Wrestlers don’t have long to bask in a regional championship victory. For the runner-up, the loss certainly doesn’t sit well.
Sometimes – when it comes to two elite wrestlers attending schools in the same geographic area – a rematch is on the horizon. It’s possible for wrestlers to face each other three straight weeks at regionals, sectionals and state.
Richmond-Burton’s Dalton Wood understands this.
“It’ll definitely still be tough, but I’m looking forward to wrestling Justin again,” Wood said after defeating Johnsburg’s Justin Peake in the 182-pound championship bout of the IHSA Class 1A Harvard Regional on Saturday.
“I think we’re going to see each other the next two weeks,” Peake said.
They will compete at this week’s Class 1A Oregon Sectional. If they meet again, it would have to be in either the sectional championship match or the consolation bracket.
Wrestlers from across McHenry County will participate in four sectionals this weekend. Sectionals begin Friday and conclude Saturday. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to state.
Wood (27-3) won a 4-3 decision against Peake in the regional championship match. It was Peake’s second loss of the season (19-2). Peake was a Class 1A third-place medalist at state last year at 182.
Peake and Wood have wrestled numerous times since eighth grade. Wood said he never had beaten Peake.
“We prepared like it would be me and Justin in the finals,” Wood said. “We worked on a lot of things. It’s hard to beat somebody over and over again.”
Peake called Wood “a fighter.”
“He’s never going to stop,” Peake said. “I knew that coming in. He’s so quick.”
Wood, the 2019 Northwest Herald Football Player of the Year, is a three-sport athlete at R-B. He doesn’t spend as much time on the mat as some of the year-round wrestlers, but he has his dad, Steve Wood, in his corner during matches.
Steve Wood was a three-time state runner-up at Harvard in Class A in 1989, 1990 and 1991.
“[He’s] really experienced and helps me a lot during the season,” Wood said.
There’s potential for numerous other top-tier rematches, too, across the area.
In Class 2A, Marian Central’s Niko Lopez (34-3) and Prairie Ridge’s Tommy Evans (30-3) are two of the favorites at 182 in the Deerfield Sectional. By virtue of his loss to Lopez in the Woodstock North Regional final, Evans earned a tough draw this week. If he wins his first match at sectionals, he would face No. 1-ranked Adrien Cramer (32-1) of Grayslake Central in the quarterfinal.
At 160 in the Deerfield Sectional, Marian’s Kaden Randazzo (34-5) will seek revenge against Crystal Lake Central’s Caden Ernd (32-4), if they can both advance. Ernd defeated Randazzo, 6-0, in the Woodstock North Regional title match. Both are highly ranked in their class.
In the 138-pound title match at the Class 3A Huntley Regional, Jacobs’ Jake Harrier (36-1) defeated Huntley’s Jeremy Jakowitsch (36-6) in a 6-5 decision. A lot stands in the way of a rematch at the Barrington Sectional, however. No. 1-ranked Joel Vandervere (26-1) of Gurnee Warren and No. 2-ranked Danny Pucino (32-3) of Libertyville are at the same sectional.
For other wrestlers who were close last year, there’s a chance at redemption this week. Harvard’s Bryce Fiegel (34-4) won a title at 113 at the Class 1A Harvard Regional last week. A year ago, he lost in the consolation semifinals at sectionals, one win short of a trip to state.
How thin was the margin between going home and winning state? Fiegel lost to Marian’s Josh Glover, 7-6, in the state qualifying consolation match a year ago at 106. Glover went on to wrestle in the state championship match and finish as a Class 2A state runner-up.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, not make it bigger than what it is and wrestle my matches,” Fiegel said.
IHSA sectional draws
Class 3A Barrington Sectional: Dundee-Crown, Huntley, Jacobs, McHenry.
Class 2A Deerfield Sectional: Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Marian Central, Prairie Ridge, Woodstock, Woodstock North.
Class 2A Rochelle Sectional: Hampshire.
Class 1A Oregon Sectional: Harvard, Johnsburg, Marengo, Richmond-Burton.
• Northwest Herald sports reporter Joe Stevenson contributed to this report.