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The Insider: Wrestling

DeKalb’s Jackson Montgomery (top) attempts to pin Kaneland’s David Barnhart during their 126-pound match Dec. 6 in DeKalb. DeKalb defeated Kaneland, 50-23.
DeKalb’s Jackson Montgomery (top) attempts to pin Kaneland’s David Barnhart during their 126-pound match Dec. 6 in DeKalb. DeKalb defeated Kaneland, 50-23.

Sycamore claims 3 titles at invite
A two-day tournament presents a variety of challenges. Sycamore had to make weight for the first time this year at the Rus Erb Tournament, stay overnight and grind through a large bracket. 

The Spartans (11-1, 3-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) finished third at the tournament and look poised for another late-season run at team duals. 

“It was a good chance for us to see what were made of,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. 

Defending Class 2A state champion Austin Culton, Kyle Akins and Jake Davis all claimed tournament titles. After being a state qualifier last year, Davis won’t sneak up on anyone and is carrying the burden well.  

“He hasn’t let a lot of wrestlers take him out of his element this year,” Nelson said.

Barbs rise up
There were no easy matches at the Rex Whitlach Hinsdale Central Tournament last weekend.

The Barbs finished eighth out of 25 teams and were led by Doug Johnson’s second-place finish.

It was a chance for a young team to see the state’s best on the mat.

The Barbs (6-1, 3-0 NI Big 12 East) had seven place winners and picked up valuable experience. 

“Most of our guys’ success came at the middle-school level,” DeKalb coach Mike Pater said. “They’ve never seen anything like what we experienced last week. It was good for everyone to see the toughness and talent on display. It lets us know just how hard we’ve got to work in the off season in the mat room, weight room and in training if we want to get to that level.” 

VIEWS: Premier wrestlers carry burden in every match
Pressure is what the top pound-for-pound wrestlers in the state like to apply on their opponents.

A match with a state-title contender is a physical and mental grind.

Knowing one minuscule slip-up can end a match wears down an underdog wrestler’s psyche just as much as a front head lock.

But premier athletes also carry a burden with them into every match.  

Every coach I’ve ever interviewed admits it: Wrestlers look at the rankings and read online blogs.

Wrestling is a tight-knit community.

The same wrestlers will see each other at multiple local, state and national tournaments well after the prep season ends. Before every meet it’s easy to look at most of the matchups on paper and cast a pretty easy guess as to which wrestler will win.

That makes the unbeaten streaks for four of the wrestlers in the our pound-for-pound rankings impressive.

Everyone at the Rus Erb Tournament at Glenbrook South knew Kyle Akins, Jake Davis and Austin Culton could win the tournament. They got everyone’s best match.

And still claimed a tournament title.

“Those guys have a target on their back,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “You’ve got to wrestle every match like it’s a state finals match, because that’s the effort your opponents will provide.”

• James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be contacted by e-mail at    

Spotlight On...
Jake Davis, Sycamore, senior
It was a familiar beginning to tournament season for Jake Davis at the Rus Erb at Glenbrook South last week. Last year, Davis won all but one tournament he entered. The exception; the state tournament.

After being name the Erb's Most Outstanding Wrester, the Sycamore senior is on a similar path.

"Jake is flat out tough," Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. "He's good on his feet and on his mat. He tech-falled or pinned his way through the tournament. He's got lofty goals and needs to continue to work hard, stay healthy and hungry."

What to watch for
Sycamore at Badger State Invitational on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Alliant Energy Center
A trip to Wisconsin should invigorate the Spartans after a third-place finish at Glenbrook South last week. Sycamore wrestlers won't have the same comfort level when they have in a Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference dual or tournament. 

"We get to go against some teams and wrestlers that we aren't familiar with and that will help us in the long run," said Sycamore coach Alex Nelson who racked up state titles as a prep wrestler in Wisconsin. "It's a good change of pace for us to see new teams."

Pound-for-pound power rankings
1. Austin Culton (152) sr., Sycamore, 16-0
2. Jake Davis (195) sr., Sycamore, 8-0
3. Doug Johnson (138) sr., DeKalb, 13-1
4. Kyle Akins (113) jr., Sycamore, 11-0
5. Dan Goress (145) sr., Kaneland, 10-0
6. Esai Ponce (132) sr., Kaneland, 8-1
7. Zach Theis (285) sr., Kaneland, 9-1
8. Matt Macarus (152) jr., DeKalb, 14-2
9. Stephen Gust (113) sr., Kaneland, 10-1
10. Marty Malone (220) sr., Sycamore, 12-2

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