(It's rather long . . . I got really into reliving some of the tournament. Sorry?)
With four of the top twenty teams in the state squaring off against each other, including #1 Lockport Township and #5 Providence, Saturday's 3A IHSA Wrestling Regional at Lockport was expected to be one of the tighter regional races in the state.
It was not.
Lockport dominated the tournament through and through, ultimately winning the team title by a 98.5 point margin over Providence Catholic, ranked 5th in the state, by a final tally of 275-177.5. Individually, Lockport set a new school record by qualifying thirteen of fourteen wrestlers for this weekend's Individual Sectional tournament at Normal Community High School.
Eight Porters came away from the tournament with individual championships, while three wrestlers came up just short, finishing in second place. Two other individuals managed to come away with a third place spot on the podium, keeping their individual seasons alive for at least one more week.
Matt Ramos, ranked 7th at 106 pounds, took out 2nd-ranked Jake Lindsey of Providence in the championship bout, by a final score of 3-2. That was the second ranked opponent that Ramos beat on the day, having defeated 11th ranked Nick Minnito of Plainfield Central in the semifinals. Not one to be outdone, Anthony Molton followed up Matt's victory with his own first regional title, scoring a major decision victory in the finals at 113, after having previously earned two wins by pinfall on the day.
At 120, James Pierandozzi came away with second place, dropping the championship bout to top-ranked Michael McGee of Plainfield East by a score of 11-4. Pierandozzi, who had a solid win in the semifinals, was unable to find any offense against the undefeated McGee, who is ranked 4th nationally. At 126, Brendan Ramsey finished in third place, posting a 3-1 record on the day. Ramsey's only loss came by way of 10-0 major decision to Bolingbrook's 3rd-ranked Dylan Burnoski in the semifinals. Ramsey bounced back, scoring a one point win in the consolation wrestlebacks to earn a spot in the third place match, where he dominated his opponent, 16-4, to keep his individual aspirations alive for at least another week.
Lockport picked up the next three titles, all three coming in bouts featuring ranked opponents. At 132, Abdullah Assaf, ranked 2nd at the weight, scored a 6-4 decision over #7 Gannon Hughes of Oswego. At 138, Brandon Ramos picked up his third career regional title, nabbing two "upsets" over ranked opponents on the day to do so. Ramos, ranked 10th in the state, was locked in a tied bout with Providence's 8th ranked Dominick Ambrose in the semifinals until he took Ambrose down to his back for four points to pull away towards a 9-3 victory. In the finals, Ramos had #7 Luke Smiley of Plainfield North, whom he defeated in a very businesslike fashion, 4-3.
Baylor Fernandes added the third title in a row for the Porters by picking up his first regional title, handily defeating Juan Bazaldua of Providence in the championship. Fernandes, who is ranked 4th, was able to control the entire bout with the 8th ranked wrestler from Providence from start to finish, earning a 7-0 victory when all was said and done. At 152, Zach Reese lived up to his seed and came away with a 3rd place finish, scoring a 6-0 victory in the place match. Reese also picked up wins by technical fall and pin, but suffered a loss to #2 Cole Smith of Providence in the semifinals. Reese scored first with a takedown, and held a lead, but Smith managed to earn the fall in the second from top.
At 160, Trevell Timmons picked up his 4th career regional championship, capping a highly impressive day from the top-ranked wrestler in the state. Timmons, who regularly finds himself as the butt of some jokes for his relatively low numbers of pinfall victories, picked up wins by fall in both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches. In the finals, however, the team leader in takedowns went back to what he does best, and racked up a 22-7 technical fall over Oswego's Dan Majewski, an honorable mention in the rankings.
At 170, Nick Dado came about 10 seconds shy of earning the most impressive pair of on-paper upsets by one wrestler in the whole state on Saturday Dado, an honorable mention in the rankings, was the third Porter to face two ranked opponents on the day. Following a quarterfinal victory by technical fall, Dado was set to square off against Providences Trevor Swier, the #6 wrestler at the weight. Dado used a wide variety of leg attacks and big moves to pick up a 10-6 win over the Celtic wrestler. The semifinal win set Dado up with the #3 wrestler in the state at the weight, Oswego's Josh Torres, in the finals. Dado came out attacking, and held a 3-2 lead late into the third period, when Torres countered a scramble into a takedown and two nearfall to go up 6-3 on Dado. Nick earned an escape with just under 0:10 left on the clock, shot in on a double, but was unable to convert before time ran out, falling 6-4, and taking a well-earned silver medal on the day.
Picking up another title for Lockport was the 10th ranked 182 pounder in the state, Payton Fernandes. Fernandes dominated his opponents all day, picking up three falls on the day, each one faster than the last. In the quarterfinal, he spent 4:14 on the mat against Providence to start the day, before taking out top-seeded Tim Donahue of Plainfield North in 2:23 in the semifinals. In the finals, Fernandes squared off against Neuqua Valley's AJ Lighthall and Fernandes picked up a fall in just 1:12, avenging the earlier season loss to Lighthall.
At 220, Lockport earned another second place finish, as Yousif Salah came out and got caught early in the first period of the championship bout. Salah did, however, pick up a solid 3-1 victory in the semifinal round earlier that day, earning his first sectional birth, all while wrestling up a weight class from where he has been all season, without actually putting on any weight. Ronald Tucker closed out the night for Lockport at 285 with a forfeit win over Plainfield North's Leo Santos, who was pulled from the tournament for not-yet-disclosed reasons. Tucker did have two earlier matches on the day, and pinned both opponents, spending roughly 3 minutes and 10 seconds on the mat in total.
Those of you with a keen eye will notice that I skipped over 195 while writing this. That is not because 195 was the one weight where we did not qualify, but rather, because I felt that to just mention the results would be doing a disservice to not one, but two members of the team - Chandler Proszek and Dan Stojsavljevic. Both of these wrestlers made big sacrifices for the team this week. Stojsavljevic, recognizing the importance for the team to win the regional title, bowed out of the individual lineup at 220 in order to allow for a stronger overall group of individual performers, which allowed Yousif Salah to bump up and fill that spot. Proszek, one of two very qualified 170 pounders on the team, stepped up to fill the void left by Salah at 195, knowing full well that he would have a notable disadvantage in size, and that he'd be stepping into one of the toughest brackets in the regional (6 of 8 wrestlers had at least 25 wins, only one had a losing record). Proszek came and battled, losing his first round bout to Bolingbrook's Isaiah Herrera, who is the 9th ranked wrestler in the state, by a final of 7-2. In the consolation semifinals, Proszek found himself on the losing end of a 7-4 decision to Oswego's Dan Majewski, eliminating him from competition.
Thankfully, thanks to the domination throughout this tournament, neither Proszek nor Stojsavljevic have seen the mat for the last time in their careers. The team title puts us into the dual-team sectional against Edwardsville on February 21st (Location TBA), where we'll look to qualify for team state for the third consecutive season, aiming for that elusive Dual Team State Championship.
Individual Bout Summary
For those who did not like the summary above, you're just wrong.
For those who didn't have the time or focus to read it all, I know the feeling.
Luckily, the tournament was on TrackWrestling, so you can click here to go through any and all results that you want!
As always, you can click here for the photo site and explore there. If you want the direct link to Regionals, you'll find that here. I'll be updating them as I edit them. I also managed to scratch my cornea, so bear with me - computer screens are kind of very painful right now.
Most of you are already aware of this, but sectional brackets have already been released on TrackWrestling. Click here to look at ours!