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Libertyville's Alex Mitchell Wins Individual NSC Title

By Jon J. Kerr ~ Pioneer Press ~ 1/30/16
Alex Mitchell had already finished wrestling. But his day was far from over.

The Libertyville sophomore was the first to win a North Suburban Conference championship at Wauconda on Saturday, Jan. 30. Competing at 106 pounds, Mitchell won the title with a 3-1 decision over Mundelein sophomore Dane Durlacher.

That gave the rambunctious Mitchell plenty of time to mingle with teammates, sprinkling in words of encouragement to 120-pound teammate Drew Onufer before his title bout. The sight of Mitchell bouncing around gymnasiums is a common one around the Libertyville program.

"He works his fanny off. Every day. He just goes and goes," Wildcats coach Dale Eggert said.

Mitchell's high-energy disposition is the same on and off the mat. He rode that enthusiasm to an NSC title a season ago as a freshman. This season, Mitchell has wrestled with a controlled zeal. That made him Libertyville's lone conference champion in 2015-16.

"He's always been very energetic and hustles, but it's more purposeful. His attacks are more purposeful," Eggert said. "He has less bad habits. It's a slow process. You don't snap your fingers."

Mitchell added: "I know what to do more now, a lot more positions. I have a lot better takedowns, a lot more points. Last year, I was intent on taking a 5-1 match. Now I want to score more points."

Three points was all Mitchell needed in the title match. He got the upper hand early, then defended against shot attempts when Durlacher forced the action.

"The key moment is if nobody is scoring, he's not scoring," Mitchell said. "I got the points I needed to get."

Libertyville managed a fifth-place team finish thanks to two runner-up and three third-place finishers. The Wildcats had a team score of 133.50, behind fourth-place Antioch (134), third-place Warren (149.50), runner-up Grant (169.50) and champion Stevenson (192.50).

Stevenson defended its conference title with two champions, two runner-up placers and two third-place winners. Champions were junior Nikita Nepomnyashchiy at 170 pounds and senior Michael Kordek at 182. Nepomnyashchiy defeated Warren junior Andrew Demos in a 6-1 decision, while Kordek beat Lake Forest senior Devin Reich in a 10-1 major decision.

Onufer dropped an 8-5 decision to Zion-Benton junior Khalil Johnson in the 120-pound title match. In the 145-pound championship match, senior Will Johnson lost an 11-1 major decision to Grant's Cole Berg. Libertyville's third-place winners were junior Jack Damenti (152), senior Mike Beck (220) and sophomore Charlie Schmidt (285).

Compared to recent seasons, this is not a star-studded team. Johnson, who finished fifth at conference season ago, said the Wildcats might be less experienced but are just as hungry.

"It's encouraging to see how hard they work in practice," Johnson said. "Mitchell and all of these younger guys really push the pace. You can see how bad they want it."

Libertyville will compete in the Deerfield Regional on Feb. 6. It's a stacked regional, with Stevenson (ranked No. 6 in Class 3A by illinoismatmen.com) and the host Warriors (No. 7) as favorites.

Eggert acknowledged that this year is a rebuilding one, but he didn't diminish expectations for some wrestlers in the state series.

"We have some weight classes with some extremely young guys. But we have a couple guys, a lot of them are ready to compete against the big boys and I think they are doing it," Eggert said. "I think we are doing as well as we can do.

Libertyville's Young Squad Finishes 9th at Barrington

By John Bumbales ~ Daily Herald Correspondent ~ 11/28/15

After winning their first North Suburban Conference championship in school history last winter, it looks like the Stevenson wrestling team is picking up where it left off after a strong start to the season this weekend at Barrington.

Marmion was the class of the 27-team field at the 25th Moore/Prettyman Wrestling Invitational Saturday with 265.5 points while Lyons was a distant second with 211.5 points.

