Stevenson wins 3rd straight team title at Leyden

By Bobby Narang for the IWCOA

FRANKLIN PARK – Stevenson wanted to savor its achievement on Saturday afternoon.
The Patriots squeezed out an impressive victory in the 14-team 2024 Randy Conrad Invite held at East Leyden High Sch 
Well after the meet had ended – with nearly every wrestler gone and the gym nearly empty – the Patriots were in deep discussion at the opposite end of the gymnasium, away from the entrance and the main scoring table.
Stevenson wrestling coach Shane Cook had his team in a tight circle, letting his wrestlers hear all the positives from their performance.
The Patriots pulled away late in the event with several outstanding performances, finishing in first place with 208 points to nudge past Notre Dame (198). De La Salle placed third with 131.5 points, Conant snared fourth place with 120 points, and Harlem ended in fifth with 112 points.
“We have a lot of guys who are putting it together at the right time,” Cook said. “Notre Dame is a strong Class 2A team. We knew we were going to be challenged by them all day long. Going into the final round, it was back and forth. The difference, and we always preach to our guys, is to be hungry for bonus points. In the final round, we had eight pins. That’s plus-16 points, so when you end up winning by 10 points, those pins really matter. I’m excited for the guys being aggressive and going after those bonus points.”
Host Leyden took sixth with 99 points, Harvard finished seventh with 86.5 points, Richards tallied 71.5 points for eighth, while Maine East (65.5) and Burlington Central (63.5) took ninth and 10th, respectively.
Stevenson has won the invite for three straight seasons, and also captured the team title in 2019 and 2020. 
The Patriots got individual titles Saturday from Marcelo Cantu (126), Andrew Chamkin (138) and Val Vihrov (144), and a second-place finish from Mikey Polyakov (120) among their finalists.
Stevenson also went 5-for-6 on the third-place mat, getting third-place finishes from Evan Mishels (106), Ayush Bajaj (113), Tyler Reiff (150), Erick Wade (157), and Anthony Adams (215). Themba Sitshela (165) placed fourth, Andrew Timmons (285) was fifth, and Richie Gueorguiev (190) placed sixth.
“Every year we’re blessed to have kids come to our program and work hard and commit their lives to this,” Cook said. “We have a lot of guys in this group that are looking to put things together in the last month for the state tournament series and try and achieve their goals.”
Second-place Notre Dame was led by individual champions John Sheehy (113), Jim Amatore (190) and Scott Cook (285), and second-placers Ray Long (106), Tim Bridges (144), Sean Adams (175), and Jack Malenock (215).
Also winning individual titles at Leyden were De La Salle’s Jeremiah Lawrence (106) and Josue Hernandez (175), Conant’s Luis Flores (120) and Tanner Cosgrove (157), Burlington Central’s Doug Phillips (132), Harvard’s Daniel Rosas (150), and Highland Park’s Dmitry Derbedyenyev (165).

Rendy Conrad Invite champions:

106 – Jeremiah Lawrence, De La Salle
Sporting a 10-1 record after notching an 11-5 decision over Notre Dame’s Ray Long in the 106 title match, De La Salle’s Jeremiah Lawrence doesn’t want to rest on his laurels.
“Winning that (finals) match I just had to push the pace and not let him breathe and get to my attacks and control the match,” Lawrence said. “I’ve only lost one match so far. I feel like my season is doing really good. I can do better. I’m one win away from being undefeated.”
Stevenson’s Evan Mishels earned a first-period pin over Highland Park’s Alex Gudgeon at third-place, with Burlington Central’s Jackson Marlett notching fifth by major decision over Harlem’s Nathan Corder.

