Buffalo Grove beats the field at its own Rex Lewis Invite

Bison win Rex Lewis for the first time

By Mike Garofola for the IWCOA

In a wrestling program that has produced state champions such as Lindsey Durlacher, Nick Blackshaw, and Kyle Czarnecki, Buffalo Grove has never in its history been able to lift the championship trophy at its own Rex Lewis Invite.

Rex Lewis, a wonderful man who gave so much of his time to so many activities in the school —including becoming president of the first Bison Booster Club in 1973 — became a big fan of the sport of wrestling as all four of his sons competed while at Buffalo Grove.

The first Rex Lewis tournament was held in 1976, and at that time it was the first dual meet tournament in the state of Illinois. It became an individual event in 1992.

So from the very beginning in 1976 until Saturday afternoon in the Buffalo Grove gymnasium, not one Bison team had claimed the top prize until George Beres’ club did so.

During a day when several teams took turns atop the leader board, it was the Bison who took control for good when senior Caden Watson pinned his man in the 195-pound final to officially close out the field for good.

Watson and his teammates finished with 166.5 overall points, with last year’s champion Schaumburg chasing 12 points and ending the day in second place with 154.5 points.

Elk Grove (146.5), Morris (140.0) and St. Patrick (136.0) rounded out the top five, each of which found themselves on top of the field at one time or another.

“It’s just a great feeling to win our own tournament, and it sounds like for the first time ever in program history,” said an elated Watson.

“It was a real team effort, which is something you need in order to win a tournament championship, so it’s something we should all be very proud of.”

“Last year we ended way down the list at this tournament, and looking back, we’ve never been very close to the top 2-3 teams,” began Bison head coach George Beres.

“Just last night we lost to Hersey in a dual. But the guys came in here today so focused on putting together a real team effort, and that’s exactly what they did.

“When we came in last year as a new coaching staff, it was clear we needed everyone to buy into what we were selling – and the boys have done just that with zero-hour workouts, guys making the commitment to train at great clubs outside of high school, and just dedicating themselves to the program and their teammates.

“Last week we beat fantastic programs like Barrington and Huntley to win our own jayvee tournament. That really provided the inspiration for the rest of the guys who saw our jayvee put a great effort in to finish on top of seventeen other teams.”

Watson appreciated the lesson his boys can learn from winning Saturday’s tournament.

“This is something we can build from, but everyone knows there is a lot of work and wrestling ahead of us. But we can all now see the hard work will pay off if we continue to put the work in,” Watson said.

Rex Lewis championship match breakdowns:

106 – Owen Sater, Morris 

Morris sophomore Owen Sater got the final round off and running following his 3-1 decision over top seed Daniel Goodwin of St. Patrick to win the 106-pound crown.

Sater (13-1) who came in as the No. 3 seed would start down in the second period, earn one point for his escape then add to his lead later on before conceding an escape to Goodwin, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 man in 2A at 106.

“(Goodwin) was a real tough opponent,” Goodwin said, “So it was important to wrestle smart, and to stay cool and calm, especially in that third period when I knew if I could ride him out that I would win the match,”

Sater did indeed ride out Goodwin for the last two minutes before time.

Sater, a sectional qualifier a year ago with a 16-7 record despite missing time to a concussion, opened his day with a pin at 2:27, then sent off No. 2 Austin Phelps from Schaumburg in their semifinal with yet another pin at 3:15. That booked his place in the finals opposite Goodwin, who is now 12-1 on the season.

Sam Sikorsky (Geneva, 13-5) majored Austin Phelps (Schaumburg, 11-3) in the third place match, and Ermuun Urtanasan (Glenbrook South, 10-3) earned fifth place honors due to a forfeit.

113 – Brock Claypool, Morris

Brock Claypool made quick work of all three of his opponents to easily win the 113-pound title.

The Morris freshman needed just over three minutes to finish off the competition, including his super-quick pin of No. 2 seed Bryce Mensik (Lake Park, 11-3) in 39 seconds to move his overall record to a sparkling 14-0.

Claypool won by fall at 0:50 in his quarterfinal match, then won by fall at 1:50 in his semifinal match against Geneva’s Andrew Hosman. Mensik also used a pair of pins to reach the finals, with a fall at 4:58 in his semifinal against Glenbrook North’s Ayaan Rizwan.

Rizwan (10-3)) finished his day on a high note when he recorded a 16-1 technical fall result over Hosman to earn third-place honors, while Savion Essiet (Romeoville) grabbed fifth place after his fall at 3:05 against Dawson Horvath from Buffalo Grove.

