Stevenson makes it a three-peat at Conrad Invite
New faces, new lineup but it was the same results for Stevenson's wrestling team Saturday afternoon in Franklin Park inside Farina Fieldhouse.
The Patriots lifted the championship trophy at Leyden's Randy Conrad Invite for the third consecutive year after a magnificent all-around effort from coach Shane Cooks' club, which outscored runner-up Conant.
Led by two of its youngest stars, Lorenzo Frezza (113 pounds) and Cole Rhemrev (120), the Patriots collected 224.5 overall points, 12.5 more than Conant (212). Jacobs was third (150.5) with Leyden (129), and Maine East (95) rounding out the top five.
"We lost nine starters from last season, so we're counting on the new guys to come through and as they continue to learn and grow as the year goes on we're beginning to see their hard work pay off both individually and for the team," said Cook.
Cook and his staff would celebrate individual titles from Frezza, Rhemrev (24-4) and junior Kei Yamato (20-6) at 132 the big winners with their head-to-head wins over opponents from Conant.
"We have a lot of new guys in our varsity lineup so I feel since I'm one of the returning starters it's time for me to step up and be a leader this year," said the 2019 state qualifier Rhemrev, who is currently No. 10 in the state polls.
"I am so lucky to have someone like Cole in the room who pushes me each day in order to get the best out of me," said the freshman Frezza, ranked No. 5 in the state and now 22-4.
The big three of Jake Harrier, Alex Epstein (145, 13-1) and Ryan Golnick (220, 20-3) impressed all throughout for Jacobs on their way to winning their respective weight classes.
Harrier (22-1), No. 3 at 138, and on his way to Old Dominion next fall, is not surprised by the results of his teammates.
"Alex put a lot of work in during the offseason and continues to do so and (Golnick) is a big, strong and tough twenty-pounder who is very capable of going a long way in the state tournament," said Harrier, now a two-time Conrad Invite champion following his 13-5 decision over Leyden's Daniel Uribe (21-3) who lost to Harrier a year ago.
Ronnie Massari (19-1) gave the home crowd plenty to cheer about after the Eagles' senior recorded a hard-fought 7-4 win over Pano Drosas (Highland Park, 21-3) in his 160-pound final.
"To win in my final year at Leyden today before my teammates, friends and family feels real good right now," said Massari, a sectional qualifier last season with a 32-8 record.
There were a handful of other first-time champions beginning with the Lakes pair of Kurtis Smith (25-6) who pinned top seed Jack Hominac (23-3) to win at 170, and ending with heavyweight Isaiah Perrin, who was a starter on the Eagles' football team on both sides of the line.
"I wrestled most of my sophomore year, but not at all last season, but it feels good to be back," said Perrin (24-7), who beat the No. 1 seed in the semifinals then No. 2 Kevin Wingate (12-3) in his final.
Much like Perrin, Vernon Hills 195-pounder Matthew Thames (21-5) was out of action all of last winter, returning to become one of the Cougars' best.
"There was a death in my family, so I had to step away from wrestling last year to work and help out at home so I want to make the best of my opportunities this year," said Thames, who will attend either Illinois or UIC next fall.
Maine East sophomore Roger Beiza earned the lone championship for the Blue Demons at 126 with a 4-2 decision over Stevenson senior Randy Lu.
"I've been working hard at staying low, and moving a lot, and to keep taking shots but I credit all of my success to coach (Austin) Bautista, who has made all of us so much better," said Beiza, who upset the No. 2 seed to reach the finals.
At Round Lake: St. Viator, which lost matches to Round Lake and Lake Forest, was led by 182-pound senior Nick Demunno (23-4) with two victories, including a first-period pin against No. 6-ranked Chase Waggoner of Lake Forest. Demunno missed a shot at the state meet last year due to a shoulder injury.
"Nick did very well. He wrestled in great position, and he just went after it," said St. Viator coach Jason Churak, whose team had to forfeit six matches. "He caught Waggoner in a head lock and he put him away."
St. Viator junior Gaetano Console dropped two tough matches at 145 to fall to 19-6 on the 2019-20 season.
"It was a tough day today, I had a kid at 3A and 2A that were both honorable mention (all-state), but I didn't wrestle my best," Console said. "As a team I think we can improve a lot, and we have a lot of new kids this season."
-- John Bumbales