On Jan. 24, Woodstock’s Jacob Waryck didn’t know it was senior night.
The Woodstock senior didn’t have a parent in the crowd to escort him into the gym for senior night festivities. A teammate stepped up, and they walked arm-in-arm across the gym as Woodstock coach Ches Dougherty announced Waryck's name to the Blue Streaks crowd.
It was unusual, certainly, but so was Waryck standing on a wrestling mat at all.
Unprompted by Dougherty, the 285-pounder approached the coach asking to join the wrestling team earlier that week. Waryck, a football and baseball player, had attended one or two wrestling practices as a junior but didn’t stick with the sport.
“He came to a practice early in the season [last year],” Dougherty said. “He was like, ‘I don’t know.’ He was working on football. He’s a really good baseball player, so he was getting into baseball shape for the spring.”
Flash forward to this season, only a week and a half before regionals, Waryck approached Dougherty. It just so happened the Blue Streaks needed a heavyweight.
“[Dougherty] has always wanted me to [wrestle],” Waryck said. “I never really went through with it. I’ve always wanted to.”
Dougherty let Waryck borrow his wrestling shoes. How much did Waryck know about wrestling: "Not a lot," he admitted.
He suffered a loss via pin in his first career match on senior night against Woodstock North’s Sean Jaco.
“I lost, but whatever,” Waryck said that night.
He wrestled a junior varsity tournament that weekend, seven days before regionals, where he took third place. Then Dougherty threw him into the fire at the IHSA Class 2A Harvard Regional last weekend.
A funny thing happened.
Waryck lost his first match at the regional, then rattled off three straight wins in the consolation bracket, taking third place and advancing to the Class 2A Antioch Sectional nine days after his first varsity match.
“I was just going into it with the mindset of trying not to lose,” Waryck said. “Since I have been wrestling for [such a short time], it wouldn’t have been much of a failure to me.”
A dozen Woodstock teammates erupted into cheers when Waryck pinned Crystal Lake Central’s Ramon Fuentes in the third-place match. And now he will head to sectionals with a grand career varsity record of 3-2.
“Experience definitely helps,” Waryck said. “And I do not have a lot of experience.”
In all, 81 McHenry County area wrestlers will compete at sectionals this weekend hoping to advance to the state tournament in Champaign. The top four wrestlers in each weight class at each sectional advance to state.
Huntley advanced an area-best 12 wrestlers to sectionals in Class 3A on its way to a third consecutive regional title. Seven Red Raiders won regional titles along the way.
Huntley will meet up with a handful of Fox Valley Conference foes at the Class 3A Barrington Sectional this weekend. The Red Raiders will see if they can match or best last year's program-record seven state qualifiers.
In Class 2A, Marian Central leads the way with nine sectional qualifiers. The Hurricanes and seven other local teams head to the Antioch Sectional.
Marengo is the only local team at the Class 2A Geneseo Sectional, where it has four wrestlers competing. Johnsburg has eight wrestlers competing at the Class 1A Byron Sectional.