Libertyville's young squad had a solid ninth-place finish with 111.5 points followed by NSC counterparts Grant (103 points) in 12th, and Lake Zurich (77 points) in 15th. Grayslake North tied for 17th place with Plainfield Central.

Stevenson's fifth-place finish featured nine wrestlers reaching the final round with a first-place finish by junior standout Dylan Geick, who improved his perfect record to 7-0 with a convincing 10-3 decision over Hinsdale Central's Ameen Hamdan in the finals.

The unseeded Geick's road to the title also included a 9-4 decision over No. 1-seeded Fernie Silva of Hononegah in the semifinals as well as an 8-3 decision over eventual third-place finisher Mikey Callahan of Marmion in the semifinals.

"I think I had a great tournament, beating guys like Silva and Callahan is huge to let me know where I am at this point of the season," said Geick, who is a transfer student from Vernon Hills. "The team is doing really great, obviously we're coming off our first conference win last year, and we just have to stay focused because it's a long season."

Besides Geick, Stevenson got a third from junior Nikita Nepomnyashchiy at 170, a fourth from junior Michael Kordek at 182, a fifth from senior Nick Grujanac at 285, and sixths from juniors Brandon Zisman (126) and Eric Carter (132).

The Patriots also got contributions from senior Alec Nolan with a seventh at 120, freshman Matthew Zimring with an eighth at 113, and junior Robert Pavlovics with an eighth at 160.

"Overall we were very pleased because nine of our 13 guys here placed in a highly competitive tournament," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "What's most impressive about Dylan Geick is his incredible work ethic and how driven he is to compete at high levels."

Libertyville was led by third-place finishes from junior Alex Mitchell at 106 and freshman Michael Gunther at 120. The Wildcats also got a fifth from junior Drew Onufer at 126, a seventh from sophomore Tyler Padilla at 138, and a seventh from junior Jack Damenti at 152.

"The five guys that placed went 5-0 in the last round and those guys really shined," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "It was a really beneficial tournament for us, and we'll get a lot of mileage out of this."

Grant's troops were led by senior Kobe Lear with a fourth at 152, senior Christian Kanzler with a fifth at 132, senior Cole Berg with a fifth at 145, and senior Justin Gilich with a sixth at 160.

"I don't know if we demonstrated the kind of team we think we have this weekend," said first-year Grant coach Lenny Grodoski, who replaces a very successful coach in Ryan Geist this season. "But we have a lot of things we need to work on, the margin wasn't big so hopefully we can clean up those things this week in practice."

Lake Zurich junior Billy Busse placed fifth at 195 while the Bears got a sixth from Maxx Wayne at 120, a seventh from Josh Dyer at 220, an eighth from Ben Baca at 126, and an eighth from Pete Baldaccini at 182.

"I think we did pretty well, it's a young and inexperienced team and we only have one senior (Baldaccini) in the lineup," said Lake Zurich coach Dan Strickler. "Busse is one of those hard-working kind of kids who is going to go for it all six minutes."

After reaching the Class 2A state meet as a sophomore, Grayslake North was led by junior Joe Arroyo with a second-place finish at 113.

The Knights also got a sixth from senior senior Jake Wright at 152, and a seventh from junior Alex Moran at 160.

"It's a good tournament, there's a lot of good kids, and you've got to wrestle tough if you want to get on the podium," said Arroyo. "I think I'm going to do better at state, I have to wrestle smart, take my shots, and get my conditioning better."

Grayslake North coach Collin McKillip knows the road to the state meet will be even tougher this season as the Knights jump up from Class 2A to Class 3A.

"Joe (Arroyo) did really well, the kid he lost to (Joliet West's Darvell Flagg) was a Class 3A state placewinner last year," said McKillip. "We had three kids place here this year so that is a big improvement for us. We have a lot of kids in the program, and we have more depth than we had last year."

Libertyville Keeps the Pressure On

By John Bumbales ~ Daily Herald Correspondent ~ 12/10/15

The Stevenson wrestling team has gotten into the habit of falling behind early in some of its dual meets this season.

