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2022-23 Northwest Herald wrestling preview capsules

Fox Valley Conference

Burlington Central

Coach: Vince Govea (sixth season)

Last season: 11-17, 1-8 FVC

Top returners: Austin Lee, so. (120); Doug Phillips, jr. (126/132); Victoria Macias, so. (110); Soraya Walikonis, so. (120)

Top newcomers: Henry Deering, fr.; Zane Afeef, jr. (152); Jonah Cahvez, so. (160/170)

Worth noting: The Rockets are trying to build off of last season when they won their first-ever Fox Valley Conference dual. Govea has a large group of juniors and sophomores this season that will enter the varsity lineup and try to continue what they started last year after finishing close in a few duals. “They have a chance to make a name for themselves in the Fox,” Govea said. “Ever since we switched over, it’s been a struggle for us, wrestling against these bigger schools.” … Macias returns after finishing fourth in the 110-pound state tournament last season. Her, along with Walikonis who also qualified for the state meet, will try to advance further and compete more this year. … Lee and Phillips are expected to step up with the varsity roster after Lee was a state alternate last year. “We’re looking forward to seeing what some of our young kids can do,” Govea said. … Deering will make an impact as a freshman after placing at the IESA state meet as an eighth grader.


Coach: William Petersen (seventh season)

Last season: 3-15, 1-8 FVC

Top returner: Gabe Simpson, sr. (170)

Key newcomers: Noah Pechotta, so.; Adrian Magana, sr.

Worth noting: The Trojans will have a young roster with only four seniors and a majority of the wrestlers being sophomores and freshmen. Petersen is looking forward to his wrestlers getting more experience throughout the year. “We’re looking to see how we can progress individually and as a team throughout the season,” Petersen said. … Petersen thought his program lost its identity over the last three years during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s trying to help bring that back with leadership from coaches and his seniors. “We’re putting a lot of responsibility on the coaches and our few seniors that we have to spark that Cary-Grove pride back into the program,” Petersen said. … Petersen changed up the Trojans’ schedule this season for it to match its youth. “I’m hoping we can have kids want to be a part of the varsity lineup and want to make an impact so that we can compete as a team,” Petersen said. “I always want to get these kids where they want to be by the end of the season.”

Crystal Lake Central

Coach: Justen Lehr (15th season)

Last season: 15-12, 7-2 FVC

Top returners: Ben Butler, sr. (170); Jon Barrick, sr. (195); Leo Diaz, sr. (heavyweight); Payton Ramsey, so. (106); Greco Rendon, sr. (126); Ben Butler, sr. (152); Rene Gaunaurd, jr. (160), Cayden Parks, so. (170); Thomas Metz, sr. (182);

Key newcomers: Zach Carnrite, jr.; Dylan Ramsey, fr. (113)

Worth noting: Lehr will have a veteran group led by 11 seniors. The coach is excited to watch their leadership as they lead a group that has depth at each weight. “I think we have some depth in case something happens with injuries that we’ll be competitive all year,” Lehr said. … Butler, Barrick and Ramsey return after qualifying for state last season and will try to make their return to Champaign. … The Tigers had a chance to claim a share of the FVC title last season. They’ll compete with McHenry and Huntley again this season. … Lehr hasn’t set many goals for the Tigers. He knows his wrestlers are realistic and ready to compete. “A lot of our kids have their eyes set on being an individual state qualifier,” Lehr said. “As the team goes, I think it’s win another regional and have a chance, depending on the draw, to get down to state.”

Crystal Lake South

Coach: Ross Ryan (16th season)

Last season: 12-11 overall, 4-5 FVC

Top returners: Austin Laurie, sr. (138); Andy Buburija, jr. (285); Anthony Bradburn, sr. (145); KC Brichta-Bachar, jr. (195); Glenn Donohue, sr. (126)

Key newcomers: Yone Geinopolos, so. (113); Mason Schrafel, so. (120); Dom Ariola, jr. (170); Evan Thomas, jr. (152); Dan Zebrowski, jr. (160)

Worth noting: The Gators will have a lot to replace from last season’s team. Class 2A 182 state champion and 2022 Northwest Herald Boys Wrestler of the Year Shane Moran graduated along with Class 2A 113-pound third-place finisher Josh Glover. South will also need to replace seniors who earned a lot of mat time. … Ryan will look for his returners to lead the young squad. “The Gators will be leaning on Burburijia, Laurie, Donohue and Bradburn to lead and model the younger Gators breaking into the lineup for the first time,” Ryan said. … Buburija returns after winning a match at the Class 2A 285-pound state tournament last season.


