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Third-place win gives Conant title

By Ed Muniz                    Photos courtesy of David Torres

Heading into the 2014 Mid-Suburban League wrestling tournament, which began  Jan. 31 at Hersey High School, the consensus within the East and West divisions was that four squads had the best chance at hoisting the trophy. Conant, Schaumburg and Barrington (West Division) were in the hunt with East winner Prospect.

It all came down to a third place match at heavyweight. A fall at 285 by Conant’s Tyler LaBarbera over Wheeling’s Juan Hernandez gave the Cougars a half-point victory over Schaumburg 227.5-227.

“What do I even say about this team? We have guys that continue to step up when someone else falters a little,” said Conant head coach Chad Hay. “You know we did not have a great round in the semis. We had a talk and got ready for the consolation semis round and had all nine get into the third place match. These guys just compete in every way. What’s really cool is even in losses, I don’t have to be hard on them because they are so hard on themselves. So I let them calm down, and we then talk about next time.”

Hay added: “They are so good at bouncing back and calming down quick and getting back at it. On to regionals, it’s gonna be a crazy one.”

Conant's wrestlers did most of their damage in the final round where every point counted and cut into the deficit they faced. With 12 wrestlers still active, nine vied for third and three for individual titles; 10 won their bouts and propelled the Cougars past Barrington and Schaumburg. LaBarbera’s victory finalized the dramatic come-from-behind effort. Conant finished with three champions, seven third place finishers and two fourth place finishers.

Tulga Zuunbayan, of Wheeling, captured the 145-pound MSL title.


Weight class roundups



Barrington’s top-seeded Mitch Stathakis (27-3) held off Schaumburg's Hazen Rice (26-9) to gather an 8-6 win and his first MSL title. The two sophomores were evenly matched, but Stathakis had just enough to prevail and seemed fresher at the end.

“A lot closer than I expected, but it’s a win,” said Stathakis. Stathakis defeated Rice 10-1 earlier in the season.

"The atmosphere where two teams going head-to-head, it’s a close tournament so we needed that win," Stathakis said. "Getting the win and starting it off gives us some momentum for the rest of the tournament, because it’s a close tournament -- three teams, anyone can win it, just got to wrestle.”

Third place went to Jason Giuliano, of Conant, with a 4-3 decision over Jake Greenberg, of Buffalo Grove. Jackson Kohlberg, of Rolling Meadows, took fifth with a 3-2 win over Vince Lobono, of Prospect.



The top two seeds reached the finals at 113. Hersey’s Mitch MacTavish (24-9) matched up against second-seeded Kyle Peisker (28-5), of Conant. Both sophomores had their way prior to the finals. MacTavish came in after two major decisions, and Peisker advanced with a fall and a one-sided bout.

Figuring on a tight, low scoring match, Peisker wanted to grab the lead and maintain it. That’s exactly what he did en route to his first MSL title with a 5-0 blanking of his Hersey foe.

“I knew I could ride him out on top" said Peisker. "I expected to win. I wanted to keep it close until the third period.

“I’m confident going forward into the regional next week at Schaumburg and think I can continue winning.”

Third-place went to Prospect's Alex Preissing with a 15-9 decision over Stevie Guiterrez, of Buffalo Grove. Fifth went to Jake Cysewski from Barrington with a 3-1 overtime decision against Quinn Bergles, of Fremd


Johny Carvajal (32-9), of Wheeling, used a pair of takedowns to earn the championship. The 5-2 decision over Schaumburg’s Eric Race (20-13) was the last of a tournament full of tests for him. Carvajal had upset the top seed and again beat a higher seed in the final.

“I found I have to train harder and work on everything that I experienced in these matches,” he said.

Carvaljal was happy with the win but felt he could have been much better.

“I was very sloppy in that match, and I have to take care of a couple of things like my stamina at the end," he said. "It was tough competition so now I have to work harder and get ready for next week.”

Taking third was Danny Madonia, of Conant, with a fall at 5:45 over Chris Rivera, of Prospect. Fifth went to Barrington’s Nick Patino with a 9-4 decision over Art Salas, of Rolling Meadows.


Buffalo Grove senior Chase Ori (21-3) knew exactly how he wanted to end his MSL career and did just that with a dominating 12-2 major decision over Juan Guajardo (22-8), of Palatine.

Ori didn’t wrestle last year but you couldn’t tell that after his weekend performance. His championship bout saw him jump out to a fast 4-0 lead and pile on points each period with take downs and near falls. Guajardo didn’t score until late in the bout when it was well in hand for Ori.

“I went out there with a game plan," Ori said. "If you don’t, you’ll get stuck and here I was just trying to wrestle hard and keep my head up in every position, every match.

