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Leyden seeks to keep its momentum

By Gary Larsen

One year after placing third in Conant’s annually-formidable Feutz Classic, Leyden rolled into Hoffman Estates this year minus seven graduated starters who keyed the program’s resurrection.

This year’s squad aims to keep the program's standards high. The Eagles are in fifth place after Friday’s first day of competition at Conant. Jake McCabe (103), Adam Schammert (171) and Dan Keibler (215) advanced to Saturday’s semifinal round. With 83 team points, Leyden sat 11.5 points behind fifth-place Glenbard North.

“We’ve talked about putting that Eagle back on our chest,” Schammert said. “That’s what we think about.”

Schammert, who finished fourth at 152 last year, will take on Providence's Phil Kollinger Saturday for the right to wrestle for the title at 171.

“Last year I ended up wrestling at 145, but I dropped down from about 170, so I feel a lot stronger now,” Schammert said.

That sacrifice didn't surprise Leyden coach Jason Potter.

“Adam is one of the leaders on the team," Potter said. "He excels at everything. He’s a great student and an unbelievable kid.”

Kiebler will square off with Glenbard North’s Tyler Knudsen in his semifinal match at 215 pounds.

“He’s a specimen,” Potter said of Kiebler. “Most kids I can get out there with in practice stay on cruise control, but I have to pay attention out there with him. He’s one of the most athletic kids I’ve ever wrestled.”

Leyden’s third semifinalist, freshman Jake McCabe, bodes well for the future of the program. Twin brother Jesse (112) joins a young returning Eagle group that had a lot of success last year in the program’s lower levels.

“I just walk around the room and try to help them out,” Schammert said of the Eagles’ underclassmen. “You can’t be condescending, but you have to let them know when they have to go hard. You have to try to be like a mentor.”

On the heels of consecutive West Suburban Gold Conference championships, Leyden, Potter, and athletic director Randy Conrad saw the Eagles listed among the state’s best teams last season. Leyden also won a Class AA regional title last year.

“Fortunately, now there’s a buzz back at Leyden about wrestling,” Potter said. “In the past I’d have to run around like crazy man trying to get kids to come out for wrestling.”

Even though Potter estimates that 99 percent of incoming freshmen at Leyden have no previous wrestling experience, freshmen program numbers have gone from a low of seven kids at tryouts, to a high of 60 in the program.

“It starts with the coaches we have on staff right now. We have five quality coaches on staff,” Conrad said. “We sought them out for their backgrounds in the sport.”

Byron Benion, Mike Fumagalli, Jim Rossetti, Jason Cartwright, Joe DeGulio are all hard at work keep to keep the program riding high. Friday’s performance at Conant showed that they’re getting it done.

Eagles’ senior Brian Andronic won his opening match 6-2 over Naperville North’s Adam Hankin before losing to returning tournament champion Ellis Coleman of Oak Park-River Forest.

“Brian had no wrestling experience before coming into high school, but he’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve had here,” Potter said. “He is a tough individual, and he is always working to get better.”

AD Conrad’s formula at Leyden figures to pay dividends for some time to come.

“If you can bring in four or five kids with experience and circle them around your program, you’d be amazed ? with good coaching, at how good a team can become,” he said. “We’ve had a good mix the last few years of kids coming from the little kids’ programs, and getting good multi-sport athletes to wrestle.”


Today's Schedule: Season Schedule