Coach: Tim Hayes (eighth season)

Last season: 12-11, 5-4 FVC

Top returners: Porter Leith, sr. (195); Alec Rice, jr. (113/120)

Key newcomers: Teigen Moreno, fr. (220); Aiden Healey, fr. (106)

Worth noting: Leith and Rice came close to qualifying for state last season but both were a match short, losing in their sectional. Hayes is looking forward to motivation from each, especially from Leith since this will be his last chance as a senior. “It’s all or nothing for Porter,” Hayes said. “He’s our team leader and he’s going to have a good season.” … The Chargers will have a young roster but Hayes has been encouraged with what he’s seen in early practices. “They’re adapting quickly and they’re adapting well,” Hayes said. … D-C will compete in more girls tournaments as Hayes tries to grow the program. “It’ll help promote the sport a little more,” Hayes said.


Coach: Matthew Todd (first season)

Last season: 6-10, 3-6 FVC

Top returners: Niko Skoulikaris, sr. (170); Dimitri Skoulikaris, sr. (182/195/220); Yani Nikolov, sr.; Chandler Jernigan, sr. (195); Tyler Boyd, sr. (182); Joey Ochoa, jr. (285)

Key newcomers: Samuel Beamon, so.; Cynthia Lieu, so.; Michael Brannigan, fr.; Andrew Salmieri, fr.; Chris Napiorkowski, so.; Braeden Tiedt, so.; Logan Campbell, jr.

Worth noting: Todd takes over the program after spending the last five seasons as an assistant. The coach has seen an excitement from the wrestlers about the start of a new identity within the program. “It’s exciting to see all the kids wanting to come out, wanting to learn and get better,” Todd said. … Seventy wrestlers have come out for the team, the most for Hampshire since Todd has been with the program. Todd has split the room into two parts because of the high numbers, one for progression and the other for conditioning and drilling. “We’re seeing the difference in that when we ask our kids for feedback,” Todd said. “A lot of the feedback is the kids are happy to come to practice and continue to improve. They want to see the improvement of what they’re putting into the room out in competition.” … Dimitri Skoulikaris will try to advance farther at the state tournament after losing both of his matches in the Class 3A 170-pound tournament. … Lieu joins the team after winning a state championship in powerlifting.


Coach: B.J. Bertelsman (11th season)

Last season: 18-6, 9-0 FVC

Top returners: Markos Mihalopoulos, jr. (285); Adam Pena, sr. (120); Alessio Pezzela, jr. (145); Ben Wiley, sr. (195)

Worth noting: The Red Raiders have won five of the last six FVC titles and won five straight regionals. … Bertelsman is changing the culture within the program after he thought it went away from where it used to be. He wants to improve upon the way the Red Raiders travel, present themselves, their work ethic and has already seen big change. “We’re trying to change the culture a little bit,” Bertelsman said. “We kind of got away from our core stuff that we’ve been for years. We want to get back to what got us to the top of the hill in the first place. There’s going to be a lot of changes.” … Huntley has 94 total wrestlers within the program, including 20 girl wrestlers. The Red Raiders have the biggest girls team in the area and will add a new head coach next season after Bertelsman will coach both teams this season. … Mihalopoulos returns after losing both of his matches in the Class 3A 285 tournament. … Bertelsman wants to compete better at tournaments than Huntley did last season and will get a chance to compete in the Donnybrook Tournament held in Iowa at the beginning of December.


Coach: Gary Conrad (11th season)

Last season: 5-16, 3-6 FVC

Top returners: Dominic Ducato, sr. (106); James Wright, sr. (126); Billy Albrecht, sr.

Key newcomers: Ben Arbotante, fr.; Liam Bland, so. (285)

Worth noting: Ducato and Wright both return after making state tournament appearances last season. Ducato won a match in the Class 3A 106 tournament before losing his next two and Wright finished 2-2 in the 126 tournament. Both will try to cap off their high school careers with state titles. … Conrad changed up the Jacobs’ practice format, moving to a three-tier system where the least-experienced wrestlers compete in the lowest tier while the most-experienced practice in the highest. “We’re able to accommodate to all levels and not hinder our lower guys by spending too much time with our good guys and vice versa,” Conrad said. … The Golden Eagles will have plenty of new faces with little experience as the team is set to compete in tough tournaments like Barrington’s and the Dvorak. “They’re going to get a first-class taste of real competition this year,” Conrad said.


Coach: Daniel Rohman (first season)

Last season: 21-1, 8-1 FVC

Top returners: Chris Moore, sr. (170); Ruben Melgarejo, sr. (152); Pedro Jimenez, jr. (126); Jimmy Norris, sr. (113); Jesse Saavedra, jr.

Key newcomers: Ariel Montes, fr.; Johan Lopez, so.; Miles Wagner, fr.

