Hands down, Carmel's Palm a state champ again

CHAMPAIGN - Riley Palm has dealt with so much during his four-year career at Carmel Catholic, but somehow the senior has found a way through it all, and it culminated Saturday night with another state championship.

And he did so despite suffering what he believes to be an injured bursa sac in his right leg. All of his guile, inner strength, and immense talent came through to claim a second-straight Class 2A championship.

Palm lifted the lone state crown for the Lake County area, when it appeared the stars were aligned to have two more join the Corsairs' captain.

But Danny Pucino of Libertyville was unable to close out a magnificent tournament at 132 pounds and then disaster struck for Grayslake Central senior Alex Cramer, who conceded an escape with three seconds remaining to Freeport senior Major Dedmond.

The 1-0 loss was the first for Cramer (46-1), who was the clear favorite to win a second-straight 2A title to further validate his No. 5 spot in national polls.

Palm (32-1) knew something was wrong during the early moments of his final with Kyle Schickel (Lemont, 43-5) in his 138-pound final, but the crafty and clever two-time state champ never let on.

"I did my best not to show any pain or discomfort whenever I made a move but the rest of the match I was just running on pure adrenaline for the entire six minutes," admitted Palm, who will wrestle next fall at the University of Buffalo.

"I know later when all of this wears off, I'm going to be in some real pain but it's all worth it right now."

Libertyville fans felt the pain of Pucino's (44-2) 7-5 loss in the Class 3A 132-pound final to Eddie Bolivar (43-3) from Oak Park-River Forest.

"I thought I had a terrific tournament, and I know I was ready to go before my final, but maybe it was a junior high mistake that cost me in that first period, and later the match," admitted Pucino, who now adds a second-place state medal to his resume after finishing third a year ago.

Pucino was referring to a sequence in the first period when he recorded the first takedown, only to concede a reversal soon afterward.

"I really wasn't sure if the referee gave me the takedown so I kind of dropped my arm, and allowed Eddie to get that reverse," continued the Wildcats' junior.

Boliver would increase his lead to 5-2 in the second period, allowing Pucino to draw closer at 5-4 midway through the third period, before extending his advantage to 7-4 with 90 seconds to go.

"Eddie is a great opponent, but I had my chances - just didn't finish them tonight," said Pucino, who along with his teammates will now prepare to meet Barrington on Tuesday in a dual-team sectional semifinal at McHenry.

Dangerous all season long in coach Dale Eggerts' lineup, and part of a prolific one-two power punch, senior Michael Gunther (43-4) finished in style Saturday when he collected a third-place medal at 138 pounds.

"Michael has beaten a lot of quality guys during the past month, including this weekend to show he belongs right there with the best at 38," said a proud Eggert.

Gunther was tremendous when he needed to be in order to survive a wickedly good weight class, beating Batavia star Mikey Caliendo (41-7) twice over the three days, including his third-place bout which he ended with a late takedown to ensure a 7-3 victory.

Gunther will wrestle next season here in Champaign, where his older brother Joey is finishing up his terrific collegiate career.

Antioch, which takes on No. 2 Marian Central Catholic Tuesday in 2A dual-team sectional action rebounded nicely after a rough opening day by taking a program best four state medals.

Led by Alex Barbarise (120, 38-6) and Danny McPherson (126) the Sequoits erased a 1-for-7 first day with an impressive final day here in Champaign.

"We've all put in a lot of extra work during the offseason, and all throughout the season so when you realize you're not going to be in the state final, it's all about going after the next best thing," said Barbarise, who was sixth for a second time.

"Once I lost in my quarterfinal, I turned my focus on improving on my sixth-place finish last season, so I was happy that I was able to do so," added McPherson, who ends at 44-8 following his fifth-place finish.

Elijah Reyes (132, 38-17) and Michael Volkmar (160, 38-15) followed their teammates with fifth and sixth-place medals respectively.

While Carmel fans celebrated Palm's memorable weekend, they would also embrace the accomplishments of Tommy Hoy. The senior (39-4) would use some good advice given to him by Palm following his quarterfinal loss on Friday to breeze past his next three opponents on his way to a well-deserved fourth-place trophy.

"I was really bummed out after that quarterfinal loss (Friday), but Riley told me that feeling would end when I get up on the podium to accept a state medal, and that kind of helped get me focused for the rest of the way," said Hoy, who was 39-10 a year ago.

The other half of the Cramer brothers' duo, Adrien, turned things around himself just as Hoy when the sophomore sensation found himself sent into wrestlebacks Friday night.

"Obviously it would have been cool being in the state final with my brother, but when it didn't happen Alex left me alone, didn't give me any words of wisdom or advice, even during warmups but I knew he was there for me, and that's all that mattered," said Adrien, third overall at 182 with a 46-2 record.

Lakes senior Jack Brunati brought home the third state medal in program history when he claimed third place at 285 pounds.

"I wasn't happy after my third place finish at our regional so right then and there, I promised myself that wouldn't happen again," said Brunati an OT winner in his wrestleback semifinal, which led to his state medal to go along with a dazzling 45-4 overall record.

Stevenson fans would bid adieu to their pride and joy, when Max Gomez (39-10) dropped his blood round contest with Cody Goodman (Deerfield) ending a splendid career one match short of a first state medal.

"I fell a little short and it hurts a lot right now, but I'll be back at it again sorting out my college destination, staying in shape, and getting ready for Fargo during the offseason," said Gomez, who was mobbed by his friends in the Patriots' program who were dressed in their usual Day-Glo garb up in the cheap seats.

"I've had so many great memories at Stevenson and I've been very fortunate to be a part of a great program, and having a coach like (Shane Cook) and his assistants always there for me."

Images: Saturday's IHSA individual state wrestling tournament

  Carmel's Riley Palm jumps in the final seconds of his win against Lemont's Kyle Schickel in the Class 2A 138-pound championship bout at the 2019 IHSA wrestling state championships at State Farm Arena at the University of Illinois in Champaign Saturday. John Starks/
  Carmel's Riley Palm is declared the winner against Lemont's Kyle Schickel in the Class 2A 138-pound championship bout at the 2019 IHSA wrestling state championships at State Farm Arena at the University of Illinois in Champaign Saturday. John Starks/
  Libertyville's Danny Pucino is thrown by Oak Park-River Forest's Eddie Bolivar in the Class 3A 132-pound championship bout at the 2019 IHSA wrestling state championships at State Farm Arena at the University of Illinois in Champaign Saturday. John Starks/
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