120 – Brian Farley, Romeoville

Romeoville senior Brian Farley (10-0) gave his club its lone title of the day following his 5-1 decision over St. Patrick sophomore Calvin Stahl (11-2) in a contest of the top two seeds in this weight division.

“It’s nice to win here, but I could have been much more aggressive than I was in my final, especially in the second period after I got that escape to go up 3-0,” admitted Farley, who was a state qualifier a year ago, finishing up at 23-7.

“My first two guys at state ended up state medal winners (Teddy Flores, Damian Recendez), but even though I went 0-2 there, the experience of getting downstate will really help me this year,” said Farley, ranked No. 4 in the latest state polls.

Trent Tono (12-2) from Niles North won third place via a forfeit, while Bryan Sanchez (Schaumburg) pinned Ammar Khan from Glenbrook South for fifth place.

126 – Grant Madl, Elk Grove

Grant Madl could have easily been the OWA choice on the day after his dominating effort en route to his second consecutive Rex Lewis title.

The Elk Grove senior opened with a fall at 1:59, followed by a 19-3 tech-fall before closing out his championship day with an impressive 10-0 major of Jaxon Jorgensen from Mt. Carmel.

“There is no doubt three straight blood-round losses at sectionals has motivated me to do whatever it takes to get downstate,” fifth-ranked Madl said. “I feel if I continue to work hard, stay the course in my training at school, and Izzy Style, while staying healthy,  there’s no doubt I’ll be on the podium in Champaign.”

Madl, now 15-1, who competed at Preseason Nationals and Beat the Streets, trains six, and sometimes seven days a week. He has impressed Elk Grove coach Dan Vargas with his commitment to excellence.

“Grant has beaten No. 7 Drew Fifield, and No. 8 Zev Koransky (OPRF) and recently lost to the No. 1 guy in 2A (Josh Vasquez) from Montini in overtime at the Neuqua Valley Invite for his only loss,” Vargas said. “You can see from his increased extra time in and out of the room has prepared him for his senior year.”

Cameron Engels (Bartlett, 11-4) majored Michael Shick (Glenbrook South, 10-4) in the third place match, and Sergio Hernandez (Lake Park, 14-4) came back to pin Daniel Derevlyak (Palatine) for fifth place overall.

132 – Carter Skoff, Morris

The third and final individual title for Morris came from top-seeded Carter Skoff, who is now 13-1 on the season following his pin of Justin Cortes-Apolinar of Schaumburg.

The Morris junior lost in his blood-round match a year ago at Burlington Central and finished up with a 30-16 record. He needed just 4:40 spanning three victories to pin his way to the title.

“I was in a tough regional last year at (120) but it was still a little disappointing not advancing into sectionals,” Skoff said.

“But not qualifying really helped push me to put in a lot of time during the offseason, getting a lot of extra time on the mat and competing at tournaments against really good competition. So I feel like I’m ready this year to get downstate.”

Romeoville junior Alan Amaya finished third after his 6-5 decision over JR Leach (Lake Park) and Dulguun Nyamdavaa (Maine North, 10-2) finished fifth after his 16-3 major decision victory over David Sartoev (9-4) from Buffalo Grove.

138 – Rocco Fontela, Schaumburg

Schaumburg senior Rocco Fontela proved too much for the rest of his opponents at 138 by recording a pair of pins on each side of a 5-0 win in his semifinal to capture his first major of the season.

“I felt good out there today. I’m bigger, stronger, and have a better understanding of what I need to do in order to get downstate after falling short last year,” opined Fontela, now 10-4 after his pin at 5:27 over No. 3 seed Aiden Fladeland (10-3) from Glenbrook South.

After helping his club win the Streamwood regional last season with a regional title of his own, Fontela lost in the blood round at the Conant sectional to dash his hopes of a trip to Champaign.

“It didn’t feel good after my 6-5 loss at sectionals, so I made the decision to put in the extra work during the offseason so it wouldn’t happen again,” said Fontela.

Bartlett junior Nick Barton (11-6) recorded a 10-3 decision over Rodrigo Gonzalez of Romeoville for third place honors, and Maxwell Turner (Buffalo Grove) pinned Damari Miller (Larkin, 10-4) for fifth place.

144 – Niko Karamaniolas, St. Patrick

Niko Karamaniolas got off to a flying start on Saturday, needing just 46 seconds to advance into the semifinals at 144.

