkville on Friday.

Lakes senior Jack Brunati (41-4) was victimized by a late, albeit questionable, one-point penalty point for stalling and would lose his quarterfinal 3-2 to Hayden Copass of Westville.

Regional champion Antioch had a rough day on the mats, with just Michael Volkmar (160, 38-12) the lone man left in the front draw from the seven that qualified.

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