FOX VALLEY CONFERENCE
Coach: Mike Buhr (1st season)
Last season: 8-15 overall, 2-4 FVC Valley
Top returners: Jon Cullen, sr., 138; Sean Cullen, sr., 132
Key newcomers: Cadin Koeppel, so., 195
Worth noting: Buhr takes over for Ryan Ludwig in charge of a Trojans program that sent three wrestlers to state last season and had a champion in Michael Cullen. The one qualifier coming back is John Cullen, who has advanced to state twice in his three seasons and will be looking to follow in his older brother’s path.
Crystal Lake South
Coach: Ross Ryan (9th season)
Last season: 9-12 overall
Top returners: Buddy Gabric, sr., 285; Frank Woods, sr., 152; Ethan Weinandy, sr., 160; Vinny Fontanetta, jr., 182; Doug Cain, sr., 120
Key newcomers: Matt Lancero, jr., 126; Tyler Gardner, jr., 138; Shahyan Malik, jr,. 152/160; David Hernandez, jr., 145/152; Anthony Castro, jr., 132
Worth noting: Last season saw Eric Barone capture the first state title in Gators history and South coach Ryan said many of his wrestlers are still feeding off the excitement of Barone’s title. This year, the team is on the younger side, built around a core of sophomores and juniors to go with a few seniors. Among the seniors is Ethan Weinandy, an honorable mention all-area selection last season.
Coach: Tim Hayes (1st season)
Last season: 14-10 overall
Top returners: Chase Raap, jr., 182; Christian Brunner, sr., 195; Christian Rodriguez, sr., 220
Key newcomers: Ricardo Zambrano, fr., 106/113; Nathan Cardinal, so., 106/113; Ivan Gonzalez, fr., 126/132; Michael McCorkle, jr., 152; Jaidan Borja, sr., 152; Jake DeVincentis, sr., 170; John Saucedo, sr., 285
Worth noting: The Chargers are “very young,” coach Tim Hayes said, but have strong leadership from their returners. The Chargers are led by two-time state place winner Christian Brunner. “He is the constant example of a champion, and when all is said and done, that is what he will be,” Hayes said. “I am beyond confident that he will become Dundee-Crown’s first three-time state placer and just the third state champion in our school’s history.” Hayes is also enthusiastic about the prospects for his senior heavyweight John Saucedo, calling him “an animal.”
Coach: BJ Bertelsman (6th season)
Last season: 15-10 overall
Top returners: Zach Spencer, so., 113; Josh Stenger, jr., 120; Joey Armijo, jr., 126; Kyle Smoot, jr., 126; Juan Quiroz, so,. 138/145; Riley Brands, jr., 132; Jason Pawlak, jr., 132; Brad Zbilski, so., 152; Petros Mihalopoulos, sr., 195; Jalen Blanchard, sr., 220; Dominic Swanson, sr., 285
Key newcomers: Gannon Kosowski, fr., 106
Worth noting: The Red Raiders sent four individuals to the state tournament last season and are looking for multiple qualifiers again, coach BJ Bertelsman said. Two of those qualifiers – Zach Spencer (113) and Josh Stenger (120) – return to anchor the lower weight classes. Senior Dominic Swanson is expected to be a force at heavyweight. “We will have a young team, but we will be very good in the light weights and in the upper weights,” Bertelsman said. The Red Raiders have a tough schedule – especially a stretch in December that includes Crystal Lake Central – which they hope will prepare them for the postseason. Illinoismatmen.com ranks the Red Raiders No. 21in Class 3A.
Coach: Gary Conrad (4th season)
Last year: 18-2 overall, 5-1 FVC Valley
Top returners: Beau Harrier, jr., 120; David Dudych, jr., 132; Chris Dranka, sr., 138; Dean Lane, sr., 160; Loren Strickland, so., 170; Jack Golnick, sr., 220; Michael Bujacz, sr., 195
Worth noting: The division champion Golden Eagles were one of three local teams to reach a team dual sectional last season. The expectations coming into the new year are much the same, said coach Gary Conrad, the 2015 Northwest Herald Coach of the Year. “Our expectations for this year is to win another FVC title and try to get another chance at making team state,” Conrad said. Illinoismatmen.com ranks the Golden Eagles No. 12 in Class 3A.