However, once there the St. Patrick senior kept the Shamrocks’ faithful on the edge of their collective seats. It began with a thrilling 6-4 sudden death victory over state-ranked Tyler Semlar of Morris.

Karamaniolas then made sure the stress level stayed at its peak during his exciting 9-8 decision in the 144-pound final with No. 1 seed Callen Kirchner of Schaumburg. Two thrilling wins helped Karamaniolas not only win his second straight Rex Lewis title, but also earn OWA honors at the end of the day.

“My semifinal and final were such tough matches against two really great guys,” began Karamaniolas (8-1) who came into the tournament as the No. 6-rated man in 2A at 144.

“Our weight class was really tough. I was able to get my semifinal back to 4-4 with a third period takedown, and get another in overtime, which felt really good.

St. Patrick coach Dominic Angelo was happy to see his senior win Saturday’s title.

“Niko lost to the Vernon Hills kid (Jack McGowean) in the semi’s last year at sectionals, so to get past him in his first match was big,” Angelo said.

“And Semlar beat him in late October at the BTS Preseason tournament, so I told him at the start of the day that he needed to be in state-tournament mode right from the start.”

Karamaniolas cut Kirchner’s lead to 4-3 with a reversal to start the third period but Kirchner —No. 4 in 3A at 144 — went ahead at 7-3 to take over the contest.

“I never felt out of the match, but I also knew I had to do something soon to help give me a chance,” admitted Karamaniolas.

“Niko was able to respond by staying composed, and trusting his training,” Angelo said, “I knew from that and his body language, good things were about to happen for him in that final.”

The final, frantic 30 seconds saw Karamaniolas reverse Kirchner to make it 7-5. He cut Kirchner to make it 8-5; plenty of pace and purpose saw Karamaniolas cut his deficit to 8-7 before his double sent Kirchner to his back just before the final buzzer for the win. 

“Niko had a phenomenal day in what I felt was the deepest weight class of the tournament,” Angelo said. “When I saw the brackets, we knew it would not be an easy day at all.”

Tyler Semlar (13-2) majored Andrew Haritos (Glenbrook South, 12-3) for third place, and Lake Park senior Vince Merola (10-3) won by forfeit for fifth place.

150 – Gavin Hinkle, Schaumburg

Schaumburg’s unseeded Gavin Hinkle sent off the number three- and four-seeds and then ended the hopes of the top-seed, Lake Park’s Chase Hofstetter, with a hard-fought 6-4 decision to win the crown at 150.

Hinkle (6-5), who like teammate Rocco Fontela, fell short in the blood round at sectionals, saw his sophomore season end with a very respectable 25-15 record, but was unable to get a ticket to Champaign.

“Yeah, it was disappointing not getting downstate, but I learned from last year and have carried it into this year that you have to go out and stay composed and just grind out those tough matches if you want to win,” Hinkle said.

Hinkle found himself chasing a 4-0 advantage built by Hofstetter (9-5) midway through the first period, but got back level at 4-4 with a minute before time. The Saxons junior went ahead for good with 30 seconds remaining and would stay busy with a hard ride to ensure victory.

Buffalo Grove’s Sonny Tugs (6-4) won 2-1 in a tiebreaker over Palatine’s Alan Allende in the third place match and Glenbrook South’s Ilan Ruderman (9-3) pinned St. Patrick’s Sebastian Bruno in 3:33 for fifth place.

157 – Van Grasser, St. Patrick

Van Grasser went out early in his 157 final with Elk Grove’s Anthony Macina and never looked back as the St. Patrick sophomore claimed the second title for the Shamrocks with a pin at 4:38.

After a scoreless first period, Grasser (13-4), who earlier came back from a 5-0 first period deficit to defeat the Geneva’s top-seed Peyton Marzen in the semifinals, reversed Macina (11-7) midway through the third period to go up 6-2 in advance of his early third period pin.

“Van’s performances have gotten better each week, in three tournaments he’s gone from fifth, to fourth, to the top of the podium,” said the proud Shamrocks head coach, Dominic Angelo.

“He was really tested in his semifinal, getting caught on his back, and eventually finding himself down 7-2 heading into the third period. He kept pushing the pace, which saw him outscoring his opponent (9-1) in the third period to win 11-8 to move on.”

“His final wasn’t picture perfect, but again, he stayed level headed, kept the pace high, and just like the semifinals, it was just a matter of time until dominated for the pin, and title,” added Angelo.

“(His) skill has visually improved with each week and he’s not even at 20 percent of his full potential, but he did well when tested in his last two matches.”

