McHenry’s depth showed up when it mattered the most again when it competed at the Batavia Invitational on Saturday.
The Warriors finished third at the 17-team tournament thanks in large part to some wrestlers earning career-best tournament placements. Depth has been McHenry’s strength this season and watching 12 of 14 wrestlers place has coach Jake Guardalabene encouraged for the future.
“I thought all 14 guys wrestled really well,” Guardalabene said. “We placed 12 out of 14, which has kind of been the M.O. for us this year. We’ve got our two horses with Brody (Hallin) and Chris (Moore) winning titles and then everyone else picking up the slack.”
Moore won the title at 160 pounds while Hallin won at 170.
Lucas Van Diepen earned a career-best finish when he took third at 120, and Caleb Rezmer set a career-high mark with a fourth-place finish at 182. Pedro Jimenez (126) took third, Ruben Malgarejo (152) and Luke Zunkel (220) finished fourth, Nick Garantziotis (195), Rocky Piehl (145) and Jimmy Norris (113) placed sixth and Ryan Nagel (132) and Ryan Hanson (106) each earned eighth-place finishes.
“We don’t have a hole, we don’t have a weight class we can’t match up in,” Guardalabene said. “That’s been huge with these high finishes we’ve had these last few weeks.”
Guardalabene credited the team’s tough schedule and continued good health during the recent spike in COVID-19 cases for helping the Warriors prepare their depth. Many wrestlers will finish with more than 40 matches wrestled this season.
“It was very encouraging to see those guys win a lot of matches,” Guardalabene said. “That’s how you win tournaments, that’s how you win a regional, you have your guys who are going to win the tournament and then you’re not going to have all 14 guys win the tournament. You’re going to have the guys picking up the slack and winning in the wrestleback, and we’ve got a whole team full of those.”
Justin Peete is starting to see his program take shape.
The first-year Prairie Ridge coach watched as his wrestlers battle back from tough losses to Hampshire and Huntley on Thursday and Friday, respectively, and defeat Carmel, Highland Park and Glenbrook South on Saturday at Carmel.
“I thought we were wrestling very, very well,” Peete said. “We were just able to capitalize on the momentum moving forward throughout the weekend. That was huge.”
Jimmy Stone provided the Wolves with four pins Friday and Saturday at 182, while Tyler Evans got his team bonus points at 120 throughout the weekend. Eddie Ferree went undefeated during the weekend at 160, while Walter Pollack (220) and Yaric Clark (285) both impressed.
The Wolves faced some challenges throughout the season. Peete has lost wrestlers to injury and some wrestlers decided not to compete this season. Because of that, Prairie Ridge’s lineup features seven starting freshmen. Peete has been impressed with what he’s seen from a group that has earned a 11-5 overall record.
“Doing that with seven freshmen in the lineup, that’s huge,” Peete said. “We’ve got a couple of sophomores, only one senior. We’re a very young team. Those are the guys I’m excited to build with.”
Peete and the Wolves are excited for the final two duals of the season as they continue to grow.
“I think now with the first year moving past, we have a lot of guys committed to wrestling in the offseason, a lot of people who want to grow within the sport outside of just the season, which is great,” Peete said. “There’s not a lot of questions anymore. I know what to expect from our guys and they know what to expect from me. Now we can build off of that.”
Business as usual
Crystal Lake Central continues to take care of business as the season winds down.
The Tigers defeated Jacobs 72-12 on Friday, a team that recently returned from a break in action. While the match didn’t provide many opportunities for his wrestlers to get into a match, Crystal Lake Central coach Justen Lehr was proud of his team’s business-like attitude.
“We just continue to grind and work hard, sharpen up for regionals coming up,” Lehr said.
With only one dual loss in FVC action entering Thursday, Central could force a three-way tie between it, McHenry and Huntley with a win Thursday against Cary-Grove and next week against undefeated Huntley, which handed McHenry its lone FVC dual loss.
That prospect and the Tigers hosting a regional has Lehr’s group anticipating the next few weeks.
“I think the kids are really excited to be able to showcase their talents in their own gym in a tournament setting,” Lehr said.