The Barbs left little doubt with a 51-8 win against Sycamore on Thursday to clinch the regular season Northern Illinois Big 12 East dual meet title.
But losses to Libertyville, Lyons and Conant on Saturday left DeKalb coach Mike Pater with five practices to fix any mistakes and get DeKalb back on track emotionally for the postseason grind.
“Those are three of the better teams in the state,” Pater said. “I wanted to go out and perform a little better, so it was a little bit of a let-down. We’ve had a little bit of a roller-coaster season when it came to tournaments and quad meets. We had six champs at Fenton and were second at the Flavin but struggled in a few other tournaments. We will use this week so we can peak for the postseason.”
Sycamore changeup: Familiarity is a common playoff theme.
By the end of the season some wrestlers will have squared off five times. It’s why Sycamore went to Sandburg to face Oak Park, Crystal Lake Central and New Trier on Saturday. The Spartans were 1-3, but more importantly, faced new foes from bigger schools.
“We want to go out and see new opponents,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “We try to break up the season so guys don’t face the same people week in and week out.”
Sycamore expects Tyler Barton and Austin Armstrong to return to its lineup. Their two-week absence should have them with fresh legs and healed bodies.
Both have worked on their cardio and returned to the Spartans’ mat room this week.
“We want to place as high as we can as a team,” Nelson said. “Everyone will go out and wrestle hard. We want as many all-conference wrestlers as possible.”
VIEWS: Barbs entering third phase of their season
Three phases define the DeKalb wrestling season.
DeKalb coach Mike Pater uses the first phase to condition and train wrestlers. The goal is to make sure they can endure a full match. Cardiovascular training, strength training and mental tenacity are the focus.
Wrestlers have to make it through a grueling six minutes.
Once that happens technique can be refined. There are lots of demonstrations in the second phase. Potentially, a lot of talking in the mat room from coaches as wrestlers sit and listen to instruction during live drills.
Being a sponge that can soak up information is key here for Pater.
“This is when we do a lot of teaching,” Pater said. “We want to slowly build everything up so we peak by the postseason.”
The final phase hit this week for DeKalb.
It’s now time to peak. Practices are cut from two hours to roughly 1 hour, 30 minutes. The Barbs “switch gears,” Pater said.
“We pull back a little,” Pater said. “Hopefully, guys have everything down that they need. Now we just need to make a few tweaks. We move through live drills faster. It’s still an intense practice, just not as long.”
As the postseason intensity is about to ramp up with the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament on Saturday at Sterling, Pater wants the Barbs “mentally and physically fresh for the stretch run.”
Let the four-week postseason gauntlet begin.
• James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Chris Malone (182) junior, Sycamore
One match from the 2013 Class 2A state tournament, Malone might not be the prototype wrestler. But he will never get outworked on the mat.
“He just goes for six minutes, seven minutes, whatever it takes,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “He is relentless. He wears opponents down. His gas tank is always full.”
What to watch for
DeKalb, Kaneland and Sycamore at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament, Sterling High School, 9 a.m. Saturday
The Barbs will be in the discussion for an outright NI Big 12 Conference title with talented wrestlers in the weights between 106 and 160 pounds. For the Knights and Spartans it will be about getting as many wrestlers to earn all-conference accolades as possible.
Power Rankings: Pound for Pound
1. Kyle Akins (125) senior, Sycamore (33-0)
2. Tyler Barton (195) senior, Sycamore (22-2)
3. Austin Armstrong (170) senior, Sycamore (16-1)
4. Brad Green (138) junior, DeKalb (24-6)
5. Alex Roach (285) senior, DeKalb (23-3)
6. Brenden McGee (113) sophomore, DeKalb (18-6)
7. Jackson Montgomery (132) junior, DeKalb (23-5)
8. Chris Malone (182) junior, Sycamore (26-5)
9. Justin Diddell (285) senior, Kaneland (21-7)
10. Matt Macarus (152) senior, DeKalb (18-6)