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Strong finish sends eight to sectionals : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Strong finish sends eight to sectionals
Three Oswego wrestlers win regional championships

by Kristin Sharp


The Oswego wrestling team put together a strong finish at last Saturday's Class 3A Bolingbrook Regional, winning five matches in the finals to send six wrestlers ahead to sectionals.

The Oswego East contingent had a bit of a longer wait to secure its sectional qualifiers, winning two late matches at 195 and 285 to send two Wolves on to the Normal West Sectional this Friday and Saturday.

In the end, Southwest Prairie Conference foe Plainfield Central won the regional team championship with 166.5 points and nine sectional qualifiers. Plainfield Central advances to the LaSalle-Peru Dual Team Sectional on Feb. 25.

Yorkville, positioned in a tie for third place with Oswego heading into the afternoon session, moved up to second place with 129 points, while Plainfield East finished third with 127 points. Oswego placed fourth overall with 119 points. Oswego East scored 68 points to place seventh.

"They want to place at state," Oswego head coach Andrew Cook said. "We're not happy just going to sectionals. We want to get to state, and once we get to state we want to place. That's what we train for. That's all about their dedication. They're wrestling year round and they're focused. They know their goals and what it takes. It was a good day. It was tough."

Oswego junior Andrew McFall (113) as well as seniors Nick Schultz (132) and Nick Aguirre (138) all captured regional championships in their respective weight classes. They will all earn first-round byes in the sectional tournament.

Requiring a top-three finish to advance to sectionals, senior Kushtrim Balazi (145) and sophomore Victor Aguirre (152) won their third-place matches to extend their season for at least another week.

Oswego East sent five wrestlers into third-place bouts, but it wasn't until junior Dan Moran's 195-pound bout that the Wolves secured their first sectional qualifier, and senior Steve McMahon did the same at 285.

"Overall, it was a pretty up and down day," Oswego East head coach Mike Jezioro said. "Earlier in the day we had seven in the semifinals and went 0-7. It was tough for the kids to watch one kid lose a close one and then another. When Dan finally came up, I told him he had to stop the bleeding and get a win for us. You're always happy to get some guys though. Dan and Steve did a great job, so congratulations to them."

McFall's bracket opened with an 8-1 win over Plainfield North's Luke Smiley in the semifinals and returned to the mat in the afternoon against Yorkville junior Tyler Burlington. McFall staked an early 2-0 lead before expanding the score to a 5-2 advantage. Burlington scored two points in the final 35 seconds of the bout, but McFall never lost control of the match for a 7-4 win by decision and improve to 31-5 overall.

"We had a bracket change at the beginning of the match, so I had to adjust to that," McFall said. "I didn't get to wrestle Tyler yet this year, but it was nice to see new competition."

At 126, junior Jack Pradel (28-8) was next to reach the finals, pinning Oswego East senior Chris Madison in 3:00 before winning a 5-4 decision over Yorkville junior CJ Milliron in the semifinals. Pradel met Plainfield Central's Nick Nasenbeny in the finals. Although Pradel kept the bout scoreless through the opening two periods, he eventually lost a 3-0 decision to earn a runner-up finish.

Schultz (21-4) opened his bracket by pinning his Bolingbrook opponent in 3:02 in the semifinals to advance. In the finals, Schultz faced Plainfield Central's Jared Ellingwood and opened up with a 4-0 lead. Ellingwood scored before the end of the second period, but Schultz opened up the score in the third period to take 9-3 decision over Ellingwood.

Now advancing to sectionals with a first-round bye, Schultz will continue his quest to return to Assembly Hall in Champaign after qualifying for state in 2012. He missed the 2013 finals after suffering a broken leg earlier in the season.

"It feels good. I missed last year, so this is my senior year and it's all or nothing," Schultz said. "I knew (Ellingwood) was tough on top. I just had to stay off my back and if I was confident on my feet, I knew I could win."

