SPOTLIGHT ON ...
A veteran wrestler will be familiar with the grind the Don Flavin Invitational offers. Ponce will have the experience needed to persevere through the dual-team tournament format and could get another shot to avenge an early season loss to DeKalb senior Doug Johnson.
“The seniors are continuing to improve upon their skills and work ethic in the mat room and they’re leading the team right now,” Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said. “It’s obvious by the points they’re scoring in the meets.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kaneland and DeKalb at The Don Flavin Team Dual Invitational on Friday and Saturday at DeKalb
Plenty of matches await wrestlers with the unique team dual format in the Don Flavin Invitational. Hononegah, Glenbard North and Stillman Valley offer stiff competition. The Barbs are dark-horse contenders and are on an emotional high after a win against a solid Rock Island team last week.
“I like where we are at as a team,” DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but as a team we have made a lot of progress. This is a good test to see where we are because there’s a lot of teams with tightly grouped talent.”
POUND-FOR-POUND POWER RANKINGS
1. Austin Culton (152) Sycamore, senior, 21-0
2. Jake Davis (195) Sycamore, senior, 18-0
3. Kyle Akins (113) Sycamore, junior, 21-0
4. Doug Johnson (138) DeKalb, senior, 16-1
5. Dan Goress (145) Kaneland, senior, 15-2
6. Esai Ponce (132) Kaneland, senior, 13-2
7. Matt Macarus (152) DeKalb, junior, 14-3
8. Zach Theis (285) Kaneland, senior, 12-3
9. Marty Malone (220) Sycamore, senior, 16-3
10. Stephen Gust (113) Kaneland, senior, 12-3
NOTEBOOK: Sycamore’s title win ‘impressive’
A 90-minute bus ride, hotel stay and potent snowstorm didn’t slow down Sycamore.
The Spartans finished first in the Badger State Invitational last weekend at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis. Sycamore had 201 points and runner-up and traditional power Merrill (Wis.) had 194.
A unique challenge awaited the Spartans, and Sycamore coach Alex Nelson was impressed with the outcome.
“With the drive up, staying overnight and making weight twice, it was impressive,” Nelson said. “We stayed focused and had enough left in the tank to wrestle well.”
Jake Davis, Austin Culton and Kyle Akins won their weight classes to post consecutive tournament titles after first-place finishes in the Russ Erb Invite two weeks ago at Glenbrook South. After an early exit at Russ Erb, Martin Malone rebounded with a second-place finish. Motivated by two straight losses at Glenbrook South, Malone refocused to get to the finals.
Sycamore rounded out the tournament with four fourth-place finishes.
“We faced some good teams,” Nelson said. “There were some of the top-ranked teams and individuals in the state of Wisconsin. We came out ready to go.”
Barbs’ long wait over
DeKalb had waited long enough.
In a 32-24 win against Rock Island, the Barbs (8-1) finally had a win over the Rocks.
“It was nice to beat Rock Island,” DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. “They have a nice team and seem to have had our number the last few years. We had a lot of hard-fought matches. But it was good, we stayed tough and found a way to win.”
The win is a confidence boost for a young DeKalb team that has thus far met the high expectations Pater had at the start of the season. The Don Flavin Invitational this weekend will provide loads of experience for the quickly maturing roster.
VIEWS: Rejuvenated Spartans gear up for stretch run
The holiday season and New Year’s Day are occasions when I’ve always enjoyed the finer things in life.
It’s time to catch up with family and friends, but I’ve always traded up and spent a little more on dinner, presents and taken a break from work – even as I write this column on Christmas morning – it’s just a good way to start the new year. It’s a personal reward for making it through another year and a way to get rejuvenated to start another with plenty of energy.
Sycamore has a similar approach.
The Spartans traditionally have used the time between tournaments and New Year’s to get ready for the stretch run of the regular season. Sycamore returns to the mat room today but doesn’t have a match until next Thursday at Morris and then as hosts of their weekend tournament.
It’s a formula that has yielded stunning results. While the physical and mental grind of the season can bring upon all kinds of attrition, if the Spartans keep up their pace, they look like a lock for another trip to team state.
“It’s a much needed break,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “We’ve had a pretty steady string of Thursday, Friday and Saturday matches for three weeks.”
A stretch run awaits a rejuvenated Sycamore team. And that’s a dangerous prospect.
• James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com.