Fabulous foursome dominates at Barrington sectional
The 2022-2023 wrestling season has been one to remember thus far, but Saturday afternoon in Barrington, the drama and emotion associated with advancing to the 3A state tournament gave a big crowd plenty to celebrate.
While the Barrington sectional may lack the depth of strength others might have across the state, there's no doubt several from this venue are quite simply some of the best there are in their respective weight division.
The quartet of Evan Gosz (Fremd, 126), Will Baysingar (Prospect, 132), Lorenzo Frezza (Stevenson, 138) and Aaron Stewart (152) are top three in the most recent state polls. Each turned in magnificent performances to claim a most wanted sectional title to earn a top four seed at the state tournament, which begins this coming Thursday at State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois.
This foursome were nearly untouchable on their way atop the podium -- for Gosz (39-1), Baysingar (47-1) and Frezza (38-0) it was the second consecutive title, while the Warren freshman (Stewart) won the first of what could be several.
"The workout(s) and continued focus on getting better each time out is absolutely off the charts for Will (Baysingar, 2022 state runner-up) who is just laser focused right now," said Prospect coach Dan Keller of the No. 3 man in the state.
Gosz needed just 32 seconds to pin Patrick Zimmer (Loyola, 30-16) to advance to state.
"Mentally and physically I feel so much better than last year heading into the state tournament," offered Gosz, third a year ago at state.
No. 2 Frezza, now the all-time leader in program history in wins at Stevenson with 146, beat Fremd senior Maddox Khalimsky (22-2) to claim the top prize at 138.
"I am continually amazed at not only what type of athlete and competitor Lorenzo is, but also at what a superb young man he as well," said his coach Shane Cook, who likes the chances of Frezza to reach the state final next weekend.
Frezza will be joined by first time qualifier Thomas Schoolman (160, 37-5) while Gosz and Khalimsky, now a two-time state qualifier, will have teammates Jake Crandall (145, 30-12), Ali Adel (182, 31-8) and Casey Bending (220, 36-12) on his way for a second time.
Prospect, which will meet league rival Hersey in a 3A dual-team sectional in a couple of weeks, sent six others beside Baysingar to Champaign. MSL champion Hersey, led by its three champions Aaron Hernandez (160, 26-5), Anthony Cambria (182, 38-12) and heavyweight Oleg Simakov (38-8), booked seven downstate.
"All of the hard work during the offseason and all throughout the season thus far has paid off for all of us. And for me, it's all about continuing to work hard in order to come home with a state medal," said Hernandez, who with Simakov is now a two-time state qualifier with three straight majors to his credit beginning with conference, then regionals last weekend at Dundee-Crown.
The aforementioned Stewart of Warren will enter his first tournament in what is a high profile weight class, led by No. 1 Kaden Fetterolf (Batavia) and followed closely in order of rank by Stewart, Noah Allen (West Chicago), Eddie Enright (Mt. Carmel), Collin Carrigan (Marmion Academy) and Harrison Konder (Downers Grove) who combined have 7 state medals between them, and countless tournament titles.
"Aaron is mature well beyond his years, so his composure and experience and success he's had thus far during the offseason has helped him prepare for what lies ahead," sad Warren coach Brad Janisek.
Janisek's club advanced two others: Evan Onstad (138, 29-5) and freshman Royce Lopez (35-10), runner-up at 160.
Round Lake fans would celebrate a pair of second place medals from Alejandro Cordova (113, 31-9) and sophomore William Cole (285, 31-9) who gave the aforementioned Simakov all he could handle in their final.
NSC champion Libertyville enjoyed a wonderful day of results. That included a pair of second place medals from No. 3 Matt Kubas (38-7) who fell short against No. 2 Chris Moore (39-0) from McHenry, and No. 5 Owen McGrory (43-6) who dropped a 9-5 decision to No. 4 Kai Calcutt 37-8) of Loyola Academy.
Luke Berktold (120, 40-12) and teammate Caleb Baczek (182, 18-9) earned their first trip downstate. But the big story for the Wildcats faithful is that of senior Cole Matulenko
who avenged two previous losses to No. 5 Jaxon Penovich (41-5) who stunned the freshman star with a dazzling six minute performance during a 9-3 victory.
"I knew there would be an opportunity to see (Penovich) at this sectional, and to have the chance to do so and (to) take advantage of that chance feels really amazing right now," said Matulenko, now 40-4 overall, and on his way downstate for a second consecutive season.
"(Getting) that first take-down of the match was huge, and (it) gave my confidence a real boost," added the three-sport star (football, track) who now will receive a top four seed thanks to his sectional title.
The much anticipated rematch of the Moore-Pettyman final last November between No. 6 Scott Busse (Lake Zurich, 43-3) and No. 4 Antonio Alvardo (Belvidere North, 48-2) did not go the way Busse and the Bears fans had hoped with the senior (Alvarado) prevailing with a 7-3 decision.
Alvarado won the Moore-Pettyman title after his 6-5 thriller.
Tourney host Barrington claimed two spots in the state brackets, both to first time qualifiers Jonny Fier (170, 36-7) and his teammate Rhenzo Augusto (29-15) at 138.
Senior Cameron Lattimore (Grant, 195, 36-13) and Mundelein sophomore, Abisai Hernandez (220, 35-14) are on their way to their first state appearance in Champaign.
Jacobs' Dominic Ducato (113) and James Wright (132), Dundee-Crown's Porter Leith (195), Huntley's Adam Pena (126) and Hampshire's Joey Ochoa (285) all qualified for state.
Ducato and Wright will both return to the state tournament after impressive runs Friday and Saturday. Ducato will make his second tournament appearance after winning the 113 title with a technical fall win and Wright will make his third after finishing second at 132, losing 10-0 in the title match. Both competed in the 2021 IWCOA state tournament.
Ducato had a simple goal heading into his 113 sectional-title match: smash whoever he faces. He used his experience from two-state tournament appearances to win his third sectional by a 15-0 margin.
"It's awesome," Ducato said. "Last year I didn't reach my goals, I had some adversity to go through so it's awesome to be back here."
D-C's Leith wanted to redeem last year's seniors after he and three teammates just missed out on state by losing in the blood round last season. Leith overcame a 2-2 tie heading into the third period of the consolation semifinals and won 5-2 to earn his first state berth.
Leith didn't need to overcome adversity in his third-place match after he took a 3-0 lead in the second period to win 3-1 and finish his redemption run.
"It feels great," Leith said. "I have been working so hard this season."
Huntley's Pena grew up dreaming of wrestling in Champaign at the state tournament. He made those dreams come true Saturday by winning 4-1 in the 126 consolation bracket to extend his senior year with a state berth.
Pena led 4-1 after one period in the third-place match but lost by fall in the second period to Hersey's Maksim Mukhamedaliyev. Despite the fourth-place finish, Pena is excited to live out his childhood dreams.
"It's awesome," Pena said. "It's been my dream since I was a kid to go wrestle in Champaign. So I'm happy I made it down."
Hampshire's Ochoa had a chip on his shoulder heading into the postseason after he didn't make it far in last season's postseason and didn't start this season on the right note. He wanted his junior season to go differently and kept learning from his mistakes.
His hard work paid off Saturday after Ochoa won by pin in the 285 consolation semifinals to earn his state appearance. Ochoa forced overtime in this third-place match but ultimately lost 5-2 in double overtime.
Despite losing, Ochoa is excited to keep his run going by showing off what he learned early in the season.
"It means everything," Ochoa said. "Everything that I've worked for with all the ups and downs that I've had."
-- Michal Dwojak