Wrestling: Warren battles, brings home 1st regional crown

By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/4/2023 9:35 PM

One spoke of closing his eyes and visualizing takedowns and reversals and pins.

"Our assistant coach (James Busse) makes us do that," McHenry senior Lucas Van Diepen said at Saturday's Class 3A Grant boys wrestling regional meet in Fox Lake. "It helps me, imagining success before going out there and competing."


Another recalled opening his eyes, first thing Saturday, and thinking the day could be a special one.

Maybe even a historic one.

"I knew we'd be in the hunt (for a regional championship)," Warren coach Brad Janecek said.

What Van Diepen and Janecek experienced, when all was said and ... won: a pair of firsts.

Van Diepen (23-19) earned his first sectional berth, emerging as the champ at 132 pounds with an 11-10 defeat of Warren senior Zack Piszkiewicz.

And Janecek guided his Blue Devils to their first regional title in program history. Warren amassed 193 points behind 10 sectional-qualifying efforts (4 golds, 4 silvers, 2 bronzes).

"This is fantastic," a thrilled, grateful Janecek said. "It's an outstanding group, one that's been growing up a lot. My (six) assistants ... they're fantastic, too."

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Five of his Barrington sectional (Feb. 10-11) qualifiers are underclass mat men. Sophomore Jon Marquez (30-6) earned the Blue Devils' first gold prize at Grant's Benedetti Center, downing McHenry sophomore Ryan Hanson 7-3 in the final at 106.

Marquez notched a reversal with about 10 ticks left in the third period.

"I liked being the first guy on my team to compete in a final today," said Marquez, whose quick feet often obliterate a foe's bout plan in the first period. "Set a good tone -- that's what I wanted to do.

"Our team is as good as it is because we all vibe off each other so well."

Warren freshmen Aaron Stewart (152 pounds, 36-1 record) and Royce Lopez (160, 33-9), along with senior Evan Onstad (138, 25-5), also exited the eight-team gathering as champions. Piszkiewicz, junior Carlos Ordonez (2nd place, 113), junior Jeremija Hixson (2nd, 195), sophomore Anthony Soto (2nd, 220), sophomore Justice Humphreys (3rd, 170) and junior Demetrius Lin (3rd, 182) also advanced in the state series.

Warren will face Belvidere North (it scored 210 points to win a regional at its gym Saturday) in a dual team sectional later this month.

Ten Wildcats earned individual sectional berths for runner-up Libertyville (178 points) on Saturday. Four of the meet's last five championship matches featured a Wildcat.


Coach Dale Eggert's quartet went 3-1 in that stretch, with junior Caleb Baczek (182), senior Cole Matulenko (195) and junior Owen McGrory (220) claiming victories.

"Cole's a terror, isn't he?" marveled Eggert -- in his 36th season as head coach at his alma mater -- after Matulenko (37-4) defeated Hixson 11-0 in the final at 195. "He certainly puts in the work.

"Warren," the venerable coach added, "was too tough for us. Our focus was to advance guys to the sectional. I'm happy with our number of qualifiers."

Not so jubilant, after an upset loss -- a pin at the hands of Mundelein freshman Ethan Munda -- in the first round was Libertyville junior Hunter Hill. But the 132-pounder regrouped and then pinned Grant senior Vinny Potempa and Zion-Benton sophomore Luis Medina in back-to-back tests to take third place.

"I talked to a lot of people during the break (before the consolation semifinals)," Hill (26-13) said. "That helped. So did some music; I listened to songs from the 1980s and 1990s, mostly songs by AC/DC. My favorites are "T.N.T.," "Back in Black" and "Thunderstruck."

The other seven Libertyville grapplers who get to prep for at least one more meet: Charlie Clark (2nd, 160), Matt Kubas (2nd, 170), Luke Berktold (3rd, 120), Orion Moran (3rd, 126), Will Carney (3rd, 152) and Caleb Christensen (3rd, 285).

McHenry finished third (162), followed by Mundelein (129.5), Grant (113), Round Lake (84.5), Waukegan (18) and Zion-Benton (10).

A pair of Van Diepen's teammates, Pedro Jimenez (145) and Chris Moore (170), transported first-place medals back to McHenry as well. Moore improved his overall record to a can't-touch-this 36-0. Warriors Hanson (106), Ruben Melgarejo (2nd, 152), Jesse Saavedra (2nd, 285), Jimmy Norris (3rd, 113) and Aiden Fischler (3rd, 160) also advanced to next weekend's Barrington sectional.

Refs raised championship arms belonging to Mundelein's Bryce Durlacher (120) and Benji Albavera (126). Round Lake's Alejandro Cordova (29-8) and William Cole (29-8) reigned at 113 and 285 pounds, respectively.

First-year Grant coach and Stevenson graduate Mark Jolcover watched six of his Bulldogs survive the highly competitive regional on the home mats: Ethan Tarvin (2nd, 120), Erik Rodriguez (2nd, 126), Clayton Honaker (2nd, 138), Jack Lunardi (3rd, 145), Vince Jasinski (3rd, 106) and Cameron Lattimore (3rd, 195).

"I saw some good stuff from our wrestlers," Jolcover said.

Others set to vie for Class 3A state berths at Barrington include Mundelein's Kevin Hernandez (2nd, 145), Ethan Thomas (3rd, 138) and Abisai Hernandez (3rd, 220); and Round Lake's Lewis Daniels (2nd, 182).

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