At 138, Nick Aguirre (35-4) opened the bracket with an 11-2 major decision over Bolingbrook's Jamie Vega in the semifinals. He met Plainfield Central's Clayton Ledbetter in the finals and scored early for the 2-0 lead before Ledbetter scored one. Nick Aguirre led by as much as 5-1 before Ledbetter closed the gap at 5-3, but Aguirre walked away with the 7-3 win by decision.

"I was trying to get to some of my attacks and score as many points as possible, not do anything dumb," Aguirre said of his championship bout. "I just want to wrestle tough. The past two years I haven't got it done. I've been working real hard and it's my senior year so it's my time."

At 145, Balazi (25-15) lost his first-round match to Plainfield Central's Jordan Dinoffria, but battled his way back with a 5-2 win over Plainfield North and a 4-0 decision against Neuqua Valley. In the next round of wrestlebacks, he won a 7-1 decision over Yorkville's Alex Cichy to reach the critical third-place match. There, he pinned Plainfield East's Rob Michalowicz in 3:54 to advance to sectionals.

Victor Aguirre (14-22) also had a tough road in the 152-pound bracket, dropping an 8-0 major decision to top-seed Gunnar Hjorth of Yorkville, but he battled back by pinning Plainfield East in 3:54 to reach the third-place bout against Oswego East sophomore BJ Hill.

Hill had earlier won a 6-0 decision over Plainfield East, but lost a 4-2 decision to Hjorth. Hill pinned Bolingbrook in 2:47 to set up a match with Victor Aguirre, and the bout was scoreless into the third period. The match looked like it would head into overtime, but Victor Aguirre scored two points just before the final horn for the 2-0 win by decision. Hill finished fourth to end his season with a 17-12 record.

Moran improved to 20-9 with his sectional berth. He opened with a pinfall against Plainfield East in 5:36, but lost an 8-6 decision to Neuqua Valley to fall into the wrestlebacks. There, he won an 11-6 decision over Oswego's Arian Osmani to set up a match with Plainfield East's Zach Dixon for third. Moran wasted little time in the circle, pinning Dixon in 42 seconds.

Also for Oswego, senior CJ Brown made his way into the 220-pound third-place match. He had an early loss to Plainfield Central by a 10-6 decision. He won a 5-2 decision over Plainfield North in the first round of wrestlebacks, pinned Romeoville in 1:08 and held a 3-0 lead over Oswego East's Ryan Ingalls before winning the 3-2 decision to move into the third-place bout. Brown eventually lost by a 13-8 decision to Neuqua Valley to finish 26-14 on the season.

"From where we were last week going 0-5 in the third-place matches we went 2-1 and that's the difference right there," Cook said. "We wrestled tough. Both Kushtrim and Victor avenged losses from earlier in the year, and in the wrestlebacks CJ avenged an earlier loss against Oswego East. They all avenged losses to get to the point they were at, and that just shows their work ethic and determination."

Also for Oswego East, freshman Andrew Okayama finished fourth at 138 to end his season with a 27-10 record. He won a 5-0 decision over Plainfield East to start the day, but lost a 4-2 decision to Ledbetter to move into the wrestlebacks. There, he pinned Plainfield North in 5:57 after holding a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard. Okayama met Yorkville junior Brody Sharp in the finals and trailed 2-0 on the scoreboard in the third period, but tied the match with 10 seconds to go. After the one-minute overtime period and a 30-second tiebreaker period, the score was still deadlocked. But in the closing seconds of the second tiebreaker, Sharp scored one point to clinch the 3-2 win by ultimate tiebreaker and end Okayama's season.

At 170, freshman Kendall Elfstrum was wrestling with limited vision in the afternoon after sustaining a black eye that nearly swelled shut after his opening round win over Yorkville's Bryce Shewan. Elfstrum won a 10-8 overtime decision over Shewan, but lost an 8-6 decision to Plainfield North to move into the wrestlebacks.

Elfstrum battled back by pinning Plainfield East in 4:00, but met Shewan for a second time on the day and lost a 16-7 major decision to finish fourth and end his season with a 24-12 record.

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