Marzen (15-4) pinned Schaumburg’s Kolin Little (9-6) in 0:44 to take third place and Glenbrook South’s Henry Downing (13-3) won by fall in 5:46 over Morris’ Andrew Paull (11-5) to finish fifth.

165 – Chris Chi, Buffalo Grove

Chris Chi has been a pleasant surprise in the Buffalo Grove room, who welcomed back the junior after a year away from the sport.

Chi (9-2) began his successful journey to the 165 title with a pin at 1:40, then got wins by technical fall over his next two opponents before recording a pin at 1:57 over the top-seed, Vernon Hills’ Ilia Dvoriannikov (5-1), a 2022 2A state qualifier, to capture the first of two titles on the day for the Bison.

“I’m just trying to work as hard as I can in the room with my partners, and coaching staff, and to be the very best that I can,” said Chi, who only began in the sport in seventh grade.

“Chris is easily one of the hardest workers in the room, day in and day out, he trains the same way every morning in zero hour, then in P.E. lifting class,” Bison coach George Beres said.

“One of the most impressive things about Chris is after being away for a year, his teammates have looked to him as one of our leaders, and the guy who will go out and compete full speed, full intensity for six minutes. The best thing about him is he is just a phenomenal young man.”

Chi turned this weight class upside-down, as the top two seeds, Dvoriannikov and Geneva’s Cam McGoarty, didn’t meet in the final.

Lake Park’s Max Mohapp (6-3) pinned McGoarty (12-7) in 4:17 in the third-place match and Morris’ Ian Wills (8-8) won by fall in 2:55 over Glenbrook South’s Drew Philbrick (9-6) for fifth.

175 – Benny Schlosser, Elk Grove

Benny Schlosser found himself in a whole lot of trouble in his 175-pound final with the No. 2 seed, Mason Gougis, when he trailed the Romeoville senior by a near-insurmountable 10-2 deficit with one minute left in the third period.

However, the Elk Grove senior found his chance to strike and moments later, he would stun his opponent with a pin at 5:11 to claim the second of three championship trophies for the Grenadiers.

“I wasn’t able to do much of anything for most of the match, but it turned out to be a happy ending for me,” said an elated Schlosser, who is now 12-3 on the season.

“I knew I had to do something so I just ‘jacked-him-up and felt the opening to strike,” added Schlosser, who conceded two straight takedowns to begin the third period to fall far behind Gougis (7-3), who was a state qualifier and a Lewis Invite champ a year ago.

Glenbrook North’s Kieran O’Sullivan (9-4) was a winner by fall in 1:18 over St. Patrick’s Devin Nichol (12-7) in the third-place match and Niles North’s Dionisi Ballas (14-3) pinned Buffalo Grove’s Jaime Garay in 5:22 to claim fifth place.

190 – Caden Watson, Buffalo Grove

You would be hard pressed to believe after first glance that Caden Watson competes at 190 as the Buffalo Grove senior has the size and muscle of a much larger wrestler.

All of that strength, now combined with a lot more technique, helped lead Watson to pin his way into the 190-pound final in his home gym, where he overwhelmed Palatine’s Trey Wildlowski with a win by technical fall at 5:14.

“It feels great to win this title and the team title in our home gym, it proves that hard work, commitment and dedication to the sport eventually pays off,” said Watson, who has high hopes of attending West Point next fall.

“I always felt I was one of the strongest guys out there, but I found out how important technique really was. So I’ve spent a lot of time improving that part of my game but I also know there’s a lot of work ahead of me if I want to continue to have success,” added Watson, now 10-1 with his lone defeat to Prospect’s top-rated Jaxon Penovich.

“Jaxon is at a whole other level, but I’ll keep working to put myself in position to get downstate, then see what happens when I get there,.” Watson said.

Glenbrook South’s Nathan Crecan (8-2), who was unseeded, beat the top-seed, Larkin’s Joshua Castillo (10-4) 2-1 to take third place. And the  No. 2 seed, Elk Grove’s Mo Burt (5-1), also won a 2-1 decision to capture fifth place over Bartlett’s James Smrha (10-5).

215 – Joe Pettit, Geneva

Geneva senior Joe Pettit followed in the footsteps of his friend, John Schmidt, by lifting a Rex Lewis championship crown one year after his former teammate collected the top prize at 195.

“John was a great partner and friend in the room, and he’s having a great year at Harper Community College right now, so I am looking forward to training with him during our holiday break,” said Pettit, who was third at 120 last season in the Lewis Invite and later dropped his state opener to the eventual 3A champion, Yorkville’s Ben Alvarez.

