Lake County sending 13 downstate
Warren's Joel Vandervere and Libertyville's E'lan Heard have been nothing short of sensational during this wrestling season and Saturday afternoon, the dynamic duo showed just why they are the No. 1 wrestlers in their respective weight divisions.
After his thrilling semifinal victory over No. 3 Jake Harrier (Jacobs, 39-2), Vandervere used a third period takedown to defeat Jeremy Jakowitsch (39-7) of Huntley to win his second consecutive sectional title at Barrington.
Heard, who came to Libertyville from Ohio during the offseason, overpowered the competition at 152 to validate his No. 1 spot in the polls, earning a top four seed next weekend at the Class 3A state tournament along with Vandervere (29-1) at 138.
Stevenson sophomore Cole Rhemrev (120, 36-5) and Mundelein heavyweight Jason Guadarrama (40-2) collected sectional crowns as well.
All together, the Lake County area is sending 13 downstate, eight who are making their first visit to Champaign.
"It would have been great to have Danny here competing to make our weight class even that much tougher," said Vandervere, referring to Libertyville's Danny Pucino, the three-time state qualifier who was ruled out for the tournament while in concussion protocol.
"Harrier, Danny and myself were the top three at 38 and with him out it felt a little different without him," continued Vandervere, runner-up a year ago at 126.
Heard would dedicate his victory to his teammate Pucino, who he's lived with since moving from Ohio.
"Danny and his parents are like family to me, and made me feel like one of them and while it's hard to not have him here I feel like he is when I go out there," said Heard, the 26-10 explosive and powerful 152-pounder who either pinned or tech-falled his opponents over the two-day sectional meet.
Rhemrev (120, 36-5) fell behind Mike Mirales, 8-4 in his semifinal then shocked the New Trier senior with a pin at 3:16 before going on to defeat Presley Beasley of Belvidere in the final 10-2.
"The goal has always been to get downstate, so I didn't panic in that second period when he had the lead," said the Stevenson sophomore, now a two-time state qualifier.
Patriots Lorenzo Frezza (113, 36-5), Matt Millman (195, 12-5) and heavyweight Keegan Houlihan (30-9) all earned well-deserved trips downstate for the first time.
The bitter disappointment of coming this close to Champaign a year ago was erased from the memory of Guadarrama, whose recent move from 220 to 285 proved to be genius.
The Mundelein senior finished in fashion when he pinned Joey Pineda (Rockford East) to claim his top prize.
"It's a goal (state) that I've had ever since coming to high school, and today it feels like my dream has come true," said the affable Guadarrama, who won 33 matches last season.
Lake Zurich senior Joey Mrazek, second a week ago at regionals, came back from a heartbreaking 5-3 loss in overtime to league rival Ethan Geist (Grant, 32-7) to earn his first state appearance.
"Ethan is a great wrestler, and person, and our weight class was a real difficult one so it was important to stay focused the best I could in order to win my qualifying match, and third place," said the Bears' senior, now 39-5.
LZ's Logan Neurater (36-9) is on his way downstate at 120, as are the Warren duo of Cameron Domke (132, 37-4) and Isaiah Parker (152, 29-11), both now two-time state qualifiers.
Geist is the lone man from Grant to advance following a strong overall effort at 182, including his victory over Mrazek.
Caelan Riley (106, 39-5) and Josh Knudten (160, 32-14). both sophomores from Libertyville, are on their way downstate for the first time.
"Things didn't go well here last season, so it feels really good right now knowing I'll be in the state tournament next week," said Riley, who fell one victory short of advancing last year.