Hersey's championship season continues with MSL title
One week ago, Hersey claimed its first Mid-Suburban League division wrestling title since 2011, and Saturday afternoon at Buffalo Grove the Huskies earned their ninth conference championship in thrilling fashion.
The MSL East champions found themselves chasing a 30-point deficit held by rival Prospect, before catching then passing the Knights, and the rest of their challengers to become league champions for the first time in 20 years.
"This is a real team now, one that believes in each other, are best friends with each other, and is now a wrestling program we can all be proud of," gushed Huskies' coach Joe Rupslauk after his club lifted the championship trophy following an entertaining and highly competitive tournament that saw five teams have enough quality wins to make this one of the better races to victory in recent memory.
"(Coach) told us when we were freshmen that we would win the MSL when we were seniors and we all believed him, because he believes in us," agreed two of the top men on the Huskies' roster, seniors Manny Mejia and Billy Spassov.
After what appeared to be a disastrous semifinal session that saw the eventual champs advance just 2 of 9 into the finals (Mejia and Spassov), and give Prospect the lead over Conant, Fremd then Hersey, which trailed by 30 points, Rupslauk's team was near perfect in the semifinal consolation round to jump up and over the field.
"Prospect just crushed in the morning semifinals to go ahead of all four of us, so with six of their guys in the finals, it looked as if they would go on to win it all," said Barrington coach Dave Udchik, whose Broncos finished fifth overall with 191 points.
"We never felt out of it when after the semifinals. We just knew we had to go to work, and win as many as we could to add points to our overall score," said Spassov (32-8), who finished second at 160 pounds to CJ Gilbert (24-6) of Conant.
The Huskies would collect medals in all 14 weight classes, with six coming at third place, with Mejia (220, 38-5) grabbing the lone individual title.
"It was such a tight team race all throughout but credit (Hersey). They were amazing in the consolation play, and basically won the team title with all the points they scored from it," said Fremd coach Jeff Keske, who watched Wiley Jessup (106, 32-2), Evan Gosz (113, 32-3) and Charlie Fifield (145, 35-4) raise championship trophies for the Vikings.
For Fifield, it was his second MSL title.
The MSL West champion Vikings would edge third-place Prospect (215.5 to 211.5) for second place honors with Conant, using a tourney-high four titles to squeeze out fourth place (194-191) over Barrington.
Nationally-ranked Evan Stiles (152, 21-1), fresh off winning the prestigious Doc Buchanan in California, led a Cougars contingent that saw senior teammates Gilbert, Cody Sebo (170, 21-9) and Henry Chang (195, 24-6) win it all.
Senior Brian Beers (Barrington, 126, 32-4) is now a three-time MSL champion, while his sophomore teammate Aiyan Salley (23-6) earned top honors at 182.
Prospect junior Will Baysingar (39-1), No. 4 in the state at 126 pounds, dominated the 132-pound division to win his second league crown.
Kehinde Akintunde (21-13) would enjoy a memorable MSL tourney visit when he stunned the heavyweight field, first with a pin over top seed Oleg Simakov (Hersey, 32-11) in the semifinals, then once more when the Hoffman Estates junior recorded a pin at 3:29 over No. 2 seed Sean Mitchell (Prospect, 20-3) to take home a well-deserved title at 285 pounds.
The Akintunde title is the first for Hoffman Estates since 2009 when four Hawks made their way to the top of podium to help the club win its last MSL championship.