Back-to-back trips to Wisconsin (Madison and Whitewater) for weekend tournaments provided Sycamore with competition against unfamiliar foes, a chance to bond as a team and plenty of matches for a lineup still gaining varsity level experience.
“We had five guys one match away from placing last week,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “In only a two-week span, I like what I’ve seen in terms of improvement. We’ve just got to get over the hump. These tournaments are important to help prepare us for the conference and state tournaments.”
Sycamore senior Kyle Akins (22-0) continues his undefeated roll through the regular season with tournament titles at both Badger State and Mid-States the past two weeks.
Flavin run: DeKalb is tough to beat in the lighter weight classes.
Jackson Montgomery (132), Ulises Jacobo (106), Brenden McGee (113) and Parker Stratton (120) all went 6-0 at the Don Flavin Invitational last week.
The Barbs finished third as hosts of the team duals tournament and lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Naperville North, which offered little consolation for DeKalb coach Mike Pater.
“We felt like we might have given away a title,” Pater said. “We are proud to have finished third, but a little disappointed to not have been first. It’s a tough tournament where each wrestler has to get through six matches.
“So, we come out of the tournament a little beat up and tired. But it’s good when it comes to helping us prep for what we hope will eventually be a run at the team state tournament, because it really mimics that atmosphere.”
Justin Diddell (285) senior, Kaneland
Being better on his feet led Diddell to a fifth-place finish at the 32-team Palatine Tournament. A field loaded with Class 3A teams offered the Knights good prep for the Class 2A postseason. Diddell got a taste of the state's best with a loss to Hinsdale Central senior Brian Allen, who was 47-0 last year and won the Class 3A state title.
What to watch for
Kaneland at Plano, noon, Saturday
Kaneland coaches will be reunited. This summer former Kaneland wrestler and assistant coach Jeremy Kenny was set to take over the Knights program when Monty Jahns resigned. But the 171-pound state qualifier in 2004 who also was a walk-on wrestler at Northern Illinois instead took a position on the Plano staff.
This winter Jahns is back in the Knights' mat room and the former colleagues will be sitting in opposing chairs for the first time in their careers.
Power Rankings: Pound for Pound
1. Kyle Akins (125) senior, Sycamore, 22-0
2. Tyler Barton (195) senior, Sycamore, 20-2
3. Alex Roach (285) senior, DeKalb, 16-2
4. Matt Macaras (152) senior, DeKalb, 16-4
5. Brenden McGee (120) sophomore, DeKalb, 12-4
6. Austin Parks (160) sophomore, Kaneland, 14-4
7. Austin Armstrong (170) senior, Sycamore, 14-1
8. Chris Malone (182) junior, Sycamore, 17-3
9. Justin Diddell (285) senior, Kaneland, 12-5
10. Dane Goodenough (138) senior, Kaneland, 15-7
VIEWS: Jahns left in awe after Goodenough's performance
Simple advice was all Dane Goodenough needed.
The Kaneland senior trailed Glenbard East senior Zach Wende,13-4, at the end of the second period in a match to enter the medal round Saturday at the Berman Tournament at Fremd in Palatine. He was bound for a major decision or a technical fall and one less match in the 32-team tournament.
Yet, when the third period started he launched into a barrage of moves that led to a result that left Kaneland coach Monty Jahns in awe.
"I told Dane to go out there and just hit his moves," Jahns said. "It's simple. He's a grinder. He's just got to keep grinding."
After he opened with a reversal, a fireman's carry from the bottom position and a near fall that resulted in back points, Goodenough had shifted the momentum of the match. Another reversal, a near fall and another turn had him within one point.
Because he was trying to press the action, Goodenough earned a point when Wende was hit with a stalling penalty and the match went into overtime. Goodenough, who was 5-2 and finished in seventh place, pulled out a 15-13 win in the extra period and the unlikely victory that earned high praise.
"It was one of the greatest comebacks I've ever seen," said Jahns, who coached 2013 Class 2A 145 pound state champion Dan Gorress and was known as a notorious grinder on the mat as well. "Dane just kept grinding and grinding. He's the kind of wrestler that never quits."
There was playoff-like intensity. An urgency to advance to the next round. It was the kind of win that offered valuable experience and the type of dogged determination needed for postseason success.
• James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.