DeKALB — In the last two matches of the Don Flavin Invitational on Thursday, the Barbs’ fate came down to Danny Aranda.
Both times, Aranda did what he had to do to give the Barbs their first Flavin title since 2018.
“It feels pretty good,” Aranda said. “We haven’t done it in a while. All of our team worked hard, fighting hard and not giving up. That’s a plus. That’s a big plus.
After beating Mukwonago, 42-24, in the championship pool of the tourney to start the day, the Barbs were tied with Father Ryan out of Tennessee heading into the last match at 120. Aranda gritted out a 9-1 win over Brody Gobbell to secure the 35-31 team win.
“You kind of have to tell yourself that you’re the best and you’re not going to lose,” Aranda said. “Not everything goes your way but you can’t let the pressure get into your head and it’s going to mess you up in a match. It’s not good.”
Earlier against Father Ryan, heavyweight Nate Sauer had a huge win, coming from behind to force overtime, then riding out William McGrady in the second 20-second period for a 5-4 win.
The win over Father Ryan the Barbs up needing to beat Marist in the last match of the day to win the tournament outright. DeKalb entered ranked second in the latest Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association poll and the RedHawks fifth.
DeKalb led by four heading into the last match at 126, which feature Aranda against Will Denny - both ranked in the top 10 in the state at 120. All Aranda had to do was not lose by more than eight or get pinned.
“It’s probably different there because he can’t get majored,” DeKalb coach Sam Hiatt said. “That kid was good.”
Denny ended up winning, 8-3, but DeKalb secured the title with the 33-32 win.
“We know he puts in the work and he believes in himself,” Hiatt said. “He can handle the pressure in the big moments. When it comes down to him, we’re happy there.”
Hiatt also said he was impressed with how the Barbs showed off their depth. In addition to missing Bradley Gillum (ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds) for the whole tournament, they were without a trio of ranked wrestlers who wrestled Wednesday — Jacob Luce (honorable mention at 126), Damien Lopez (third at 152) and Caleb Wall (honorable mention at 160).
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Even Sauer “wasn’t the feeling best,” said Hiatt and sat out the final match against Marist.
“We’ve got 21 people and I think we used just about every single one,” Hiatt said. “It was hard-earned, I’ll tell you that. It was a great team effort. People were going up weights, nobody was asking any questions. We were moving people around, people just fought for each other. Three really good duals we came out on top.”
Hussein Thahab ended up filling in at 152 despite entering Thursday not knowing he was going to wrestle, Hiatt said. He went 2-1, including a major against Marist’s Ryan Lanigan.
Danny Curran, Luke Schmerbach and Kaden Klapprodt each went 3-0 on the mat for the Barbs.
“These guys believed in themselves and they didn’t want to lose,” Hiatt said. “We could have had excuses because we had people out but they just kept wrestling.”