But the No. 10-ranked Patriots have also proven that they can bounce back with a vengeance against their opponents.

That was the case again Thursday night at Libertyville as Stevenson (8-0, 2-0) fell behind the Wildcats by a 15-6 score after six matches in this North Suburban Conference showdown.

Once again, the upper weights proved to be a huge difference-maker for the Patriots though as they rolled off 30 unanswered points en route to a 36-19 NSC Lake Division victory over Libertyville (2-4, 1-2).

Starting at 120 pounds, freshman Michael Gunther got the Wildcats going with a 4-0 decision over senior Alec Nolan.

Libertyville 126-pounder Drew Onufer followed up that win with an 11-5 decision over Michael Karp and the Wildcats had a quick 6-0 advantage.

Junior Brandon Zisman got the Patriots on the board with a 3-0 decision over Mike Hogan at 132 before teammate Eric Carter's 4-1 decision over Tyler Padilla at 138 deadlocked the score at 6-6.

Libertyville kept the pressure on Stevenson with senior Will Johnson posting a 2-0 decision over Ben Ponto in a real defensive struggle at 145.

Then a pin by Libertyville 152-pounder Jack Damenti put the Pats in a 15-6 hole.

But momentum was about to shift to the Patriots' side as No. 2-ranked 152-pounder Dylan Geick (12-0) moved up a weight class and recorded a technical fall at 160 to cut the lead to 15-11.

At 170, junior Robert Pavlovics followed Geick with a 16-2 major decision to knot the score at 15-15.

Bonus points were the order of the day in the next two bouts as 182-pounder Nikita Nepomnyashchiy pinned his opponent in 5:26 before 195-pound teammate Michael Kordek pinned his man in just 24 seconds to suddenly give Stevenson a 27-15 lead with four matches remaining.

The remainder of the meet was much more competitive, but the Patriots kept their winning ways going when 220-pounder Mac Chanprung posted a 9-5 decision over Konnor Lindsey in a wild back-and-forth battle.

At 285, Stevenson's Nick Grujanac pulled away from Charlie Schmidt with a 5-1 decision to clinch the team victory with a 33-15 lead at that point. At 103, teammate Tommy Frezza added a 6-3 decision over Libertyville's Brandon Murphy to cap the 30-point run and give the visitors a 36-15 lead.

"We've been in worse positions so we know what to do in those positions and we came back and fought hard," said Kordek. "I think it's a different team than last year, we're still working on our intensity, and we can be a lot better if we pick up some little pieces."

Ninth-ranked 103-pounder Alex Mitchell moved up a weight class and posted an 11-3 major decision over Stevenson's Matthew Zimring to account for the final score.

On Saturday, Stevenson fell behind Grant 30-11 after eight matches before bouncing back strong to pull out a narrow 35-33 victory over the Bulldogs with the upper weights once again really carrying the Patriots to the win.

"They're ranked No. 10 in the state right now and they certainly lived up to that tonight," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "Obviously Will Johnson beating Ponto, a very seasoned veteran, was a big win for us. And Gunther knocking off a returning starter was very noteworthy."

This marked the second straight season that Stevenson has defeated the Wildcats in a dual meet after never beating perennial power Libertyville before.

The Pats will really have their hands full Saturday when they face second-ranked Sandburg, No. 21 Wheeling, and Marian Catholic in a triple-dual meet where their perfect record could be very much in jeopardy.

"We knew tonight was going to be a competitive dual and coach Dale Eggert's teams will always be well prepared," said Stevenson coach Shane Cook. "But with some shifts in our lineup, we were able to get bonus points at four weights."

Full Lineup Benefits Libertyville's Rivalry Win Over Lake Zurich

By John Bumbales ~ Daily Herald Correspondent ~ 12/18/15

An old rivalry was renewed when visiting Libertyville met Lake Zurich in North Suburban Conference wrestling action Friday night.

