SYCAMORE – The Kaneland wrestling team is built for tournaments.
With holes at several weight classes, the Knights don't match up well in dual meets. But with several elite wrestlers, Kaneland thrives in meets like Saturday's Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament.
After winning just two conference dual meets this season, the Knights tied for fourth with DeKalb on Saturday (117.5 points) behind a win at 145 from Dan Goress and second-place finishes from 120-pounder Connor Williams, 132-pounder Esai Ponce, and 285-pounder Zach Theis.
“We have so many good, talented individuals that we come together in tournaments, we do well,” Goress said. “The atmosphere in the room the last couple of weeks has been really good because of the tournaments. This is the time to meet [their individual goals] with regional, sectional, state coming around. Everyone is working really hard. It's a positive attitude out there. Everyone's on a roll.”
In some ways, having a small team of elite wrestlers isn't a bad thing, because the top Knights are motivated by wrestling alongside each other every day.
“The leaders in the room, the senior leaders that we've got, we feed off of each other,” Goress said. “You work harder to motivate them. We don't talk, we just work.”
Goress beat Sycamore's Dylan Foster in the final by major decision to notch Kaneland's only individual championship of the day. After losing in the quarterfinals in last year's state meet, Goress is motivated to place this year at 138 pounds.
“He's tremendously improved. He's more technical in his attack,” Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said. “He's turning people, pinning people, which he didn't do early in the year, and his overall attack has improved quite a bit.”
Theis could have put Kaneland into sole possession of fourth place in the last match of the day, but he lost a close 3-0 match after a controversial call gave his opponent two points as time expired in the second period.
Even so, Jahns was proud of his heaviest wrestler, and he thinks Saturday's performance is one he can build off of in the postseason.
“He moved well today,” Jahns said. “He's moving on his feet like we've been getting him to do. His hand fighting is improving. He may be different in a couple of weeks, we'll see.”
Jahns said the team's goal was to finish third, but he was content with his team's fourth-place finish.
With a high percentage of Knights succeeding, Goress thinks the success of Kaneland's top wrestlers will have a trickle-down effect.
“It's addicting,” he said. “Everyone wants a piece of success.”