 113 – John Sheehy, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s John Sheehy had motivation on his side to help push him throughout Saturday’s invite. The junior improved his record to a stellar 25-5 by ending his day with a 19-8 major-decision win over Harlem’s Justin Lewis.
“I feel I wrestled well,” Sheehy said. “I did a good job of opening up my matches and getting to my offense. I was mentally prepared all week for the tournament, especially after our team lost to St. Patrick in our dual the day before this tournament. Everyone on the team had a fire under them.”
Sheehy had his sights set on a trip to the state tournament in Champaign. His season is filled with a number of quality wins, but he’s thinking big.
“I’m seeing all my hard work pay off,” he said. “Throughout this year, my coaches have always made sure I’m always challenging myself by going to difficult tournaments and duals against the best guys. Even though I have five losses and have a strong schedule ahead of me with the Illini Classic next week, I can still see myself winning out the rest of the season. My most difficult matches have been at 120, which is where the majority of my losses occurred at since I’m a 113-pounder.
“One of the toughest matches for me (this season) was against Teddy Flores from Maine South due to only the fact that he’s a great wrestler but I also bumped up a weight in hopes of beating him.”
Stevenson’s Ayush Bajaj cracked a smile following his pin of Conant’s Mike Goolish in the third-place match. Harvard’s Reymundo Romo finished in fifth with a fall against De La Salle’s Vincent Arvetis.

 120 – Luis Flores, Conant
Conant’s Luis Flores kept his words short and to the point following his 7-4 decision over Stevenson’s Mikey Polyakov in the finals.
“Technique from my coaches and doing what they taught me helped me today,” Flores said. “I came here thinking I was going to win. That’s how it has to be. I just kept pressing. I was happy how I did to get eighth at Dvorak. That’s motivating me. I have to just keep working hard.”
Notre Dame’s John Greifelt defeated De La Salle’s Anthony Trendle for the third-place medal with a 7-4 decision, and Vernon Hills sophomore Sabir Aliev closed out his day with a fifth-place showing, winning by fall over Harlem’s Jaydee Doke.

 126 – Marcelo Cantu, Stevenson
Stevenson sophomore Marcelo Cantu is starting to reap the benefits of having a tough mentality. Cantu said he missed a month of the season due to a skin disease, leading to several long days filled with frustration.
“I had some rough battles early in the season with a rare skin disease,” Cantu said. “I didn’t let it stop me, so I just kept going. I just came back recently. I feel good. At the time, I was really re-motivated. I would see all my friends wrestling and I would get really mad because I wanted to wrestle. It’s my main thing. I was out for about a month.”
Cantu took out his frustration on his opponents in Saturday’s invite. He pinned his first two opponents and closed out his perfect day with a 10-5 decision over Conant’s Caden Spizzirri.
“I think it was just taking shots,” Cantu said of the key to his wins. “I think the best thing for me in the finals was using a throw-by. That worked a lot for me in this tournament. One key thing I could work on is my conditioning. I think my conditioning was a little off today. Other than that, everything was good. My coaches helped me a lot. I want to make it downstate. I have to increase my conditioning and have a better mentality.”
Harlem’s Mario Mendez placed third by fall over Notre Dame’s James Frugoli and Maine East’s John Moor pinned Leyden’s Derrick Miranda for fifth.

 132 – Doug Phillips, Burlington Central
After back-to-back left knee injuries in his first two seasons, Doug Phillips is aiming high for his senior season. Phillips said it’s been a mental battle for him this season, but he’s headed in the right direction.
“I’ve been playing a lot of mind games with myself since the beginning of the season,” Phillips said. “It’s because of the past. I had two blown out knees and wasn’t good enough. But I feel amazing right now and have a lot of fight.”
Phillips showed off that fight with an impressive 16-0 tech fall win over Harlem’s Izayah Olejniczak in the finals. Phillips (26-4) said he’s ready for a state run.
“It’s my senior year and anything can happen, just like my last match,” Phillips said. “I didn’t think I would come into the championship and tech him and not let him score any points.
“It’s more mental for me. Sometimes physically it hurts. You just have to tell your mind not to listen to it, from every situation and battle, you have to keep wrestling. It’s definitely nice to get this (title). It will give me some momentum coming into the state series. I’m going to keep pushing hard.”
The rest of the bracket included a third-place finish for De la Salle’s Mario Perez, after his fall over Lakes’ Dominick Lostroscio, and a fifth for Conant’s Matt Goolish by fall over Highland Park’s Drew Scheitenger.

