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The Dream Team (from left): front row, Mitch Bengtson, Paul Mascarenas, Jed Mellen, Connor Schram, Adrian Cruz, Jake Short and Oliver Pierce;back row, Cody Wiercioch, Matt Seabold, Matt McCutcheon, Nate Rotert, Nick Wanzek, Brooks Black and Coach Mitch Hancock.
Team Illinois (from left): front row, Sebastian Pique, Barlow McGhee, George Fisher, Mech Spraggins, Jordan Northrup, Dan Rowland and Kyle Langenderfer;back row, Coach Steve Marianetti, Jordan Ellingwood, Brian Murphy, Ricky Robertson, Colin Holler, Tom Howell, Alex Fritz and Coach Eric Siebert.

Illinois seniors battle,
but can't overcome Dream Team

By Ed Muniz
Photos courtesy of Ken Dado


There was a Dream Team that displayed its skills Saturday night. This time the hardwood wasn't the stage -- it was the wrestling mats at Elmhurst College.

The Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation hosted the 17th annual Wrestling USA/Cliff Keen Dream Team Classic Dual Meet. Illinois high school seniors were once again chosen to take on the USA Dream Team. The event for student-athletes nearing graduation matched top Illinois wrestlers against some of the best wrestlers in the nation.

Heading Team Illinois was Elmhurst College Head Coach Steve Marianetti and Sandburg High School Head Coach Eric Siebert. Each carries an individual national championship for the University of Illinois on their wrestling resumes. Marianetti won in 1995 and Siebert in 1998.

The Dream Team was headed by Mitch Hancock, who was an All-American at Central Michigan. He currently leads the wrestling squad at Catholic Central High School in Detroit, which has been ranked nationally in the top 25 several times during his tenure.

Team Illinois featured seven 2013 state champions and six state runners-up. The USA Dream Team brought 12 2013 state titleists to compete.

Nearly all of the fans in the overflowing stands were rooting for Team Illinois but it didn’t seem to play much of a factor once the dual began. A small number of Team USA parents tried to be just as loud and held their own.

Nate Rotert (left), of South Dakota, squares off against Marist's Tom Howell at 220 pounds.

The dual opened at 220 pounds. Team USA's Nate Rotert, of South Dakota, delivered a 7-2 decision over Tom Howell, of Marist. In the battle between state champs, only one point was awarded in the first two periods. Howell, who is undecided on his college future, held a 1-0 lead.

But two takedowns and a near-fall at the end by the South Dakota State-bound Rotert gave the Dream Team a 3-0 lead.


Editor's note
In an earlier version of this story, Team Illinois member Alex Fritz, Marmion Academy's 285-pounder, was misidentified. Premium Preps regrets the error.

Brooks Black (left), of New Jersey, gets ready to start the action against Alex Fritz, of Marmion Academy.

The 285-pound bout featured Marmion Academy’s Alex Fritz and New Jersey native and University of Illinois signee Brooks Black. It didn’t take long for Black to jump a head and pin his Elmhurst College-bound opponent at 1:53. Pressure to his opponent's extended arm and shoulder allowed Black to switch Fritz to his back and give the visitors a 9-0 lead.

“It’s the way I wrestle. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time, and I always try to end a match quickly,” said Black. “It just worked out well tonight, because I knew he was a good wrestler.”

Sandburg's Sebastian Pique (left)  tries to bring down Paul Mascarenas, of New Mexico, during their 113-pound bout.

At 113 pounds, Sandburg’s Sebastian Pique, who is headed to Ohio University, battled nationally ranked Paul Mascarenas, a four-time New Mexico state champion. Each wrestler looked for advantages and both had opportunities. As the 1-1 match appeared headed for an overtime conclusion, Pique scored a takedown with three seconds left for a 3-1 decision against his South Dakota State-bound foe. The win gave Team Illinois its first points.

Barlow McGhee, of Rock Island, checks the scoreboard timer while keeping Darian Cruz, of Pennsylvania, on the mat during their 120-pound bout.

When Barlow McGhee, of Rock Island, took to the mat to face Darian Cruz, of Pennsylvania, at 120, the action seemed like it was about to hit a peak. There was action, but the two state champions failed to post a point in the first two periods when defense and counters were the rule.

After an escape by Cruz, Barlow pressed the wrestling and was awarded a penalty stalling point to even it up late in the period. The OT saw some quick wrestling and looked as if the Lehigh-bound Cruz had gained an advantage when Barlow attempted a takedown.

But as quickly as he looked finished, the University of Missouri-bound Barlow managed to slip free and gained a takedown and 3-1 win as the off-balance and surprised Cruz dropped to the mat. Now Team Illinois trailed the Dream Team 9-6.

Jordan Northrup (top), of Harlem, looks to score against Connor Schram, of Pennsylvania, in their 126-pound match.

Connor Schram, of Pennsylvania, came to wrestle, and it showed immediately in his 126-pound bout against Northern Illinois-signee Jordan Northrup, of Harlem.

Schram led from the opening period and controlled much of the action in his 7-4 decision. Northrup couldn’t get through the Stanford-bound Schram’s defense until late in the match. Team USA held a 12-6 lead.

Marmion Academy's George Fisher, left, fights to break free of the strangle hold of Jed Mellen, of Utah, in the 132-pound match.

In the 132-pound division, 2013 state champion George Fisher, of Marmion Academy, looked ready when he peered at his opponent from Utah at the center of the mat. But Jed Mellen who had won his third state championship previously, was even more prepared.

