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The Insider: Prep Wrestling

DeKalb's Brenden McGee (left) is controlled by Sycamore's Kyle Akins during the 113-pound match Jan. 10 in Sycamore. Akins won with a technical fall.
DeKalb's Brenden McGee (left) is controlled by Sycamore's Kyle Akins during the 113-pound match Jan. 10 in Sycamore. Akins won with a technical fall.

Spartans’ double play: Sycamore beat its most fierce rival and claimed the Northern illinois Big 12 East Conference title on the same night. 

The Spartans (14-3, 5-0) followed a 33-22 win against DeKalb last Thursday with a 1-2 weekend that featured a win against New Trier and losses to Hononegah and’s top-ranked Class 3A team Sandburg.  

“We did some good things last week,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “It’s always good to get a win against DeKalb. And we won conference at the same time. We’ve got some time now to work on things and get primed for the state playoffs.”

Under pressure: DeKalb used the final week before the NI Big 12 Tournament to travel to a road dual against its crosstown rival and head to a triangular with Libertyville, Lyons and Conant. 

The Barbs (19-4, 3-2) went 2-2 against some of the stiffest competition they’ve faced all season. And that was fine with DeKalb coach Mike Pater.

“It was a tough week with a lot of high-pressure matches,” Pater said. “We faced a lot of good competition that should get us ready for the conference tournament. We don’t train to be the best at regular-season duals. We train to be our best at the end of the year. The guys are excited right now and focused on that.”

Brad Green (20-11) had a 3-1 week and is on a roll headed into the conference tournament. Green has wrestled at 138 all season. While he might be best suited at 132, senior state contender Doug Johnson is firmly entrenched in that spot of the Barbs’ lineup.

“Brad has handled the challenge well,” Pater said. “He’s been in tough matches with good kids but has never complained. He’s a total team player that has wrestled at whatever weight class he is needed.”

VIEWS: Losses can be 'Blessing in disguise,' learning experience

A loss can allow creeping doubt to set in for a wrestler.

The later in the year, the higher the stakes, the harder it can be to rebound from a loss. But unique situations exist where a wrestler can benefit from a loss if they handle the fallout the right way.

Sycamore senior Jake Davis lost his first match of the season last week. But it was to a nationally ranked, Division I recruit. The kind of class wrestler from which lessons can be learned.

“Jake lost to one of the top five wrestlers in the country,” said Sycamore coach Alex Nelson about the loss to Wisconsin bound Sandburg senior-182 pounder Ricky Robertson. “Jake knows what he’s got to go back and work on.”

The type of loss might be the biggest factor.

“The biggest problem is if you lose to someone you know you are better than with a bad performance,” Nelson said. “There you are scratching your head questioning your ability. A loss can be a blessing in disguise.”

After months of preparation, a loss at the right time can refocus a wrestler. And if it comes right before the post-season gets under way, there’s a unique opportunity for coaches to sell a wrestler on their actual record. 

“I won’t say there’s such a thing as a good loss because a loss is still a loss,” DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. “Everyone is 0-0 when the conference tournament season begins the season starts over.

“Anyone that spends as much time working at something as our wrestlers do trying to get better in the weight room, mat room and video room it’s not easy to handle a loss. But, you need to use the right mental approach and solve the problem rather than pout or make excuses.”

With the conference tournament set for this week, there’s no time to pout for any wrestler.

Spotlight On...

Kyle Akins

Sycamore, junior

A logical progression for Kyle Akins would be a state title. The Sycamore junior has a third- and fourth-place finish at the state tournament on his resume. Tournament season is the ideal time to get on the kind of run teammate Austin Culton rode to a state title last year.

“Kyle is pound-for-pound one of the most talented wrestlers I’ve coached,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “He’s tough. He wrestles all year and goes to all the big tournaments in the off season. If he has a good state tournament he has the talent to win it.” 

What to watch for

DeKalb, Kaneland and Sycamore at the Northern Illinois Big 12 East Tournament at Sycamore, Saturday

Anticipation yields to the arrival of the moment wrestlers have been waiting for all year. The patch of season between Christmas and New Year’s is a grind. All eyes are on upcoming conference, regional and sectional tournaments.

“Guys have been champing at the bit,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “Now things get rolling. There’s a week after conference then regionals, sectionals and state follow. It’s what guys have prepared for all year.”

At the NI Big 12 Tournament everyone in the pound-for-pound rankings has a chance to claim a title. DeKalb junior Matt Macaras and Sycamore senior Austin Culton could face off for the 152-pound title and a slew of other juicy match ups should emerge.

Pound-for-pound power rankings

1. Austin Culton (152) senior, Sycamore, 29-0
2. Jake Davis (195) senior, Sycamore, 28-1
3. Doug Johnson (138) senior, DeKalb, 30-1
4. Kyle Akins (113) junior, Sycamore, 27-1
5. Dan Goress (145) senior, Kaneland, 29-3
6. Esai Ponce (132) senior, Kaneland, 24-3
7. Parker Stratton (106) freshman, DeKalb, 27-4
8. Zack Theis (285) senior, Kaneland, 21-4
9. Marty Malone (220) senior, Sycamore, 21-6
10. Connor Williams (120) senior, Kaneland 21-5

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