Worth noting: Rohman takes over the program after serving as a longtime assistant. He inherits a program with plenty of returning talent looking to make deep postseason runs. “We’ve got a pretty solid core group that put in a lot of time and effort and we’re just really excited to see all that time and effort come into fruition this season,” Rohman said. … Moore will move up to 170 after finishing runner-up in last season’s Class 3A 160 state tournament. … Jimenez and Melgarejo both return after qualifying for state last season. … Moore, Norris and Saavedra each competed at nationals at Fargo this summer. … McHenry’s lone loss of the season last year came against Huntley, leaving the Warriors a loss shy of the FVC title. Rohman wants his team to challenge for a FVC title as well as regional and sectional titles.

Prairie Ridge

Coach: Justin Peete (second season)

Last season: 12-6, 4-5 FVC

Top returners: Tyler Evans, sr. (120); Xander York, jr. (138); Jake Lowitski, so. (106); Walter Pollack, so. (220); Yarik Clark, sr. (285); Frank Canania, jr.

Top newcomer: Christian Piece, 113, fr.

Worth noting: The Wolves will have a mix of returning talent after losing one senior to graduation and will add new wrestlers this season. “We’re super excited to see them grow from that and then we have a lot of new wrestlers as well, just excited to see them grow and build into our program,” Peete said. … Evans returns after competing in the Class 2A 120 state tournament where he won a few matches in the blood round. … Prairie Ridge will have 35 wrestlers this season, which allows Peete and his coaches to work with groups of wrestlers. “We’re able to build any sort of wrestler from the ground up,” Peete said. … The Wolves will try to compete for a FVC title after battling some injuries last year.

Kishwaukee River Conference


Coach: David Schultz (seventh season)

Last season: 19-5, 5-0 KRC

Top returners: Gabe Sanchez, sr. (182); Marques Merida, sr. (126); Rylie Vest, jr. (220)

Key newcomer: Aidan Gomez, sr.

Worth noting: The Hornets lost a lot of experience from last season’s team that finished fourth in the Class 1A Dual Team state tournament and won the KRC. Although some members from last season’s team return, Schultz wants this season’s team to find its own identity. “We don’t want to rest on the accomplishments of last year’s group,” Schultz said. “That season’s over, that team is a different team now. While some of those guys might have the same types of goals in their minds, it’s one of those that we move forward as a new group and earn the right to participate in those types of things. Nothing is going to be handed to us, we have to put in some work if we want to make it back.” … Sanchez and Merida will try to advance further in the postseason after falling a few matches short of qualifying for the state meet. … Schultz has a lot of newcomers and is still waiting to see who settles where but is impressed from what he’s seen from Gomez.


Coach: James Sylvanus (first season)

Last season: 1-12, 0-5 KRC

Top returners: Landon Johnson, so. (138); Jacob Calhoun, jr. (132); CJ Ameachi, so. (195); Nick Leight Jr., jr. (145)

Key newcomers: Kainoa Ancog, fr.; Damon Green, sr.; Deegan Turner, so.; Jett Hartmann, so.

Worth noting: Skyhawk alumnus Sylvanus takes over the program after serving as a coach for Johnsburg Junior High. The coach has seen a large growth with 27 wrestlers registered for the high school team and 100 wrestlers combined with the high school and junior high programs. “This is very exciting to see,” Sylvanus said. … Johnson, Ameachi and Leight Jr. are the lone returners from last season’s team. Sylvanus is looking for their leadership with a group that only has two seniors. “Those three I’m excited to see what they do and I’m excited about their leadership skills, just being a good point of reference for the 24 other kids who joined this year,” Sylvanus said. … Ancog performed well for Sylvanus as an eighth grader last season and should transition well to high school. … Sylvanus wants to send at least two wrestlers to the state meet, finish above .500 in dual meets and maintain as many wrestlers by the end of the season as possible.


Coach: Tim Keefer (17th season)

Last season: 15-8, 4-1 KRC

Top returners: Robel Addis, sr. (120); Logan Miller, sr. (132); Hunter Smith, sr. (195); Camden Weirich, sr. (120); Eddie Solis, sr. (215); Mason Lampe, jr. (140);

Key newcomers: Gavin Prudlick, so.; Connor Sacco, fr.

Worth noting: Marengo will have six seniors lead a team that features seven freshmen. Keefer has been encouraged by what he’s seen in the first couple weeks of practice and their leadership. “We’ve got a lot of leaders who are training the right way and it’s going to pay off in the long run,” Keefer said. … Marengo will try to compete for a KRC title after falling to the Hornets last season. Harvard also bested Marengo in the Class 1A Princeton Sectional last season. … Sacco will enter the lineup after placing at last season’s IESA state meet.


