Wrestling notes: St. Charles East, Batavia in the hunt for DuKane title this weekend
By Kevin McGavin
Like football in the fall, the creation of the DuKane Conference promised to be a haven for the twin winter sports of basketball and wrestling.
With similar population bases, demographics and history as a guidepost, the first full wrestling season in the league in two years has been as good as advertised.
“I think [St. Charles] East is a little better than the rest of the teams,” Geneva coach Tom Chernich said.
The Saints enter the league tournament at Glenbard North in Carol Stream on Saturday with a slight edge over the host Panthers.
St. Charles East, in the schools’ pandemic-delayed dual match last week, defeated Glenbard North 37-29 in a battle of league unbeatens.
Gavin Connolly and Lane Robinson had back-to-back wins for the Saints at 145 and 152 pounds to give the program a six-point lead heading into the conference tournament.
“Lane Robinson was definitely a big win,” St. Charles East coach Jason Potter said of a match-ending fall with the Saints nursing a two-point lead. “He put on a dream performance to secure the win.”
The seventh-ranked Saints won 17 of their 19 dual matches this winter; Glenbard North is ranked No. 13 in the coaches’ Class 3A poll, with Batavia checking in two spots lower than the Panthers.
“We will be in the hunt for a first-place trophy,” Batavia coach Scott Bayer said. “We had a chance to win both of our ([eague] dual meets against them [St. Charles East and Glenbard North].”
Ben Davino, the St. Charles East sophomore 126-pounder who has yet to lose to an in-state opponent, is top-ranked in his weight class to headline five other Saints’ teammates whose names can be found in the coaches’ rankings.
“We want to get them ready for the state tournament,” Potter said. “The tournament this weekend will decide the actual conference champion. There is no clear runaway favorite. Our boys are doing a good job.”
In addition to Davino, who captured the coaches’ association-sponsored state tournament last year with an unblemished record at 113 pounds, the Saints feature fifth-ranked 132-pounder Tyler Guerra and Brody Murray, No. 8 at 160 pounds.
Batavia, however, could conceivably erode the Saints’ 12-point cushion entering the tournament at the opening 106-pound weight.
The Bulldogs have Ino Garcia, the top-ranked individual in the league at No. 9; the Saints have been unable to field an athlete at the weight class the entire season.
Bayer will also eagerly welcome back Jackson Tonkovich, the Bulldogs’ fifth-ranked 182-pounder who has been out with a neck injury since the prestigious Granite City Invitational over the holidays.
“He’s got the all-clear from the doctor,” Bayer said of Tonkovich. “Having a senior captain return – that gives you a lift.”
The Bulldogs also have back-to-back state medal-contenders Kaden Fetterolf, No. 5 in Class 3A, and Cael Andrews at 138 and 145 pounds to power the program.
Geneva is battling health issues for its top athletes this weekend.
Chernich has ruled out both Dylan Schlegel and Nicky O’Keefee, arguably the top-two lower-weight athletes in the program, this weekend.
“We’re focusing on the (Class 3A DeKalb) regional at this point,” Chernich said.
All four Tri-Cities programs will have the unenviable task of derailing the host Barbs, the second-ranked team in the state, the following weekend.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” Potter said of the Barbs. Johnny Schmidt is perhaps the Vikings’ best bet at 195 pounds.
St. Charles North junior Drew Surges will enter the league festivities undefeated at 182 pounds.
Phillips claims Interstate Eight title for Kaneland
In all likelihood, Tommy Tourdot does not wish to see Cam Phillips for a fourth time this wrestling season.
Phillips, the Kaneland senior who is ranked No. 5 in Class 2A at 106 pounds, defeated his Rochelle counterpart for the third time this season Saturday in Maple Park.
Unfortunately for the Knights, there was not quite enough home cooking as Sandwich earned supremacy at the Interstate Eight Conference tournament.
Phillips, who improved to 26-3 on the season, has designs on a collegiate wrestling career but has yet to commit.
“I didn’t see it as a challenge,” Phillips said of defeating Tourdot yet again. “I did come out a little sloppy. I was able to clean it up, though.”
Phillips terminated the match 86 seconds into the first period with a fall.