 138 – Andrew Chamkin, Stevenson
Wrestling in his third weight class of his career, Andrew Chamkin is looking to have some fun in his senior year. He wrestled at 106 pounds in his first two season, then went up to 126 last season before moving to 138 this year.
Victories and titles, for Chamkin, are the fun part.
He had a lot of fun on Saturday, pinning all three of his opponents to earn the 138-pound title. He pinned Leyden’s Rusty Klug in the second period to end his productive day.
“138 is pretty tough,” Chamkin said. “In this tournament, it was good to see where I’m at so far. I’ve wrestled in some tough tournaments. I stayed calm and didn’t overthink the matches. My finals match was pretty tough. It’s been a fun season. I’m enjoying it. It’s my senior year, so I’m giving it my all.”
Rounding out the top-five of bracket included a third-place for Harlem’s Owen Recoy after his major decision against Richards’ Leo Flores, and Harlem’s Ethan Hagerman winning by fall for fifth against Conant’s Vlad Castaneda.

144 – Val Vihrov, Stevenson
After a productive offseason, Stevenson’s Val Vihrov is bowling over his competition. He helped the Patriots build some early momentum toward the team title, pinning Notre Dame’s Tim Bridges in the 144 finals.
“I felt pretty confident with my weight and could take everybody down pretty quickly,” Vihrov said. “I was also confidant in my skills and setting up everything. My toughest match was my second match because I had to set things up, so it took a little longer than my other ones. I had to use more strategy. I worked hard in the offseason and built my skills for this.”
Harlem’s Gavin Warner downed Conant’s Victor Chevganov by fall for third place, and Harvard’s Logan Nulle won by fall for fifth against Maine East’s Ali Mohammad.

150 – Daniel Rosas, Harvard
At 6-foot, Harvard junior Daniel Rosas is easy to spot. With long arms and legs, he’s not easy to beat on the mat, either.
That was evident on Saturday, when Rosas won all three of his matches to capture the 150-pound title, capped by his title-mat decision against Richards’ Dom Paul.
It was Rosas’ third tourney title of the season.
“I have to use my (length) and legs to my advantage,” Rosas said. “I have to stay calm at all times. A lot of the wrestlers are stronger than me, but my mindset is they don’t have more technique than me. I have to stay calm in whatever situation I get put into.”
In his 11th season wrestling, Rosas – who plays wide receiver and safety in football – is looking to make a few improvements to finish his season on a high note.
“I could’ve done better,” he said. “I got sick over the break but came back these last two days and worked hard to get first on the podium. My mindset is still the same after this. I have to keep pushing myself I want to make state for the first time. I have to keep grinding every day.”
Stevenson’s Tyler Reiff defeated De la Salle’s Patrick Young by fall for third place, and Leyden’s Moses Garza won by fall for fifth against Harlem’s Preston Fadness.

157 – Tanner Cosgrove, Conant
Early this season, in late November, Conant senior Tanner Cosgrove had a memorable showing at the Chris Hruska Wrestling Classic. Cosgrove celebrated his 157-pound title with several teammates, coaches and family members at the home invite.
Saturday’s meet was at the opposite end of the spectrum but ended with the same result. Instead of jumping around with his teammates, Cosgrove took a matter-of-fact approach with his 13-0 major-decision victory over Maine East’s Tim Kato in the finals. He didn’t smile, nor did he barely acknowledge the first-place feat.
“I’ve been consistently getting better since the season started,” Cosgrove said. “I felt more prepared for this tournament, had a better mindset. I hadn’t won anything really before until the (Conant) tournament. This time, I already knew I was capable of winning this one. I went out and wrestled more confident and I was more aggressive and it all worked out.”
Cosgrove said he’s slowly building toward a strong finish with his eyes on a more elusive prize.
“The Dvorak was rough,” he said. “I ended up placing there, but it was just a lot harder competition than I’m used to seeing, so that was good because it made me better.”
Cosgrove believes Saturday’s victory was a good way to start the new calendar season, especially since he was sidelined for two weeks.
“I was out for a couple of weeks because I had an infection in my knee,” he said. “I just got back, my first tournament back. This feels good. I feel like I’m back. After the Hruska and Dvorak, I ended up getting ranked, so I feel like I’m going from just want to qualify for state to wanted to place at state. I have to keep looking at my competition and seeing what they are doing. I have to learn how to better counter certain things to make myself a lot better.”
Stevenson’s Erick Wade pinned Notre Dame’s Dean Lazaris for third place, and Leyden’s Brian Gonzalez placed fifth with a fall against Burlington Central’s Michael Junitz.

