Going from Prairie Ridge to the University of Missouri was a big leap for wrestler Zach Synon.
“It was like being thrown into a bigger pond,” he said. “I realized that I had to get a lot better. When I first came in, I knew I had my work cut out for me.”
After spending a season as a redshirt for the NCAA Division I Tigers, Synon is hoping a strong offseason makes him a bigger fish in that pond.
Synon will compete June 21 to 23 at the Fila Junior World Team Trials in Stillwater, Okla., in the 132-pound freestyle class. Top finishers at the event – which includes standout wrestlers from across the country ages 17 to 20 – will qualify for a chance to represent the U.S. from Aug. 13 to 18 in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the world championships.
“I’m really excited to compete with the best of the best,” Synon said. “At the very least, it’ll be a great learning experience for me.”
Synon won the 132-pound freestyle division at last month’s Northern Plains Regionals in Waterloo, Iowa, to qualify for the World Team Trials.
The freestyle competition this summer has been a major boost for Synon.
“[I’ve improved] my skill level and been able to compete with better guys,” he said.
Synon is used to competing in freestyle events, something he did as a youth with the Cary Matmen program.
“It’s more fast-paced,” Synon said. “You have to be a little more careful because you can get a lot of points scored against you real fast. I’ve competed in freestyle events since I was a kid. I kind of pick right up where I left off when I was in sixth and seventh grade.”
Synon’s biggest gains this offseason have been in his offensive skills.
“My big thing that I’m working on is having more attacks off of my feet,” he said. “I have a go-to move, but I need to mix it up a lot more.”
During the college season, Synon finished 19-8 while competing as a redshirt at 141 pounds. He placed second in two of the five tournaments he competed in this season.
Synon said he hopes his work this offseason pays off with a spot in the Missouri starting lineup at 125 next season.
“If I keep working hard like I have been, I think that spot could be mine,” he said. “My coaches have mentioned how much I’ve improved over these last few weeks.”
Super Star Mahoney: D-III Dominican University senior softball pitcher Emily Mahoney (Crystal Lake South) was honored Monday as the school’s Female Athlete of the Year.
While posting a 21-8 record and a 1.95 ERA as a pitcher, Mahoney broke the school’s career strikeout record this season and tallied nine shutout wins.
She was voted to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s All-Great Lakes Region First Team and the Northern Athletics Conference’s Pitcher of the Year.
At the plate, Mahoney hit .348 for the Stars. In the opening round of the NAC Tournament, she pitched the first perfect game in school history in an 8-0 victory against Wisconsin Lutheran.
For the season, she ranked in the top 10 nationally in strikeouts, shutouts and strikeouts per seven innings.
Polk picks up all-conference: Crystal Lake Central grad Alex Polk earned honorable mention All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors last month in the javelin at the MIAC outdoor men’s track and field meet in St. Paul.
Polk, a sophomore at D-III Carleton College who also plays safety and punter on the school’s football team, placed sixth in the MIAC meet with a personal-best throw of 171 feet, 3 inches.
Polk was named MIAC Field Event Athlete of the Week on April 23 after a second-place performance (160-4) in the Carleton Relays. A week later, he won the event with a throw of 147-7 at Carleton’s Rolex Classic meet.
Harper slugger Miguel: Jacobs grad Mike Miguel earned first-team All-Region IV honors in baseball this spring at NJCAA Harper College after batting .359 for the Hawks.
A freshman designated hitter for the Hawks, Miguel compiled a .456 on-base percentage and nine RBIs for Harper (20-22). The team finished one victory away from the school’s first trip the NJCAA Division III World Series.
CCAC standouts: Catcher Johnny Amann, a senior at NAIA Judson University, was named to the All-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference second team on May 31.
Amann, a Jacobs grad, batted .274, scored a team-best 53 runs and drove in 36 runs for a Judson baseball team that finished 46-17 and broke a school record with an 18-game winning streak this spring. The Eagles also won the CCAC regular-season and tournament championships thanks in part to Amann’s team-best .492 on-base percentage.
Prairie Ridge grad T.J. Swank, a senior pitcher, made the CCAC’s Gold Glove Team. This season, Swank posted an 8-2 record with a 2.92 ERA while not committing an error all season.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.