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|Oswego's Larsen dominates 160-pound bracket at Palatine's Berman Classic|
|by Kristin Sharp|
Oswego senior Max Larsen capped off 2012 in a big way last Friday, closing out December by winning the 160-pound bracket in the 58th annual Berman Holiday Classic in Palatine.
Larsen not only won the tournament championship, but did so in dominating fashion in the finals with a 12-2 major decision win over Downers Grove North's Nicky Bonomo.
On paper, the bout certainly looked to be much closer with Bonomo ranked in late December, and Larsen ranked ninth.
"He definitely dominated that championship match," Oswego head coach Andrew Cook said. "He had four takedowns and put all the pressure on him. Max was definitely working on his takedowns and was doing real well on his feet. He's working to get better on the mat, and once he does that he's going to be a tough one to beat."
Larsen (16-2) opened the bracket with a 7-1 decision over Zion-Benton's Jon Perez before pinning East Moline's Deryck Wessels in 4:57. In the semifinals, Larsen walked away with a 5-4 decision over Hinsdale Central's Tim Glavin after Glavin scored two late points on the mat.
"The kid from Hinsdale Central got a reversal at the end of the match, but it was 5-2 and Max controlled that whole match," Cook said. "He was the one doing all the aggressive wrestling. He wrestled well and had a nice tournament."
Larsen's first-place finish, combined with three other placewinners, helped Oswego to ninth place in the 27-team field last Friday.
Oswego rebounded after a tough opening day last Thursday and finished with 108.5 points on the following day. Hinsdale Central won the team championship with nine placewinners, while Glenbard East (172.5) and St. Charles East (162) rounded out the top three.
"We wrestled well," Cook said. "It's a tough meet; it's a grinder. Some of the guys that placed did a nice job and we had three guys that lost the match right before you place. "
Sophomore Andrew McFall (18-3) placed third at 106, junior Nick Schultz (15-7) finished fourth at 126 and senior Max Hively (8-4) finished fifth at 195, while three other wrestlers were knocked out of the tournament one match before the place round.
For Oswego, it was the first time the grapplers stepped into the circle since Dec. 14, after a dual meet against Minooka was postponed on Dec. 20.
"I think we came out a little rusty because we hadn't competed, but we took a few days of practice and treated them like they were in a quad to get us set up," Cook said. "It's different when you put on the singlet and go out and compete against different teams. I think we came out a little rusty the first day and started picking it up after the first round."
At 106, McFall opened his bracket with a 6-3 win over Hinsdale South's Nic Burke, but lost a 7-4 decision to Oak Forest's Danny Swan - the No. 2-ranked wrestler in Class 2A. Swan went on to place second to St. Charles East's Ryan Rubino while McFall moved into the wrestlebacks and went 4-0.
He won by tech fall (5:11) over Joliet West's Daevell Flagg before claiming a 2-0 decision over Cary-Grove's John Cullen. He pinned Delaware-Hayes (Ohio) wrestler Greg Brusco in 1:05 to reach the third-place match.
There, McFall won a 6-0 decision over Antioch's Briley Schultz.
"He's down to 106, and the only match he's lost at 106 was to a kid who was a state qualifier in 2A last year," Cook said. "Andrew's wrestling really well right now. He's staying aggressive. He's been working hard and doing a heckuva job."
Schultz started his bracket with a win by pin (5:02) against Hinsdale Central's James Manikas, but he dropped a 7-3 decision to Metea Valley's Devin Kane in the quarterfinals.
Schultz fought his way through the wrestlebacks, winning a 5-0 decision over Mundelein and a 7-0 decision over Lincoln-Way East as well as an 8-5 win over St. Charles East to move into the third-place match.
There, Schultz lost a tough 1-0 decision to Glenbard East's Jake Drew to place fourth.
"He had a good weekend. He lost in the quarters to a kid from Metea and had a takedown first, but the kid caught him on his back, he gave up four points, and that was the game changer," Cook said. "Nick lost a tough one to a kid from Glenbard East who is a returning state qualifier, 1-0. He wrestled his style; he just could not finish his takedown against the kid from Glenbard East.
"Things did not go his way in that match. It was tight, and come regional time, I see Nick winning that match. He's getting there. There's a difference wrestling 113 and going up to 126. He's finding his way and doing a real good job," Cook continued.
Hively's tournament opened with a win by fall (2:20) against East Moline's Buller Tate, but he was pinned by eventual runner-up Ammar Al-Ghoul of Glenbard East.
Hively rebounded in the wrestlebacks, pinning Rock Island before winning a 7-1 decision over Antioch. Hively lost by fall to Delaware-Hayes, but pinned Palatine's Rocky Allen in 5:51 to finish fifth.
Hively recently returned to the lineup after recovering from a late November injury.
"His four losses are against pretty good kids," Cook said. "He was hurt at the Barrington tournament and was out for awhile doing rehab, but I saw him wrestle his best three matches this (past) weekend that I've seen him wrestle all year. He really started to kick in on the second day of the tournament."
Sophomore Jack Pradel finished 2-2 at 120, dropping a tough 2-0 decision to Cary-Grove in the wrestlebacks to be eliminated from the bracket. He wins were both by pin, including an 11-second win over Palatine.
Junior Nick Aguirre finished 3-2 at 138, winning a 10-8 overtime decision against Lyons Twp. in the wrestlebacks before winning a 13-2 major decision, but he was caught by Cary-Grove's Michael Underwood, who went on to place third.
Senior Bo Pradel finished 1-2 at 152, losing his first match to eventual runner-up Ernest Battaglia of Hinsdale Central before losing by decision to Downers Grove North in the decisive match to advance to the championship finals.
Oswego will host Naperville North, Streamwood, Lincoln-Way East and Palatine in the Orange and Blue Mega Duals Saturday at 9 a.m. before returning to Southwest Prairie Conference action at Plainfield North on Jan. 10.
The Panthers will face a challenging January slate, leading into the SPC Tournament at Minooka on Jan. 26.
"We're going to rest and refocus this week before the big push for the end of the year," Cook said. "Once we hit January, there is no time off and we're going to be constantly battling every week going into our last tournament of the year at Oak Park, and then our conference.
"Guys are starting to wrestle to their ability. We still have a lot of room to grow, but they're really starting to pick it up."