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THE INSIDER: Wrestling

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SPOTLIGHT ON ...

Brad Green
DeKalb sophomore
It's no surprise Green is off to a 4-0 start. He wrestles against four-time state qualifier Doug Johnson at every practice. Green will move between 132 and 138 in the early portion of the season depending on matchups, but the stiffest challenge he'll face all year just might come in practice.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Kaneland at Sycamore, 6 p.m. Thursday
A conference title could be at stake in the very first match of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference season. Sycamore has a deeper roster. The Spartans are contenders for a fourth consecutive appearance at team state and are led by defending state champion Austin Culton and two state qualifiers. Sycamore won't struggle to fill any weight classes. The Knights have several question marks at the middle and upper weights, but also return three state qualifiers. A win here would be a confidence-builder for the Knights, who appear to be better suited for tournaments. 

Pound-for-pound Rankings

1.
Austin Culton (152), Sycamore, senior, 2-0

2.
Doug Johnson (138), DeKalb, senior, 4-0

3.
Jake Davis (195), Sycamore, senior, 2-0

4.
Dan Goress (145), Kaneland, senior, 3-0

5.
Kyle Akins (113), Sycamore, junior, 1-0

6.
Esai Ponce (132), Kaneland, senior, 2-0

7.
Stephen Gust (113), Kaneland, senior, 3-0

8.
Zach Theis (285), Kaneland, senior, 3-0

9.
Brad Green (132), DeKalb, sophomore, 4-0

10.
Jackson Montgomery (126), DeKalb, sophomore, 4-0

NOTEBOOK: On schedule at DeKalb

Opportunity has been seized by the Barbs. After one week of competition, the DeKalb (3-1) youth movement has made the most of its chances.

"We are wrestling a lineup with a ton of freshman and sophomores," DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. "It's nice to see us go in and win right now and not have guys waiting for their senior season to make a move. We showed we are in good shape and can find a way to win close matches."

The Barbs open the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference dual season on Thursday at Rochelle at 6 p.m. Saturday, DeKalb is at the Fenton tournament where Milton, Wisc., Deerfield and the host Bison highlight the field.

Spartans' gauntlet There's no time for warm-up duals at Sycamore.

Kaneland and Yorkville (12/6) are the Spartans first two NI Big 12 East dual meets. The Spartans (2-0) host Burlington Central, Pontiac and Lake Zurich on Saturday in a quadrangular. The Bears are in Class 3A and beat Sycamore last year. St. Charles East just won the Chris Hruska Classic at Conant and awaits the Spartans next week.

"It's good to have an early-season test," Spartans' coach Alex Nelson said. "You don't want too many in a row because it can grind on a team, but it's a good challenge to see where we are now."

With in-season tournaments and the NI Big 12 Conference Tournament, Kaneland and Sycamore meet Thursday for the first of what should be many meetings between wrestlers in each lineup.

"We'll be more familiar with Kaneland by the end of the week," Nelson said. "By the end of the year we'll know them even more. Kaneland has a good team and I expect some real good matches."

Been a long time at Kaneland There isn't a wrestler on the Kaneland roster that has a dual win against Sycamore. Kaneland coach Monty Jahns drove that fact home to the Knights at Monday's practice.

A Kaneland (3-0) win against Sycamore Thursday would be its first since 2007 and would instill a load of confidence into a Knights' lineup loaded with freshmen at the middle and upper weights.

"We'll get fired up on Thursday for the meet," said Jahns who added the Knights avenged last season's loss to Burlington Central last Saturday . "We've been preaching the importance of the rivalry and that we last won in 2007. They are the returning conference champions. The winner Thursday is well on their way to a conference title."

The wildcard in Thursday's dual is the abbreviated playoff run by the Kaneland football team. Unlike previous years, the football players in the Knights' wrestling lineup have been in the mat room from the start of the season.

VIEWS: Four teams from NI Big 12 East ranked in top 25

Four teams from the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East Division are ranked in the Illinoismatmen.com Class 2A top 25. Sterling and Geneseo are strong West Division teams as well. Multiple teams and individuals will win tournaments this season or qualify for the state series. 

Unlike football where Kaneland has had a stranglehold on the conference – its impossible to remember the last time the Knights lost a league game, because they have yet to do so – wrestling has interesting parity while still possessing powerhouse teams.

Sycamore (No. 2) has qualified for the state dual meet three consecutive years and won the NI Big 12 conference meet last year. Yet, as the Spartans look for a fourth consecutive berth at state, there’s Yorkville (No. 10), which won the NI Big 12 East regular season title and finished second to Montini at the state meet. 

Kaneland (No. 24) has a veteran lineup with the talent to score meaningful bonus points that could be the difference in a tightly contested tournament. DeKalb has size on its side, the Barbs move up to Class 3A this year, and if a slew of youngsters mature, the Barbs are a sleeper team in the East.   

For good measure throw in Morris at No. 25 and NI Big 12 wrestlers will be the better tested by their regular season than any other sport in the conference.

Like the SEC has shown in college football, it pays to compete on a weekly basis against the best athletes and teams.

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