SPOTLIGHT ON ...
A run at the 145-pound title came up just short for Dylan Foster (24-12). But the Sycamore junior headlined a large contingent of wrestlers that helped lead the Spartans to a second-place finish at the Northern Illinois Big 12 East Tournament on Saturday.
“With the exception of an injury default, everyone placed,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “If you want to beat teams in a tournament you’ve got to have more than four or five champions. Everyone has to work their way through wrestle backs. It’s a total team effort.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Bettendorf, Iowa vs. Sycamore and Yorkville, at Sycamore, 6 p.m. today
If prep wrestling had a regional tournament among neighboring state’s, it’s very likely Sycamore or Yorkville could face Bettendorf, Iowa.
Tonight at Sycamore, the Spartans and Yorkville both will face the Bulldogs in a dual meet. There’s no fictitious tournament title at stake, but the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 4 in Iowa by the National Collegiate Wrestlers Association and are the Hawkeye State’s defending dual team champions, will provide a stern test to a pair of Northern Illinois Big 12 East foes.
POUND-FOR-POUND POWER RANKINGS
1. Austin Culton (152) senior, Sycamore, 33-0
2. Jake Davis (195) senior, Sycamore, 32-1
3. Doug Johnson (138) senior, DeKalb, 34-1
4. Kyle Akins (113) junior, Sycamore, 31-1
5. Dan Goress (145) senior, Kaneland, 30-3
6. Marty Malone (220) senior, Sycamore, 25-6
7. Parker Stratton (106) freshman, DeKalb, 31-4
8. Esai Ponce (132) senior, Kaneland, 25-4
9. Zack Theis (285) senior, Kaneland, 22-5
10. Connor Williams (120) senior, Kaneland 22-5
NOTEBOOK: Error strips Spartans of NI Big 12 crown
Sycamore was the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference tournament champion for a little more than 48 hours.
But a scoring exception was detected. Sycamore athletic director Chauncey Carrick revised the scores and discovered Yorkville had edged the Spartans, 218-216. Sycamore coach Alex Nelson has seen scoring changes alter team placement at tournaments as a wrestler and coach, but this is the first time he’s seen it effect first and second place. It also is the first time he’s been on the receiving end of a scoring change.
“The scoring was set for NCAA points and not high school,” Nelson said. “Chauncey Carrick is an honest guy. He reset the scoring and saw that it swayed the meet Yorkville’s way. It’s obviously unfortunate, but it was the right thing to do.
“He made a wrong situation right. We still had to wrestle very well to be that close. With the second-place finish, we’ve got something to work towards, a little motivation as we approach regionals.”
The Foxes’ reputation as a team that holds back until the postseason arrives continues.
If they win their respective regionals, the Spartans (14-3) and Foxes could meet again in the Class 2A Rochelle dual team sectional.
DeKalb learning curve
Matt Macaras couldn’t figure out Gunnar Hijorth in a NI Big 12 East regular-season dual meet. But weeks had passed since the dual meet, which allowed Macaras (24-11) ample time to work his technique in the mat room and watch enough video to figure out exactly what he needed to do to top the Yorkville junior in the conference tournament.
“Matt’s semifinal win was a great showing against a wrestler that beat him earlier this year,” DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. “It shows the progress Matt has made and continues to make with his hard work and dedication at practice.”
DeKalb senior Doug Johnson and freshman Parker Stratton claimed NI Big 12 Conference tournament titles and are on a roll at the right time.
“Both guys are really cruising along,” Pater said. “They’ve done a nice job of peaking for the state playoffs.”
The Barbs (19-4) play host St. Charles East at 6 p.m. today for senior night. The Saints are ranked No. 18 in this week’s illinoismatmen.com Class 3A team rankings and are deep at many of the same weight classes as the Barbs.
“It’s going to be a good test,” Pater said. “It’s the kind of meet that will get us ready for the state tournament.”
VIEWS: Semifinal wrestle backs daunting challenge
DeKalb wrestling coach Mike Pater has singled out the most challenging round in the sport.
The second-most challenging round is at the prep level.
“Other than the All-American Round at the NCAA finals, I think the semifinal wrestle-back round is the hardest in the sport,” Pater said. “You’ve really got to persevere and battle. It’s hard to refocus. All of a wrestler’s dreams have just been put on hold and everything is a battle from there on out to just advance.”
In the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference tournament, the Barbs didn’t advance a single wrestler out of that round. With an inexperienced and young team, Pater took time Monday to address what it takes to move on despite an early tournament loss.
“You’ve got to pull yourself together,” Pater said. “In a sport where heart plays a big role in your success, it’s really needed there.”
Conversely, Sycamore placed all but one wrestler, who injury defaulted in the first bout.
“You’ve really got to be mentally prepared once the state tournament arrives,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “The most grueling losses come in the semifinals. A win there would have guaranteed a guy a spot in sectionals or at state.
“Now they’ve got to come back and face a wrestler that is on a hot streak after making it through wrestle backs. That guy coming through wrestle backs is feeling good. The loser in the semis has to come back 30 to 45 minutes later. That’s tough to prepare for.”
• James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.