Marian Central co-coach Jordan Blanton thought his team ended the tournament portion of its regular season on the right note with a fifth-place finish at Batavia’s Clint Arlis Invitational on Saturday.
The Hurricanes won two weight classes and had seven wrestlers finish in the top eight against some of the best teams in the state. Blanton considered the invitational as a good final preparation for the state tournament since the talent will be comparable.
“Everybody wrestled some studs,” Blanton said. “We were put in position to wrestle bigger schools, tough opponents, and I think we performed really well.”
Kaden Harman improved to 23-8 when he won the 126 title, and Max Astacio jumped to 30-7 after taking the 160 crown. Nick Davidson (138) finished third, Charlie Fitzgerald (145) took fourth, Vance Williams (132) placed fifth, and Austin Hagevold (106) ended the day eighth.
Blanton thought the invitational was a perfect finale not only because some of the best wrestlers faced off against each other, but also because the event was one day, which allowed wrestlers to simulate how they’ll need to compete during regionals.
“I don’t think it could’ve been better,” Blanton said of the tournament.
Marian is finishing the last two weeks of the regular season with duals. The Hurricanes defeated Prairie Ridge in their first home event Tuesday and will host St. Patrick on Thursday.
With less than three weeks left until Marian competes at the Class 1A Richmond-Burton Regional, Blanton is focused on getting healthy and working on little adjustments to make a deep postseason run.
“That’s just going to be fine-tuning and getting geared up, ready to go,” Blanton said, “so we walk into regionals at our best, to win the team regional, go into the sectional with a lot of momentum to get a lot of guys down to the state tournament.”
Two of the Huntley’s girls team’s stars shined once against at the Batavia Invitational on Saturday.
Freshmen Janiah Slaughter and Aubrie Rohrbacher placed first and second, respectively, in their weights to help the Red Raiders finish third at the 34-team event.
“To see both of those freshmen do good things is pretty cool,” Huntley coach B.J. Bertelsman said.
Slaughter improved her record to 16-2 and took the 100 crown, while Rohrbacher moved to 20-3 after placing second at 125. Payton Turczyniak (190) finished third, Addison Drews (115), Hanah Shaw (135B), Sidney Ganshaw (140B) and Alyssa Aguilar (155) each took fourth, Valaria Sanchez (105) and Gretchen Sweeney (170) placed fifth and Lily Phoaraj (105B), Vanessa Roman (110B) and Hannah Price (155) each finished sixth.
Bertelsman thought Saturday’s invitational was good preparation for the postseason as the Red Raiders try to make final adjustments.
“Just to see them be more consistent,” Bertelsman said. “Some of the older girls, this is their last go, so consistency and health are the two big things to see.”
Jacobs coach Gary Conrad isn’t too concerned about his team’s 3-13 overall and 1-6 FVC dual-meet record with less than a month left in the season.
“We don’t really care about these duals, we only care about state,” Conrad said. “No one remembers these, but everyone remembers the state tournament. That’s where we want to be.”
Seniors Dominic Ducato and James Wright are set to lead the charge back down to Champaign for the individual state tournament. Wright finished 2-2 at 126 at last season’s tournament, while Ducato won a match before losing his next two at 106.
Wright is 25-3 at 132 this season with impressive wins, including winning the weight at Batavia’s Invitational on Saturday. Ducato didn’t compete Saturday but won the 113 tournament at Leyden’s Randy Conrad Invitational earlier in the month.
The two have been captains since they were sophomores and have provided the Golden Eagles with great leadership and motivation, according to their coach.
“They’re really our driving force that other kids look up to,” Conrad said. “When they see them wrestle like that, then people are paying attention and trying to emulate that.”
Conrad thinks Ducato, Wright and all the rest of the Golden Eagles have been tested to make their push to qualify for state. With less than three weeks to go before regionals start, it’s just about getting in the right headspace.
“They’ve got all the tools,” Conrad said. “They’ve been wrestling for four years nonstop, plus kids clubs. They’re ready. It’s just getting their mind in the right space.”
Crystal Lake Central could finally be at full strength heading into the final week of the regular season.
Tigers coach Justen Lehr said Jon Barrick, who’s been sidelined by an injury, is set to compete for the first time this season against Cary-Grove on Thursday.
Barrick will make his return after qualifying for the individual state meet last season. The Tigers have filled in without Barrick in the lineup, but Lehr is excited to have his full lineup ready heading into the final week of the season.
“It’s hard for me to watch a kid who’s put in a lot of time and effort like that to not be able to wrestle for most of his senior year,” Lehr said. “He’s pumped to get back and get back to regionals.”
Saturday was a special day for Marian co-coaches Blanton and Ryan Prater.
The Hurricanes competed in Batavia’s Clint Arlis Invitational, which was named after their former teammate at the University of Illinois. Arlis died last January.
Batavia shared a video of Illinois wrestling head coach Mike Poeta remembering Arlis before the finals. Both Blanton and Prater thought it was special to be competing in an event named after their friend during their first season as coaches with the Hurricanes.
“It was pretty unique and pretty cool,” Blanton said. “We felt the emotion of that before the finals.”
Wrestling wasn’t the only thing on the agenda when the Huntley and Jacobs boys teams met on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
For the second straight season, the Red Raiders and Golden Eagles collected canned goods, home goods and gathered money and donated it to Grafton Food Pantry in Huntley. Bertelsman said the teams collected $140 and enough food to fill up the bed of his truck.
“We just try to collect as much as possible,” Bertelsman said.