Wrestling: DeKalb bests Naperville Central in top 10 matchup
Not only has the DuPage Valley Conference title come down to DeKalb and Naperville Central the past two years, Thursday's battle between the ranked teams featured both in the top 10 of the latest Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association poll.
But as they've done all year, the No. 2 Barbs cruised in the dual meet, topping the No. 7 Redhawks, 57-12.
The Barbs were fresh off of taking fourth this weekend at a massive tournament in Iowa facing some of the top talent in the country. Coach Sam Hiatt said the Barbs are not lacking in confidence after that performance.
"We proved we could not only wrestle with those teams but beat those teams," Hiatt said. "Confidence is growing. These guys think they can win every time they step on the mat. That's why we won 57-12 over a good team."
The Barbs only lost three matches, and there was only one forfeit on the day -- Danny Aranda winning at 120 pounds for DeKalb (5-0, 2-0).
Six Barbs came away with pins. After Ayden Lutes opened with a 6-3 win for the Redhawks at 160, Luke Schmerbach got a pin for the Barbs in the third period, and the Barbs never trailed again.
The final four matches of the meet were all pins for the Barbs. Austin Martin kicked it off with a third-period pin at 132, then Danny Curran and Tommy Curran followed with pins. Damien Lopez finished off the run with a pin in 1:52 at 152 for the win.
"We're focused on improving and beating people higher than us," Lopez said. "It was good, No. 7 vs. No. 2, but rankings are just numbers. Anything can happen in a match. It really just matters how our team goes out and performs."
Kaden Klapprodt had the fastest pin of the night, winning in 51 seconds for the Barbs at 106.
At heavyweight, Nick Antonetti picked up the lone pin for the Redhawks (7-1, 1-1), and half of their team points.
"He's big he's strong, he's got great positioning and a great technique," Naperville Central coach Noah Fitzenreider said. "But now he's mixing some aggression in there. It's hard to hang with someone who knows what they're doing and is really aggressive."
Although the scoreboard showed a 45-point loss, Fitzenreider said he liked the way his team competed against one of the best teams in the state.
"I thought we fought hard," Fitzenreider said. "That's a good team. One of the best teams in the state. Very experienced and very talented. But we fought really hard. We always talk about if we don't win, we want to lose going out the right way. Which is fighting. I thought we did that for the most part tonight."
The win gives the Barbs victories over two of the top 10 teams in the IWCOA's poll -- they beat No. 4 Glenbard North, 49-19, earlier this year.
"They were undefeated and are a good team," Hiatt said. "We were just ready. Us and Naperville Central have been the top 2 in the conference the last three years, we know that was a big one for the conference championship. And them getting those big wins coming in, if it wasn't exciting enough we knew them coming in ranked that high -- we were excited for the meet."
Lopez's win capped a big week for the senior. He took third at Iowa, and earlier in the week committed to wrestle at Northern Illinois University next year. He became the fourth Barb to commit to a D-I program this year. Gillum committed to SIU-Edwardsville and Tommy Curran and Danny Curran committed to NC State last week.
Lopez said he was aiming to stay somewhere close to his family.
"I'm so lucky and blessed, NIU is a D-I school right in my backyard," Lopez said. "All my close friends, family, I'm just really comfortable there. When I was there right off the bat everyone was loving and took me in with open arms. That made me feel comfortable too."