The Utah Valley signee limited the highly skilled Fisher, a future University of Michigan wrestler, and recorded a 6-1 decision. Two takedowns and a reversal were all Mellen needed to extend the Dream Team's lead to 15-6.

Mech Spraggins, of Belleville West, gains the go-ahead takedown against three-time Minnesota state champion Mitch Bengtson at 138 pounds.

A pair of takedowns in the last 13 seconds highlighted the bout at 138 when Mech Spraggins, of Belleville West, rumbled with four-time Minnesota state champion Mitch Bengtson.

Both wrestlers ended their senior season on top of state podiums. Spraggins is headed to Arizona State University; Bengtson will attend North Dakota State. After one period, the score was 3-3, An escape by Spraggins gave him the lead after two, but things were evened at 4-4 with a Bengtson escape heading into the last minute of the match.

Spraggins fought off Bengtson and scored a takedown with 13 seconds left and paried his opponent's effort to tie the match. Spraggins added another takedown to record an 8-4 decision and bring Team Illinois within six points.

“I watched a couple films on him and knew he was going to be into the match and hardcore trying to push me out. He was strong,” said Spraggins. “My bread and butter is my shot, and I like when a guy comes after me.

"It worked good the last 30 seconds of the match, and I took advantage of it. But I felt I wasn’t in my best shape, I could be in a lot better shape, believe that!”

At 145 pounds, Brian Murphy, left, of Glenbard North, and Jake Short, of Minnesota, look for an advantage.

The 145-pound match saw Brian Murphy, of Glenbard North, take on Jake Short, of Minnesota.  These two met previously met when Short handed Murphy one his two losses on the year in a triple OT decision at the Cheesehead Tournament. When all the wrestling was done, future Michigan man Murphy returned the favor with a 3-2 decision.

“He controlled the match, but I found a way to get a takedown,” Murphy said.  “My goal is, by next year, to be able to beat kids like him with multiple takedown and leg attacks, It's one thing I need to work on. My defense has gotten better, but I need to be able to score at will. I’ll get there, and once I get to Michigan and work with them, I’m gonna skyrocket.”

Look for Murphy and Short to renew their battles in the future. Short will join the Minnesota wrestling program next year.

Kyle Langenderfer (left), of Lincoln-Way East, has Oliver Pierce, of Texas, in big trouble during their 152-pound match. No points were awarded.

Down 15-12, Team Illinois had a chance to even the team score or take the lead when Kyle Langenderfer, of Lincoln-Way East, met Oliver Pierce, of Texas, in the 152-pound bout. This might have been the most physical match all night. Pierce repeatedly stopped the match to stop bleeding from a wound on his nose.

Both wrestlers didn’t seem to care much for the other. There was extra shoving and bumping after the whistle. When Pierce gained a near-fall and grabbed the 3-0 lead, it looked as if Langenderfer was going to have a rough time getting back.

But his constant pressure saw him tie the match at 3-3 against his Oklahoma-bound foe. Langenderfer was in control and kept Pierce on the mat from top position but an escape in the last 30 seconds gave the 4-3 decision to the two-time Texas champion. The win extended the Dream Team lead to 18-12.

Colin Holler (left), of Sandburg, fights off an escape attempt by Nick Wanzek, of Minnesota, at 160 pounds.

The visitors built their lead to 21-12 when 160-pound Minnesota state champ Nick Wanzek defeated Sandburg state champion Colin Holler 3-1.

Both showed the defensive skills that led them to championships this year, but Wanzek's third period takedown was the difference. Next season Wanzek will wrestle at Minnesota while Holler toils at South Dakota State.

Cody Wiercioch (left), of Pennsylvania, kept Willowbrook's Dan Rowland on the defensive.

Cody Wiercioch, of Pennsylvania, took it to Dan Rowland in their 170-pound match. Wiercioch had an answer for everything Rowland tried and frustrated the Willowbrook senior. At the end, the Dream Team built a 24-12 lead after the 7-2 Wiercioch win.

The victor will wrestle at Pittsburgh next year; Rowland's wrestling future is currently undecided.

Ricky Robertson (top), of Sandburg, controlled the action against Iowa champion Matthew Seabold.

Ricky Robertson, of Sandburg, and Matthew Seabold, of Iowa, squared off in the 182-pound match. The two state champions started the match evenly.

Robertson was the first to score and then began a dominating performance. A third period barrage of points and smooth defense gave the Wisconsin signee a 9-0 major decision over his South Dakota State-bound foe and made the score 24-16.

Jordan Ellingwood (top), of Plainfield Central, tries to breakdown Matt McCutcheon, of Pennsylvania, at 195.

The final bout of the evening saw Jordan Ellingwood, of Plainfield Central, face Matt McCutcheon, of Pennsylvania. Both wrestlers led at one point in the bout but McCutcheon’s third period scoring and near-fall points gave him the 6-2 decision and cemented the dream Dream Team's 27-16 win.

After the event, McCutcheon's father Dave, spoke about the competition.

“I’m leaving Illinois with a totally different view of the talent here,” said the elder McCutcheon. “I always thought we (Pennsylvania) had the most depth in the sport at the high school level. But Illinois' number one wrestlers at each weight are so good, I’m thinking they could have the best when it comes to the best at each weight.”

Dave, tell us something we don’t already know!


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