Starting the Lake Division dual meet at 138 pounds, the Bears hung tough with the Wildcats for the first nine matches, trailing 25-13.

But with three Lake Zurich forfeits in the final four bouts, Libertyville (3-4, 2-2) was able to come away with a comfortable 46-16 victory over the Bears (6-4, 3-1).

Junior Tyler Padilla got the Wildcats going with a pin at 138 before senior teammate Will Johnson captured a 3-1 decision over Derrick Juarez in a hard-fought battle at 145.

Libertyville junior Jack Damenti followed up that performance with a 13-4 major decision over Nick Dimaggio at 152 and the Wildcats had staked themselves to an early 13-0 advantage.

Despite four forfeits overall, Lake Zurich was sharp early on as 160-pound sophomore Josh Goldberg posted a narrow 4-3 decision over Brian Vickers to cut the lead to 13-3.

Then senior Pete Baldaccini pinned his opponent with 13 seconds left in the third period, and the Bears suddenly only trailed 13-9.

But Libertyville was up to the challenge as 182-pounder Pete Delismon recorded a 4-0 shutout against Nate Bass to boost the lead back to 16-9. Junior Adam Koziol's forfeit victory at 195 extended that lead to 22-9.

"I thought Johnson had a hard-fought good match, and there was a nice pin by Padilla at 138," said Libertyville coach Dale Eggert. "Despite there being a lot of forfeits I thought we had a good win. They (Lake Zurich) had a lot of good guys not in the lineup, sitting on the bench."

Junior Josh Dyer (11-3) kept Lake Zurich within striking range as his 12-2 major decision over Mike Beck at 220 pulled the Bears to within 22-13.

But then Libertyville 285-pounder Charlie Schmidt came through with a key 7-1 decision over Eric Brown and the Wildcats led 25-13 with five matches remaining.

Libertyville got forfeit wins by Brandon Murphy at 106 and Alex Mitchell at 113 to officially clinch the team win with a 37-13 lead at that point.

"I thought that our experienced wrestlers did well tonight, we have a very young team and we only have one senior in the lineup," said Lake Zurich coach Dan Strickler. "Libertyville is a very disciplined team -- they have a gameplan and they follow it."

Libertyville junior Drew Onufer posted a 6-4 decision over Maxx Wayne in a very competitive bout at 120. That was followed by a forfeit win by Libertyville's Jackson Chartier at 126.

Lake Zurich junior Nick Swanson closed out the meet with a 7-3 decision over Mike Hogan at 132 to account for the final score.

"I thought I did pretty well, I got a lot of takedowns on him (Dimaggio)," said Damenti following the meet. "I like where we are right now, and we've been pretty competitive. In the dual meets we lost, we just lost to a better team, but I do like the way the meets have gone this year."

The Bears have been forfeiting 106 and 113 most of the season due to inexperience. But Friday they were also missing Billy Busse at 195, and Ben Baca at 126. 2015 sectional qualifier Joey Stutzman has been out the entire season for Lake Zurich due to an injury dating back to the football season.

The Wildcats were without 120-pound injured freshman standout Michael Gunther, who should return to action soon.

Sandburg Excels at Berman; Libertyville's Mitchell Wins at 106

By John Bumbales ~ Daily Herald Correspondent ~ 12/30/15

With six first-place finishers, top-ranked Sandburg was the class of the huge 33-team field Wednesday afternoon at the 61st Annual Berman Holiday Wrestling Classic in Palatine.

The Eagles rolled to the championship with 313 points while Lyons Township was a distant second with 194.

Warren was the top finishing Lake County area squad with a 12th-place score of 91 points as the Blue Devils were able to get five wrestlers into the final round.

Mundelein had a solid showing with a 15th-place score of 71 points while Libertyville (67.5 points) and 106-pound champion Alex Mitchell (19-1) were not far behind the Mustangs in 18th place. Lakes wound up with two individuals in the final round.

