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Stillman still small, but very big at Barrington
 

By Mike Garofola

Stillman Valley is not part of the wine region in northern California.

It is, in fact, an Illinois powerhouse Class A wrestling program that flexed its muscles against the big boys at the 18th Moore-Prettyman Invitational at Barrington this weekend. One Class 3A school after another found trouble with the Cardinals over two days of competition.

Stillman Valley surprised everyone, including themselves, with an impressive fifh-place finish behind tourney champ Plainfield Central, runner-up Neuqua Valley, Libertyville and Wheeling, which edged coach Ben Morris' club by a mere five points (155-150) to grab a bigger piece of hardware.

"We came here as part of a major upgrade to our schedule in hopes of giving our guys some much needed experience with 3A schools, and to ready ourselves for the sectionals in February," said Morris, who was a four-time state medalist at Fenton, and state champion in 1987 at 112 pounds.

"We also will be going to the DeKalb duals in late December, and look forward to getting even more quality opponents for our guys."

 

Despite their recent success, the Cardinals, who were runners-up last year to Class A state champ Wilmington (36-23) inside Wharton Fieldhouse in Moline, still find themselves short in overall program numbers. That's a stat that Morris looks to improve after helping his club go 27-3 in his first season at the helm.

"I don't really know why out of 300 boys in the school, we can get only 20-30 out for the team, but we're going to look to capture some here and there to help build a program that can feed new guys in every year," he said.

"On the surface, I figured our recent success would be a boon to the sport and program, but we haven't seen it yet."

Despite the numbers, the Cardinals did well to fill things up at the individual state tournament.

They sent eight downstate, including sophomore Nick Harrison, who finished third overall at 112 pounds, and first this weekend at the Moore-Prettyman.

"I can't tell you how much I enjoyed competing at this tournament, and to beat (up) some of the guys from bigger schools to show them we can stay with them in a high-level tournament like this one," said Harrison, who gave the Cardinals their lone championship medal with an impressive 15-6 major decision victory over Plainfield Central's Steven Bradtmueller.

Teammates Zach Patterson (145), Cody Brewington (140) and Barry Glaudel (171) fared well also.Patterson, a state qualifier after his sectional
title at 130 in 2008, collected the Cardinals lone second-place medal while Brewington and Gaudel were both fourth.

Gaudel was a sectional champ along with Patterson, while Brewington was second at 135.

"I really feel the tough competition we saw this weekend, and we'll see at DeKalb next month could be just the thing we need to get over the hump and help put us in a position to win a couple of individual state championships," Brewington said.

For now. the Cardinals and Morris will concentrate on winning the Big Northern Conference title, which will require staying ahead of divison rival and Class A third-place finisher Oregon.

Today's Schedule: Season Schedule