Coach: Will Gaddy (21st season)
Last season: 19-2 record, FVC Valley regular-season champion
Top returners: Lucas Busse, jr., 120; Trace Conlon, sr., 126; Derek Neises, sr., 132; Mike Conlon, sr., 138; Jacob Brush, jr., 160; Jake Leske, so., 170; Matt Nagel, sr., 182; Josh Little, sr., 220
Key newcomers: Matt Gutierrez, jr., 106; Alex McReynolds, so., 113; Wally Marsh, so., 113; Mike Noles, jr., 145; Cesar Lopez, jr., 152; Alex Lee, jr., 195; Tanner Gazzano, sr., 285; AJ Sweeny, jr., 220; Brandon Redina, jr., 285
Worth noting: The Warriors sent four wrestlers to the state tournament last season, but all four are gone to graduation. Last season, the Warriors won the FVC Valley during the regular season, but finished second in the conference tournament. “The FVC Valley will be tough, but we expect to be right in the thick of it,” associate head coach Jake Guardalabene said.
FOX VALLEY CONFERENCE
Crystal Lake Central
Coach: Justen Lehr (8th season)
Last season: Team dual regional and sectional champions, 4th at dual team state
Top returners: Michael Petersen, sr., 145; Lenny Petersen, jr., 138, Keegan O’Donnell, sr., 220; Seamus O’Donnell, so., 175; Liam O’Donnell, so., 165; Austin Ernd, so., 132
Key newcomers: Austin Parks, sr., 195; John Barth, fr., 106; Brock Montford, fr., 113
Worth noting: In addition to two individual state champions last year, the Tigers reached the team dual state semifinals, eventually finishing fourth. The Tigers lost their two champions but have returning state qualifiers in the Petersen brothers and the lineup has been bolstered by the transfer addition of Class 2A state place winner Austin Parks.
Coach: Brian Iossi (1st season)
Last season: 15-5 overall
Top returners: Wylie Allen, sr., 152; Casey Allen, so., 132; Josh Bybee, sr., 138; Max McGowan, jr., 160
Key newcomers: Pawel Barnas, jr., 285; Christian Rivero, fr., 106
Worth noting: The Whip-Purs have started the season 3-3 under new coach Iossi, and he has liked what he’s seen. None of the three state qualifiers from last season return, giving Iossi an inexperienced group. “We are a very young team, but our lineup is starting to take shape,” Iossi said. “We have several first-year varsity starters but a nice sprinkling of experienced veterans in our lineup to help the young guys out.” The Whips finished second at the Richmond-Burton Tom DuBois Classic, with Bybee (145) and Wylie Allen (152) winning individual titles and Rivero (106) coming in third.
Coach: Jon Murphy (3rd season)
Last season: 12-12 overall
Top returners: Jackson Deehr, so., 113; Austin Butler, so., 152; Riley Buchanan, jr., 170; Anthony Moore, sr., 182; Valentino Mendoza, so., 182; Erik Juveland, sr., 220; Blake Boyle, sr., 285
Key newcomers: Jack Clauson, fr., 120; Matt Tobin, so., 145; Mark Mercado, sr., 145; Joey Calhoun, so., 160
Worth noting: The Skyhawks lost a state place winner to graduation, but they get a state qualifier back in Riley Buchanan at 170. Murphy said he expects a lot of competition for lineup spots at the top weight classes. In early-season action, the Skyhawks had three wrestlers – Juveland, Boyle and Tobin – reach championship finals at the Richmond-Burton Tom DuBois Classic. Juveland took an individual title to lead the Skyhawks to a third-place finish in that tournament. The Skyhawks are No. 23 in Class 2A, according to illinoismatmen.com.
Coach: Matt Lopez (3rd season)
Top returners: Trey Fowler, jr., 120; Travis Piotrowski, sr., 120/126; Luke Silva, so., 132; Brendon Ewing, sr., 160; Nick Fetzner, so., 170; Mason Antonson, jr., 195/182; Dereck Pearson, sr., 285
Key newcomers: Jace Sparks, fr., 106; Caleb Harnish, so., 113; Trey Piotrowski, fr., 138; Drake Regenhardt, fr., 145
Worth noting: The Wolves are led by one of the county’s best in Illinois-bound Travis Piotrowski. Beyond the standout senior, Lopez said, “After building the program’s numbers the past two years, we will start to have success as a team. We have a base of experienced wrestlers to build around and a good group of incoming freshmen.”
Coach: John Grell (6th season)
Last season: 7-13 overall
Top returners: Kevin Zange, sr., 160; Nick Sundberg, sr., 182; Martin Halilaj, sr., 196; Eli Kruse, sr., 152; Devante Martyne, sr., 285
Key newcomers: Steven Cunningham, so., 113; Nolan Adams, fr., 126; Tanner Heidtke, so., 145; Aiden Jacobs, fr., 160.