 165 – Dmitry Derbedyenyev, Highland Park
Nearly 20 minutes after picking up his first-place medal, Highland Park’s Dmitry Derbedyenyev decided to head back to the podium for one more quick photo. By now, Derbedyenyev is accustomed to mugging for the cameras after a season full of victories.
Derbedyenyev (28-1) rolled through the competition on Saturday, ending with 9-1 major-decision over Richards’ Mike Taheney in the finals.
“I feel great and finally got to put together some of the stuff I’ve been working in my wrestling room,” he said. “I have to trust myself and always wrestle hard and not I feel get to me in the room or in here. It’s time now. I don’t have four more years. It’s my senior year. This is my last shot at high school state. I’m working hard every single day and that state tournament is one my mind every single day.”
Seconds after Derbedyenyev won his last match, he was mugged by several friends and teammates, including Vernon Hills’ Ilya Dvoriannikov, who placed third by beating Stevenson’s Themba Sitshela. Malik Warren of De La Salle took fifth place.
“(Illya) is my training partner at the wrestling club I go to, and he doesn’t even go to Highland Park,” Derbedyenyev said. “He’s from Russia and he doesn’t speak much English but I happen to speak Russian. He’s happy for me, and my teammates are happy for me. I love them.”
Dvoriannikov placed third with a 5-3 decision over Sitshela, and De La Salle’s Malik Warren won a 2-1 decision for fifth place against Notre Dame’s Deniz Ozturk. 

175 – Josue Hernandez, De La Salle
Sporting a bloody lip, Josue Hernandez said he followed his game plan and relied on his strength to win at 175 pounds. He pinned Notre Dame’s Sean Adams in the second period to win his weight class.
“The key for me was staying in position and using my technique and my strength to my advantage and I always had good position,” Hernandez said. “I had a few tough matches, but worked hard and had a few (big) takedowns and won by fall over the finals with a good move.”
A two-way starter at running back and linebacker for the De La Salle football team, Hernandez said he’s starting to see all of his hard work pay off in wrestling.
“Right now, for my senior year, I feel great and being ranked (ninth) in the state, and feel it can be a big season by getting downstate,” he said. “I have to keep working hard in the practice room. I was one point away from state last season. It motivates me a lot. I think about it every day that I wrestle. I’m focused on getting there this year.”
Also at 175, Harvard’s Blake Livdahl pinned Richards’ Jeremiah Gill in the third-place match, and Leyden’s Darterrion Garner placed fifth via 10-5 decision over Leyden’s Dominic Ganir.

 190 – Jim Amatore, Notre Dame
As one of the smaller competitors in his challenging weight class, Notre Dame’s Jim Amatore manages to thrive by outworking his competitor.
Or, in some cases like Saturday, out-sweating them.
Dripping with sweat after pinning Lake Villa’s Ramos Julian in the 190 finals, Amatore (20-2) credited his conditioning for winning his three matches, including his last two via pins.
“I’m small for 190, so I know I need to push the pace on these guys and use my cardio to my advantage and push them that way with my hand fighting and shots,” Amatore said. “In my finals match, I was just thinking I knew my cardio was better. I was aggressive and stayed in his face and shoot him off as many times as I can until he gave up.”
Like several competitors at Saturday’s invite, Amatore missed some time due to an injury but gained momentum with his victories.
“I feel I’m going to peak in February,” Amatore said. “I had a strained hip flexor for two weeks, so I was out a long time. I came back about two weeks ago. I feel great. My cardio is back to where it was. I love my coaches. I think our team did great today.”
Harlem’s Andrew Redmon won 8-3 over Maine East’s Adrian Shkeir for the third-place medal. De La Salle’s Terrelle Jackson claimed fifth with a fall against Stevenson’s Richie Gueorguiev. 

