HAMPSHIRE – Crystal Lake Central wrestlers won five individual titles Saturday to capture the team championship at the Class 2A Hampshire Regional.
It was the fifth consecutive regional title for the Tigers and the fifth for coach Justen Lehr, who is in his fifth season at Central. The Tigers won with 173 points, followed by Johnsburg with 101, Richmond Burton (97.5), Marengo (88) and Woodstock North (85).
Kyle Fugiel pinned Marian Central’s Charlie Forman in 59 seconds in the championship match at 145 pounds. Fugiel said Lehr was clear about the team goal.
“Coach wants to keep the run going,” Fugiel said.
Lehr said his team improved on its performance from a week ago at the Fox Valley Conference Meet.
“I hope we take some momentum into sectionals," Lehr said.
This year’s Tigers team is not packed with multiple state champions like in the past few years, but Lehr said he was impressed with how his team came together and fought hard.
“We’re not as star-studded, but our kids work just as hard,” Lehr said. “It was a good team effort. They’ve really had to battle.”
The top three place winners in each weight class qualified for the Antioch Sectional on Feb. 8-9. Central will compete Feb. 19 at the Antioch Dual Team Sectional against Montini.
The Tigers’ Mike Zelasco pinned Woodstock’s Alan Hafer in 1:47 to win the 160-pound championship, but Hafer scored first with an early takedown. Zelasco said he knew Hafer was good on his feet and tried to pressure him early.
Getting taken down was a good reminder about what his coaches are emphasizing – to keep his focus even after getting down.
“I knew [Hafer] was good in neutral,” Zelasco said. “When you get taken down, don’t lose your head, still go at it.”
Also winning for Crystal Lake Central were Logan Lundelius at 132, Andrew Marsden (170) and Justin Ellman (182). The Tigers led all teams in qualifying nine wrestlers for sectionals.
Woodstock was next, qualifying six and went, 4-0, in the sectional elimination, third place matches. Johnsburg, Hampshire and Richmond-Burton each qualified five to sectionals and Woodstock North, Marengo and Marian Central each had four wrestlers advance.
Thomas Rodriguez won his third-place match for Woodstock to qualify, but nearly didn’t even make the regional lineup. Rodriguez, a senior, won a wrestle-off on Wednesday while Blue Streaks’ coach Jon Grell was at the regional seeding meeting.
It is the first year Rodriguez has wrestled and entered regionals with a 6-6 record in his career.
“For [Rodriguez] to get out of here in third place is an accomplishment,” Grell said.
Rodriguez said just making the regional lineup was pretty amazing.
“Getting to regionals is awesome but getting to sectionals is even better,” Rodriguez said. “I knew I could do it if I tried hard enough.”
Grell said Rodriguez is the hardest worker he has and the improvement he has made this season, starting as a complete beginner, is remarkable.
“[Rodriguez] was absolutely god awful horrible (when he started),” Grell said. “Now he’s shooting and finishing shots and putting kids on their back.”
Also winning regional titles were Jake Fiorito from Woodstock North at 106, Marengo’s Corey Graham (113) and John Lesiak (220), Richmond-Burton’s Grant Sutton (120), Cameron Kennedy (126) and Garrett Sutton (152), Marian Central’s Nick Remke (138) and Johnsburg’s Christian Nugent (195) and Brandon Boyle (285).