Pettit, who reminded that he lost to Elk Grove’s Dylan Berkowitz in his sectional semifinal last season, showed little mercy when meeting the top-seeded Berkowitz in his 215 final by recording a pin at just 1:36.

“I wanted to be bigger and stronger for my senior year, so I spent a lot of time doing so during the offseason to get myself downstate once again and get on the podium,” said Pettit, who also plays football.

Pettit (15-2) pinned the No. 2-seed, and a 2022 state qualifier, St. Patrick’s Aiden Gomez, to advance into his final with Berkowitz (13-3), who pinned his way into the last match in lightning speed.

Last year, Schmidt would be joined by Dylan Konkey (160) atop the podium in the event. Both Schmidt, and Joey Sikorsky continue to wrestle on the collegiate level at Harper Community College, while Konkey, and Maguire Hoeksman are doing the same at Carthage College.

Niles North’s Ahmad Musa (13-2) won 3-1 in sudden victory over Gomez (12-6) for third place. St. Patrick’s Jack Clancy (4-1) took fifth place following his pin of Lake Park’s Mathias Ewuoso (10-5) at 5:10.

285 – Mikey Milovich, Elk Grove

It appears as though Mikey Milovich is no longer a surprise in the heavyweight class this season.

The Elk Grove junior ran his record  to 16-0 after dominating his competition with a trio of pins on his way to his first Rex Lewis title.

“This season it’s all about staying cool, calm and composed, using what my speed and quickness to my advantage, while working as hard as I can taking in everything my coaches, Dan Vargas and Steve Polley, throw at me,” said Milovich following his pin in 3:36 over Buffalo Grove senior John Saracco (6-6) in the 285 final.

“Coach (Vargas) and I have a lot of talks in the room about how to approach each match, and those talks have really helped me so much this year. If I stay humble and do the work, I can get myself downstate for sure,” added Milovich, who was an offensive lineman for the Grenadiers in the fall and a recent champion at Neuqua Valley.

Milovich advanced to the Conant Sectional last season, and ended with a 23-11 overall record.

Romeoville’s Jamir Thomas (7-4) pinned Palatine’s Parker Brault (6-2) in 2:48 to claim third place. And Maine East’s Victor Nitchev (9-3) beat Niles North’s Julius Caban (7-5) 6-4 in sudden victory for fifth.

Championship matches for Buffalo Grove’s Rex Lewis Invite

106 – Owen Sater (Morris) D 3-1 Daniel Goodwin (St. Patrick)

113 – Brock Claypool (Morris) F 0:39 Bryce Mensik (Lake Park)

120 – Brian Farley (Romeoville) D 5-1 Calvin Stahl (St. Patrick)

126 – Grant Madl (Elk Grove) MD 10-0 Jaxon Jorgensen (Mount Carmel)

132 – Carter Skoff (Morris) F 1:50 Justin Cortes-Apolinar (Schaumburg)

138 – Rocco Fontela (Schaumburg) F 5:27 Aiden Fladeland (Glenbrook North)

144 – Nikolas Karamaniolas (St. Patrick) D 9-8 Callen Kirchner (Schaumburg)

150 – Gavin Hinkle (Schaumburg) D 6-4 Chase Hofstetter (Lake Park)

157 – Van Grasser (St. Patrick) F 4:38 Anthony Macina (Elk Grove)

165 – Chris Chi (Buffalo Grove) F 1:57 Ilia Dvoriannikov (Vernon Hills)

175 – Benny Schlosser (Elk Grove) F 5:11 Mason Gougis (Romeoville)

190 – Caden Watson (Buffalo Grove) TF 5:14 Trey Wildlowski (Palatine)

215 – Joe Pettit (Geneva) F 1:36 Dylan Berkowitz (Elk Grove)

285 – Mikey Milovich (Elk Grove) F 3:36 John Saracco (Buffalo Grove)

Team standings for Buffalo Grove’s Rex Lewis Invite

1. Buffalo Grove (166.5),  2. Schaumburg (154.5), 3. Elk Grove (146.5) 4. Morris (140), 5. St. Patrick (136), 6. Lake Park (131), 7. Romeoville (127.5), 8. Glenbrook South (124.5), 9. Geneva (97), 10. Glenbrook North (79), 11. Bartlett (78), 12. Palatine (71), 13. Niles North (70.5), 14. Mount Carmel (37), 15. Vernon Hills (33), 16. Larkin (31), 17. Maine East (29).

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