Warren's Vandervere, Grayslake Central's Cramer bring home state championships
CHAMPAIGN -- In his continued quest to be the best in the nation, Joel Vandervere will likely move up a spot or two after his dominating performance Saturday night and all throughout the weekend inside State Farm Center, where the Warren junior roared past Fabian Lopez of DeKalb to capture the Class 3A 138-pound state wrestling championship.
"I didn't want to go back to the hotel thinking about falling short after last year' loss in the final so I went all out to make sure it didn't happen again," said Vandervere (33-1) following his 9-0 defeat of Lopez, a 2018 state champion who had no answer for a dazzling all-out attack that's become unstoppable for nearly every opponent the Warren star has met this season.
"All of the top guys in front of me in the nation is a senior, so it's only natural that I take over the No. 1 spot but I also know that I've got to continue to work hard to earn that and that's what I plan on doing all throughout the offseason," continued Vandervere, who gave the Warren program its first state title since 1966.
Vandervere would share the spotlight with Grayslake Central star Adrien Cramer (39-1), who came here last season atop the state polls, only to leave with a third-place medal.
"I had to put last year behind me right from away. That's what I've done, and all the hard work and help from the coaching staff paid off tonight," said Cramer, who said he spoke with his brother Alex, now at Old Dominion, on Friday night for a few words of encouragement.
"Alex lost a heartbreaking 1-0 match in his final last year, so he reminded me to keep my focus, and just go out there and wrestle (my) match and to stay on the attack," added the junior after his dominating Class 2A performance over Alex Knauf (Aurora Christian) that ended in style with a pin at 2:32.
"It's been a great year for our program. I am so proud of Adrien as well as Joey (Jens), whose gone through some tough times but has come out on the other side in good shape, and tonight with a second-place state medal," said Rams head coach, Matt Joseph.
Jens (40-7), whose father passed away last summer, was sensational as he worked his way through the 170-pound bracket until running into No. 1 Dylan Connell (Marian Central Catholic, 44-0), whose 5-0 decision over the Central junior gave him his third consecutive title.
This tournament can be awfully cruel, even to the No. 1 guys and that was the way the story went for Libertyville senior, E'lan Heard.
The Wildcats' star, who came into this weekend as the favorite at 152 pounds, found himself out of the running following his semifinal loss on Friday forcing a run in wrestlebacks in order to claim a top-six finish.
"When you're so athletic and dangerous and capable of hitting a home run it only makes sense your opponents will come out and slow things down in order to get the advantage," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert after Heard (29-3) earned a fifth-place medal. "I'm happy he ended his tournament with a win. It's a good way to come away from here after a terrific season with us."
Heard was stopped cold in his semifinal bout with Isaiah Parker (Warren, 152, 33-13), who came on strong when it counted to get himself a well deserved fourth-place medal.
"I've been working really hard, in and out of the room, with my brother (Emery) and all of the extra work would pay off here at state," said the junior, who was at his best when it counted, defeating sectional runner-up Brody Hallin (McHenry) then Heard to ensure his first state medal.
With one sparkling six-minute effort, Lake Zurich senior Joey Mrazek (44-6) advanced into the medal round, where he went on to earn a fourth-place medal (182), the Bears' 11th in program history, and first since Scott Hoff in 2012.
"From his heartbreaking loss last year in the blood round at sectionals, right up to a terrific three days here Joey got himself a well deserved state medal. All of us are very proud of him," said LZ coach Jake Jobst.
Grant senior Ethan Geist (36-9) brought home the 49th state medal in Bulldogs history, finishing up his three days with a pin to finish fifth overall at 182 pounds.
"It's all kind of surreal right now, that's why I'm just living in the moment right now," said Geist.
There would not be a third state medal for Antioch senior Alex Barbarise, who fell just short in 2A at 132 pounds, however his teammate Danny McPherson (39-7) was able to garner his third medal with a third-place finish.
"You always come here with the goal of wrestling for a state title but when that isn't going to happen the focus has to turn around quickly in order to go home with a medal," said McPherson.
Sequoits senior Niall Schoenfelder (41-4) joined McPherson atop the podium with his third-place finish.
"For my entire wrestling life, everyone expected me to follow in the footsteps of my older brother (Patrick), who won a state title in 2017 but even though I wasn't able to match that I can say I am very proud of what I've accomplished here at Antioch," said Schoenfelder.
Antioch freshman Caleb Nobling (41-6) made a big impression in his first trip downstate with a fourth-place medal at 106, while Grayslake North's Jake Jozwiak (33-8) celebrated his first state medal (5th) at 126.
"My coach (Colin McKillip) told me I have to want a medal, not believe that I can and that's what I did," said the Knights' senior.
Lakes senior Kurtis Smith (40-11) gave the program its second consecutive state medal when he came back through wrestlebacks to finish fifth overall at 170.
"Kurtis is not only quality in the room but also away from it. He's just been a terrific young man to have in our program," said Eagles coach John Troesch.