Warren's strong effort was led by third-place finisher Zach Khoury (18-2), who pinned Downers Grove North junior Sky Arend in 1:27 to close out his two-day tournament with a 4-1 record.

Khoury's only loss of the tournament was against eventual champion Dylan Ervin of Metea Valley in the semifinals.

"I'm happy with the way I wrestled for most of the tournament, and I think I did a good job of staying composed and wrestling hard," said Khoury, who is ranked seventh in Class 3A. "I'm really proud of the guys, it's a very tough tournament and it just really gives you good varsity experience."

Besides Khoury's third-place showing, Warren also got a fourth-place finish from junior Grant Zamin (17-6), who dropped a tough 3-1 decision to Richmond-Burton's Gavin Sutton (21-1) at 138.

Then in an all-North Suburban Conference matchup for fifth place at 170, Warren junior Andrew Demos (18-4) posted a 4-3 decision over Lakes senior Jared Smith after Smith had recorded a first-period pin over Demos Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

The Blue Devils also got an eighth-place finish from 182-pound senior Brandon Escamilla, who had to drop out of his final match of the tourney due to illness, and an eighth-place finish from sophomore J.T. VanderVere at 113.

"I'm really impressed with the final round we had and Zach's only loss was to the guy who won the tournament," said first-year Warren coach Jake Jobst. "Demos wrestled his style, he wrestled his match, and it was good to see him get one back on that kid (Smith)."

The Blue Devils still have a very tough road ahead of them with a dual meet against rival squad Stevenson coming up in mid-January.

"It was a good improvement from last year, and we had a couple of guys who went 0-2 here last year who placed in this tournament," added Jobst. "It's tougher than the sectional tournament, there are 32 teams here, and Sandburg is nationally ranked and ranked No. 1 in the state."

Libertyville was without the services of freshman standout Michael Gunther (120/126), but Mitchell, a junior, continued to shine for the Wildcats by winning this very prestigious tourney.

Mitchell put the finishing touches on his great performance by capturing a 7-2 decision over Glenbard East junior Nick Donovan for the 106-pound crown.

Libertyville coach Dale Eggert's young team also got an eighth-place finish from 126-pound junior Drew Onufer, who dropped a tough 5-3 decision to Oswego's Blake Huffmon.

"I had my ups and downs, but it feels pretty good to win this tournament and now I know what I'm capable of doing," said Mitchell. "I want to get a medal at state, and I want to keep doing what I'm doing right now and wrestle well."

Mundelein's troops were led by 120-pound runner-up Alec Riportella (19-3), who fell to Sandburg's Kevin Stearns (22-0) 7-1 in the finals.

The Mustangs also got a fifth-place finish from sophomore standout Dane Durlacher (21-2), who recorded a technical fall over fourth-ranked Class 2A wrestler Chris Kennedy of Lincoln-Way West. 195-pounder Cesar Obispo did not compete for Mundelein.

"Stearns is ranked third in the state, he's undefeated, and it was 0-0 going into the second period," said Mundelein coach Mark Stewart. "After he (Durlacher) lost in the semifinals I think it took the wind out of his sails. But he looked great in the fifth-place match."

Lakes junior Xavian Girona (13-3) placed seventh at 152 with a narrow 5-4 decision over Rock Island's Dalton Lawver. Lakes senior Max Hill (182) is out with a broken ankle, but he is expected back in the lineup soon. Hill and Smith both reached state for the Eagles last season.

"Yesterday he (Smith) had confidence, but when you come back after being out for a month and a half you have to get the wrestling mentality back," said Lakes coach Mark Stave. "Xavian is doing some good things. He beat a kid who is ranked fifth in the state in 2A, and he beat the No. 1 seed in the tournament so he is right where he needs to be."

The Berman tourney is the longest running regular-season tourney in the state of Illinois.