215 – Erick Worwa, Leyden
Saturday was the right – and perfect time – for Leyden’s Erick Worva to showcase his potential. He pinned Notre Dame’s Jack Malenock in the finals to win host Leyden’s lone title win.
“My practice and training and constant reps helped me,” Worwa said. “I tried to stay focused and trained harder and just focused on my goals.”
Worwa was one of the star attractions on Saturday, mainly due to his early impressive performances and rapidly growing resume. He captured his first varsity tourney title on Saturday.
“This is really cool since it’s just my second year wrestling and first year on varsity, so it’s really cool,” Worwa said. “This is my house basically, so I think this was pretty cool to win it. I wasn’t really a sports person, so my brother made me get into it. I like the team work and when the ref raises your hand for first place after all those hard months of working and training. I’m going to keep trying to get better and glad for this opportunity.”
Leyden coach John Kading is happy with the progress Worwa has made.
“(Erick) is a sponge, very coachable and works hard and he had to learn how to win wrestling matches,” Kading said. “He’s started to do that now, and to do that with consistency. The whole team is working hard and learning how to win and compete. Hopefully, we will be where we need to be by the end of the season.”
Stevenson’s Anthony Adams placed third with a fall against Maine East’s Edgar Torres, and Conant’s Dan Michelsen won by fall for fifth against Richards’ Luis Perez.

285 – Scott Cook, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s Scott Cook was locked in one of the more memorable matches in the 285-pound finals against De La Salle’s David McCarthy.
Blessed with tree-trunk sized legs, McCarthy was tough to move for Cook, but he managed to pull out a 4-3 victory to snare the final title match of the day.
“It felt good to win today,” Cook said. “It feels a lot cleaner. I was just going for wins, nothing too fancy or to get caught in the finals. He was strong, just a big boy and he was really good. I just tried to wait for him to make mistakes.”
Cook (12-3) said Saturday’s win has raised the bar for his expectations.
“There’s always room for improvement, but I’m happy where I am right now,” Cook said. “I’ve come a long way since the first week. I feel in way better shape. I’ve improved, so that’s nice to see. My goal is to win state now.”
Harvard’s Riley West pinned Burlington Central’s Sammy Wirstrom to snag the third-place medal, while Stevenson’s Andrew Timmons took fifth by fall over Leyden’s Aidan Jaffray.

 Randy Conrad Invite championship match results:
106 –Jeremiah Lawrence (De La Salle) 19-8 MD Ray Long (Notre Dame)
113 – John Sheehy (Notre Dame) 11-5 D Justin Lewis (Harlem)
120 – Luis Flores (Conant) 7-4 D Mikey Polyakov (Stevenson)
126 – Marcelo Cantu (Stevenson) 10-5 D Caden Spizzirri (Conant)
132 – Doug Phillips (Burlington Central) TF-1.5 4.54 (16-) Izayah Olejniczak (Harlem)
138 – Andrew Chamkin (Stevenson) F 3:21 Rusty Klug (Leyden)
144 – Val Vihrov (Stevenson) F :43 Tim Bridges (Notre Dame)
150 – Daniel Rosas (Harvard) D 6-0 Dom Paul (Richards)
157 – Tanner Cosgrove (Conant) MD 13-0 Timn Kato (Maine East)
165 – Dmitry Derbedyenyev (Highland Park) MD 9-1 Mike Tahenay (Richards)
175 – Josue Hernandez (De La Salle) F 3:34 Sean Adams (Notre Dame)
190 – Jim Amatore (Notre Dame) F 3:49 Ramos Julian (Lakes)
215 – Erick Worwa (Leyden) F 1:57 Jack Malenock (Notre Dame)
285 – Scott Cook (Notre Dame) D 4-3 David McCarthy (De La Salle)

Randy Conrad Invite top individual statistics:

Most pins, least time: 3 in 2:18 by Stevenson’s Val Vihrov
Most tech falls, least time: 2 in 6:00 by Burlington Central’s Jackson Marlett
Fastest fall: (tie) 0:22 by Leyden’s Dominic Ganir and Stevenson’s Andrew Timmons
Fastest tech fall: 2:00 by Burlington Central’s Jackson Marlett
Most team points: (tie) 28 by Leyden’s Erick Worwa and Stevenson’s Val Vihrov
Most single-match points: 25 by Stevenson’s Andrew Chamkin
Most total match points: 53 by Burlington Central’s Jackson Marlett

Final team scores: 1. Stevenson (208) 2. Notre Dame (198) 3. De La Salle (131.5) 4. Conant (120) 5. Harlem (112) 6. Leyden (99) 7. Harvard (86.5) 8. Richards (71.5) 9. Maine East (65.5) 10. Burlington Central (63.5) 11. Lakes (40.5) 12. Highland Park (39) 13. Vernon Hills (25) 14. Leyden JV (12)

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