“This was a big tournament for me. I have had a little trouble on lasting matches, my conditioning; I’ve upped it a lot.”

Third at 126 went to Ricky Muro, of Wheeling, over Marcus Williams, of Conant, 7-2. Fifth was won by Grant Barwacz, of Fremd, with a 5-3 decision over Joe Benway, of Prospect.



Conant’s state-ranked Bobby Alexander (29-2) faced off against Barrington’s Matt Conrad (26-10) in the title bout. A minute in, Conrad looked well on his way to the upset after he caught Alexander in the difficult spladle move off a takedown. A surprised and bewildered-looking Alexander wasn’t sure how to escape but managed to gain a reversal to end the opening period.

Alexander said: “I was obviously nervous but kept my composure and just kept wrestling.”

After that opening effort, Conrad managed another takedown, but the momentum swung to Alexander for most of the final two periods. He recorded a a pair of near falls en route to his third MSL title in three years with a 13-8 victory.

“When it was 7-4, and I was on top but still trailing, my specialty is on top," Alexander said. "I thought it was going to be a close match like 3-1, so it didn’t go as I thought. I was excited going in, but he hit me with that move and it was kinda bad. He’s a good wrestler. This kind of match gets you ready for the state tournament.”

Third went to Grant Warner, of Hersey, with a 5-2 win over Wheeling’s David Gonzalez. Fifth place was won by Elk Grove’s Louis Gonzalez, 9-3, over Mustafa Hashim, of Hoffman Estates.



Even winning his first MSL title, Schaumburg’s sophomore champion Logan Gruska (11-1) was none too happy. A first period takedown of Prospect’s Sam Lobono (20-17) was all the scoring in the match.

Both wrestlers couldn’t get any offense going  in the match and appeared quite frustrated.  Gruska looked the most dissatified.

“I’m not very happy with the results. It feels more like a loss than a win,” said the top-seeded Gruska. “I didn’t think a takedown would win anything. I just stuck to one move the entire match.  I should have done a lot more than I did. I have to be more offensive and open up my shots. I’m throwing this match away and get back at it.”

Nick Catalano, of Conant, wrapped up third place with a 7-2 decision over Dominic Lorig, of Fremd. Fifth place was earned by Lamart Burres, of Rolling Meadows, with a 4-3 win against Hersey’s Jalen Shaw.


Having Olympic wrestling heritage in your background sure doesn't hurt, and Wheeling’s Tulga Zuubayan (34-7) had it matside.

His second MSL title was a 4-1 win over Connor Boundy (24-13) that was much tougher than anticipated. With his father, a former Olympian, directing him, Tulga found just the right effort to thwart off any offense from Boundy in a bout that saw a heavy dose of defense by both wrestlers.

“My dad told me to dominate, but it just didn’t work out that way," Zuubayan said. "I look at him throughout the match all the time. I kept going hard the full six minutes, but I need to work my shots in more. I knew what he was doing, but just didn’t (make it) happen. Still glad I won and I’m looking forward to regionals and sectionals and hopefully state,” said the sophomore winner.

Third place was won by Gus Karapanos, of Conant, with a 5-0 blanking of Buffalo Grove’s Jake Seibert. Fifth went to Nick Del Porte, of Rolling Meadows, by default.


A late takedown by Griff Rose (24-4), of Conant, was the only offense in a tough defensive battle with Johnny Blanke (8-5), of Barrington. An escape apiece was all the scoreboard showed until late as Rose managed to snag Blanke off balance.

“Very tough match, I really wanted this W,” said Rose. “Johnny is a really tough wrestler, and we knew each other well. I kept good position and got out from the bottom real fast. We knew it was gonna come down to the wire so patience was big in this match. I’m doing things right so far and hopefully continue through the regionals.”

Schaumburg’s Tony Vezetti finished third after a 10-5 decision over Tom Somenek, of Hersey, while fifth place went to Mike Ragucci, of Prospect, after his 4-3 win over Ulyssis Ocampo, of Buffalo Grove.


An upset special was the theme at 160 when junior Barrington wrestler Julius Smith (22-11) topped top seed and highly ranked Luke Gruska (24-4), of Schaumburg, 4-1. The Bronco grappler seized the lead in the final period and added a takedown to secure his first MSL title.

“He beat me twice before, so it was nice to get a win in this match,” said a hard-breathing Smith. “I came in more prepared and waited while I iced the match up some, slowed it down because he tends to score off my offense. I tried to make him move more, it worked. It’s nice to be champ, and I feel very confident right now, can’t wait to get back at it.”

Dan Andress, of Conant, grabbed third over Matt Wroblewski, of Prospect, 7-6;  and Dean Simmons, of Hersey, finished fifth with his 4-3 decision against Eric Chalupa, of Rolling Meadows.