Coach: Tony Nelson (eighth season)

Last season: 12-17, 2-3 KRC

Top returners: Emmett Nelson, so. (126); Clay Madula, so. (113/120); Brody Rudkin, jr. (145); Kristian Gersch, so. (113/120); Dane Sorensen, so. (132); Nate Madula, sr. (138); Issac Jones, so. (152); Alex Reyna, jr. (182/195)

Key newcomers: Kyan Gunderson, so. (106); Colin Krause, so. (220)

Worth noting: The Rockets return two state qualifiers and five sectional qualifiers from last season’s team. Nelson thinks his team will gather a lot of points at tournaments and invitationals but might need to forfeit some weights at duals. “It’s a tough road for us,” Nelson said. “We’re putting guys on the podium consistently, we do a really good job of developing talent, but the numbers have been an issue with us.” … Emmett Nelson returns after finishing runner-up in the Class 1A 113 state tournament while Madula lost both of his matches in the Class 1A 106 state tournament. Tony Nelson is excited for his sophomores to take their next step. “To have them all here right now is exciting,” Tony Nelson said. “They’re all friends on and off the mat, but in the practice room, they push each other and wrestle hard.” … Emmett Nelson, Reyna and Gunderson all competed at nationals over the summer. Tony Nelson is excited for their growth to show. “We put in a lot of work,” Tony Nelson said. “I think it’s going to pay off.”


Coach: Eric Hunt (first season)

Last season: 10-4 overall, 3-2 KRC

Top returners: Jovanni Gonzalez, sr. (152); Miriam Arellano, sr. (132); Daniel Bychowski, jr. (120); Zach Canaday, jr. (170); Blake O’Leary, jr. (126)

Key newcomers: Kaden Sandoval, sr. (160); Steven Colvin, sr. (195); Logan Wisner, fr. (138); Taqiuldin Baker, (106); Ayden Dobler, fr. (145)

Worth noting: Hunt is literally beginning with a clean start, having cleaned and reorganized Woodstock’s wrestling room as a completely new coaching staff took over. He’s seen interest from wrestlers who didn’t compete last season and parents interested in the new style of wrestling. “They’re all slowly tiptoeing toward trying to buy into the new program and the new system,” Hunt said. … Hunt will have a more college approach with his program, working with each individual and their style. He’ll incorporate more video and date to help each wrestler improve. “I’m building a strong foundation and working on having extreme attention to each individual wrestler,” Hunt said. “With a small program, I can do that.” … The new coach doubled the team’s old schedule, adding more 3A opponents to help the Blue Streaks gain experience and compete to be one of the best teams in the McHenry County area. “Right now I feel like our schedule has gotten away from competitive duals and gone to smaller schools that maybe we can win against but aren’t challenging us,” Hunt said. … Gonzalez returns as the only four-year wrestler as he’ll try to lead a group of newcomers.

Woodstock North

Coach: Tim Creighton (eighth season)

Last season: 6-12, 1-4 KRC

Top returners: Landan Creighton, jr. (152); Kaden Combs, jr. (182)

Key newcomers: Doug Zimmerman, jr. (126/132); Ethan Wood, so. (113/120)

Worth noting: Combs returns as one of the Thunders’ two sectional qualifiers last season. The junior lost in his second-round matchup in the Class 2A Deerfield Sectional before winning a few matches in the blood round. … The Thunder will try to qualify a wrestler for the state meet for the first time since 2019. … Zimmerman and Wood join the mix this season as the Thunder look for more conference success this season. Woodstock North’s lone KRC dual win last season came against Johnsburg.


Marian Central

Coach: Jordan Blanton and Ryan Prater (first season)

Last season: 3-6

Top returners: Charlie Fitzgerald, sr. (120); Max Estacio jr. (152); Kaden Harman, sr. (113); Vance Williams, so. (132); Ray Hughes, sr. (285); Hunter Birkhoff, sr. (195)

Key newcomers: Austin Hagevold, fr. (106); Ethan Struck, sr. (152); Andrew Alvarado, so. (120)

Worth noting: Blanton and Prater take over the Hurricanes program as co-coaches. The two have spent their first weeks of practices of changing the culture and building upon the talent they have. “We’re trying to build a culture and program at Marian Central, to build on the foundation that they have but to reach new heights, national-level pedigree,” Blanton said. “We have super high goals.” … Harman and Williams return after competing at the state meet last season while Davidson and Fitzgerald both have state experience. … Struck and Alvarado both transferred into the program after competing at the state meet last season. Struck transferred from Marengo and Alvarado came from IC Catholic. … The Hurricanes will compete in more tournaments than duals this season, including four national tournaments. “We’re putting ourselves in the line of fire all season long,” Blanton said. … The Hurricanes’ season was derailed last season because of injuries. Blanton wants his wrestlers to control what they can control, including taking care of their bodies and grades. “Doing everything at a high level, the Marian Central standard,” Blanton said. “Not just kind of hoping or expecting things are going to go your way.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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