CRYSTAL LAKE – Connor Lezama loves the idea of leading off or closing.
It’s the hype and spotlight of either getting things started or having an entire team result come down to his match. Well, on this Thursday, it didn’t come down to the end, and it was largely in part because of the way he started.
Lezama served in the leadoff role against rival Prairie Ridge and delivered near perfection while setting the tone for a 59-18 Fox Valley Conference win for Crystal Lake Central.
Going up against an opponent he hadn’t seen but has been climbing the ladder quickly, Lezama exploded out to an 11-3 lead before closing out a 12-7 win over Charlie Ferree at 152 pounds.
“Through this past 48 hours I have had a complete mindshift with wrestling,” said Lezama, who entered the match ranked seventh in Class 2A at 160 pounds. “Especially coming out tonight for the team, it’s awesome to get things started and put 100 percent on the mat. By the end I was completely gassed, but that’s what I want.”
That’s what his coach wants, too. Tigers coach Justen Lehr lauded the effort by his senior, especially going against a new foe.
“At 152, that kid (Ferree) is a tough wrestler, and Lezama has been having a good year for us,” Lehr said. “I think the way the match played out … it got everybody charged up.
“I just told the guys we need to come out on fire and be prepared and kind of take it to them because [Prairie Ridge first-year coach Justin Peete] is going to have his kids fired up, and they were.”
With that win in hand, Crystal Lake Central was in great shape with two more ranked wrestlers following suit with easy wins. Fourth-ranked Dillon Carlson claimed a technical fall at 160 pounds before ninth-ranked Ben Butler claimed a win in just 55 seconds at 170 pounds.
But you could make the argument that Jonathon Barrick at 195 pounds was just as big to this blowout victory. As the first man after an upset win by Prairie Ridge’s Jimmy Stone over 10th-ranked Erik Maldonado at 182 pounds, Barrick scored the first takedown and notched a victory by fall in just 1:39.
That was the first of five consecutive wins by fall for the Tigers (11-8, 5-1).
While the team score was a bit lopsided, Prairie Ridge (8-3, 3-2) did have some strong performances on the night, starting with the win for Stone, who continues to show promise. He fell behind Maldonado 4-0 but battled back and turned the tide with an impressive move that led the way to a pin in 1:23.
“We were just telling him to be patient and look for some more simple offense,” Peete said. “That was a really funky move off the back and it really gets a lot of guys off balance. Sometimes he looks for it a little early, and there have been times he’s gotten a big win, like here, and there have been a couple of times where he’s gotten a loss because of it. The big adjustment for him today was just being patient and not just forcing it and looking for some basic defense first. And he did that. That’s exactly what our game plan was.”
Prairie Ridge’s Tyler Evans, ranked ninth at 120 pounds, dominated his match in just 49 seconds. Also, Ryan Koelblinger claimed a victory in 4:49 at 138 pounds.