Sadarriss Patterson, of Schaumburg, recorded a 13-2 decision in his 170-pound MSL title bout.



State-ranked Sadarriss Patterson (28-3), of Schaumburg, took his MSL title -- the key word being took. The senior Saxon had two falls leading up to the championship. In the title bout he appeared to tire of his opponent and threw in a flurry of scoring for a large early lead to defeat Travis Cysewski (25-12), of Barrington, 13-2.

The combination of power and speed will make him quite an adversary.

“It’s mostly faith and believing and trusting myself and trusting God that he’ll make it work out for me,” Patterson said.
He added that it was important that he had a lot of supporters who believe in him.

"It’s a great feeling knowing that guys are rooting for you so I go out and stay aggressive and do my stuff," he said. "My last year, it’s now or never.”

Cody Hauser, of Fremd, finished third with a 15-6 major decision against Sean Oldenberg, of Elk Grove. Brian Maigler, of Prospect, took fifth with a fall of Frank Sherman, of Hersey, in 1:43.


Rolling Meadows' lone championship came from Dardan Kardui (32-7), who gained a quick fall of Schaumburg’s Mike Bruno (20-14) in 75 seconds. After an early takedown, Kardui rushed to his MSL title.

“I was expecting a tougher match, but you get what you have,” said Kardui.  “I like matches like that, and it feels really good getting this championship. I will look at my video and see what I can do better, but first I’m gonna go eat!”

Prospect’s Tanner Strobel gave the Knights another third place finisher with his 3-0 decision over Colin Thomas, of Barrington, and Jason Lopez, of Palatine, grabbed fifth with a 10-4 victory of James Grady, of Wheeling.


Schaumburg’s other highly touted talent showed why many are expecting this wrestler to make a great showing at the upcoming state tournament. Senior and top seed Matt Stopka (28-4) didn’t wrestle a whole match the entire tournament pinning his way to his second MSL title in a row.
The championship saw him square off against sophomore sensation Alex Jacobs (24-5), of Fremd. The match started with a bang when both rumbled for the upper hand. After escaping and grabbing a takedown for a 3-0 lead, Jacobs found himself tied soon afterward and on his back when Stopka brought the match to a conclusion at 3:15.

“I tried to open up the match some. When I tried throwing him, it was a good day,” said Stopka. “My coaches keep me in the game and keep me in check. I do think I can use my offense more and find my opening to score. I don’t mind going the full match but quick falls are good too. I should do well at regionals but anything can happen.”

The third place medal went to Jackson Wrede, of Prospect, with a 7-1 win over Andrew Zerfas, of Conant. Zac Yflantis, of Wheeling, grabbed fifth by over Rolling Meadows' Grant Palmer at 2:25.


Jack Bornhofen (23-8) of Barrington used just enough offense and excellent defense to hold off Prospect’s James Ford (30-10) during his 3-1 win.
“I feel pretty good right now, it was good to get the win after my third place finish last year. So I’m quite happy but tired,” Bornhofen said. “I have to give credit to how I performed all year to my coaches and off-season team I worked with.

"Coming up, I’m going to wrestle my style, but I’m looking forward to wrestling Luis Hernandez, of McHenry. He was my old teammate, so I want to see how we compare now. I probably could have attacked more in this match but he was strong and hard to move him so that was a slight problem.”

Overtime decided third place and Conant’s Michael Meier prevailed with a 13-11 win over Ruben Guerrero, of Rolling Meadows. A 7-3 decision earned Schaumburg’s Tylor Alanis the fifth place win over Wheeling’s Yoni Medina.


A ride out to win in triple overtime gave the MSL title at heavyweight to Matt Zolper (25-7), of Schaumburg. The Hersey home crowd encouraged and cheered on runner-up Tyler Cooke throughout the championship bout, but it couldn't help him over the hump in a 2-1 loss.

“Big win, very big win. I wanted to go out for a conference title, but it was more important for the team. This is our head coach’s alma mater and we wanted to get the team win for him,” said Zolper.

Schaumburg held the lead at the time, but the third place heavyweight from LaBarbera over Hernandez, of Wheeling, gave the Cougars the title. Fifth went to Junior Castillo, of Hoffman Estates, in his 1-0 win over Alex Zenter, of Barrington.

Final team standings

  1)    Conant                     227.5
  2)    Schaumburg          227
  3)    Barrington               215.5
  4)    Prospect                 158
  5)    Wheeling                123
  6)    Rolling Meadows 120.5
  7)    Hersey                      98
  8)    Fremd                       73
  9)    Buffalo Grove           72
10)    Palatine                    40
11)    Elk Grove                  36
12)    Hoffman Estates    32


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