Worth noting: The Blue Streaks are led by senior captains Sundberg and Zange, who both qualified for state as sophomores but missed out last season after struggling with injuries down the stretch. Grell calls the group a “mix of young and seasoned wrestlers” and said they’re focused on getting individuals back to state after sending no one last season. In their final season in the FVC, the Blue Streaks are looking for their first conference title since 2006, Grell said.
Coach: Tim Creighton (1st season)
Top returners: Jake Fiorito, sr., 160; Randall Kline, sr., 170
Key newcomers: Cole Walkington, fr., 113
Worth noting: Creighton takes over as head coach after three seasons as an assistant with the Thunder and more involvement in the town’s wrestling communtiy. “We look for our leaders Jake Fiorito and Randy Kline to have a big year,” Creighton said. The Thunder will have numerous underclassmen contribute to the varsity roster, and fielding a full, deeper lineup has been a big improvement thus far. “Not giving up five to six forfeits this year has already proven successful as we are winning and competing with teams that we couldn’t before due to forfeits,” Creighton said. The Thunder are 3-1 this season.
BIG NORTHERN CONFERENCE
Coach: J.D. Oliva (1st season)
Last season: 22-9 overall, lost in Class 1A Dual Team sectional to Dakota.
Top returners: Josh Fiegel, sr., 113, Sergio Esquivel, 120; Reiss Bielski 126; Justin Wilcox, 132; Sergio Jimenez, 145; Zach Martin, 195
Worth noting: The Hornets have a new coach and move back up to Class 2A, where they were state qualifiers in 2014. Harvard brings back three individual state qualifiers, Fiegel, Bielski and Martin. Fiegel is wrestling at 113 after placing fifth last season in 106 at Class 1A state. Oliva said they have tried to up the level of competition they see during the season with matches against Oak Park-River Forest and Dakota, the Class 1A dual team state championship team that eliminated them last season in a sectional. They are 6-3 this season.
Coach: Tim Keefer (5th season)
Top returners: Joe Mier, jr., 160; Bailey Miller, sr., 132; Kyle Gara, sr., 195; James Mier, so., 182
Key newcomers: Dylan Turner, sr., 285; Cameron Miller, fr., 113
Worth noting: The Indians have shown early on they will be a dual team threat this season, winning the Richmond-Burton Tom DuBois Classic in impressive fashion. The Indians won five individual titles at the tournament and placed eight wrestlers in the top three. Marengo is led by Joe Mier, who qualified for state last season as a sophomore, and Gara, who is ranked No. 9 at 195 in Class 2A by illinoismatmen.com. Heavyweight Turner returns to Marengo after transferring to Shelbyville, where he was a state qualifier last season.
Coach: Tony Nelson (1st season)
Top returners: Gavin Sutton, jr., 138
Key newcomers: Brenden Kaminscky, fr., 106; Chase Duncan, fr., 113
Worth noting: Brett Wojcik stepped down after 11 successful seasons in charge of the Rockets, opening the door for Nelson to take over. The Rockets will be led by returning state qualifier Sutton. Early on this season, the junior won an individual title and the most outstanding wrestler award for the lower weight classes at R-B’s Tom DuBois Classic. Other Rockets to place in their own tournament were Kaminscky (second at 106), Duncan (third at 113), Joey Kaht (fourth at 145) and Matt Ferrero (third at 220).
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC
Coach: Chris Taylor (4th season)
Last season: 7th in ESCC tournament, 3rd in regional
Top returners: Brandon Bannon, so., 120; Joe Herff, sr., 152; Anthony Randazzo, so., 132; Tom Welch, sr., 170
Key newcomers: Elas Edmondson, jr., 160; Zach Gustafson, so., 195; Joey Fitzgerald, fr., 126; John Cieslak, so., 113
Worth noting: Taylor calls his team “young but experienced with some good postseason credentials.” The Hurricanes will be led by Welch at 170 and Randazzo at 132, who both qualified for state last season and were second-team Northwest Herald All-Area selections. With building depth, Taylor said he expects to field a full lineup and make a run at a regional title.
Coach: John Cashmore (2nd season)
Last season: No dual victories as the program was kept alive with only two wrestlers
Top returners: Colten Cashmore, sr., 170/182; David Reiter, so., 138/145
Key newcomers: Josh Johnson, sr., 152; Jordan Gricar, so., 132/138; Justin Strand, fr., 138/145
Worth noting: The Giants have more than doubled their numbers this season and are led by Colten Cashmore. The senior won the 170-pound title and the most outstanding wrestler award for the upper weight classes last week at Richmond-Burton’s Tom Dubois Classic. Coach John Cashmore also expects a strong season from Johnson and thinks a year of experience will benefit others.