DeKALB – A year ago, DeKalb wrestling coach Mike Pater walked out of his team’s early January meet against Yorkville, which knocked the Barbs out of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East championship race, and lamented a heart-breaking loss.
On Thursday, an even-keeled Pater and his DeKalb team clinched the conference title outright, beating Sycamore, 51-8, to finish the conference season undefeated. After beating the Spartans for the first time in five years, Pater chose to focus on what lies ahead rather than talk about his team’s accomplishments.
“We haven’t beat these guys in a few years, so it’s nice to go out with a win,” Pater said. “I know most of these guys have bigger goals than to just beat Sycamore. We’re just trying to get these guys ready for the end of the year.”
The Barbs clinched at least a share of the conference title a week ago with a 30-29 win over Yorkville, which beat them on a tie-breaker the year before.
On Thursday, against the defending conference champion Spartans, who were riddled with injuries, DeKalb (18-3, 5-0 NI Big 12 East) won all but three matches.
Howie Olson led off with a pin at 145 pounds, and Matt Macarus won by major decision before James Corralejo won by decision at 160. After Sycamore wrestlers Patrick Mathey and Chris Malone won by decision at 170 and 182 pounds, the Barbs won every match except for 126 pounds, where DeKalb sophomore Parker Stratton wrestled up a weight class against defending state champion Kyle Akins.
“It feels good to finally beat them,” said 132-pounder Jackson Montgomery, who won by major decision. “A lot of guys didn’t have a lot of varsity experience [last year]. We all have at least one year of experience, and we all came together.”
Sycamore (7-10, 1-4) was forced to forfeit three weight classes because of injuries, but coach Alex Nelson said a few of his top wrestlers should be back as the postseason approaches.
“Obviously, we have some misfortunes right now trying to get guys back in,” Nelson said. “Hopefully, we would have been more competitive, but the guys that came out and wrestled, the guys that we have, it wasn’t because of effort. At the end of the day, it wasn’t quite good enough. Hats off to [DeKalb], they’ve been tough all year.”
After an inexperienced DeKalb team struggled against top conference opponents last season, the Barbs came back beter prepared, especially in the lighter weights. The Barbs have flexibility to move wrestlers up weight classes depending on the situation, including 106-pounder Ulises Jacobo, who won by technical fall at 113 Thursday.
Although last season ended in disappointment, the Barbs always knew they had a group capable of accomplishing big things. Pater hopes the biggest are to come.
“I feel really good for the team. We’ve been working really hard and it’s great to beat Sycamore,” Macarus said. “We’ve all come a really long way. We work hard in the offseason, we work hard in the room. We’ve just come a long way, we’re solid at every weight, you can count on everybody to win.”