Warren outlasts Libertyville for Lake County Invitational title

By Mike Garofola for the IWCOA

There were so many state-ranked men inside the Benedetti Center at Grant in Fox Lake, far too many to list, and several ended up in the finals, where some of the best in the state faced off.

Once the two wrestling powers of the North Suburban Conference and Northern Lake County Conference merged to become a wrestling super-power conference, fans of the sport would have the opportunity to watch dozens of young men who will vie for a spot on the podium in Champaign in late February.

On the team side, Warren held off Libertyville to lift the championship trophy of the Lake County Invitational with 196 total points, 2.5 more than Libertyville, which lost last year to Warren by eight points and two weeks later by 17 at the Grant Regional.

These two terrific clubs will have at it again on February 3 in Libertyville along with a quality group of wrestling rivals that includes Grant, McHenry, Mundelein and Round Lake.

“It feels good to win here today for the second straight year,” Warren coach Brad Janecik said. “It’s a great field comprised of some amazing 2A and 3A teams. For us, we were fortunate to get some big wins along the way plus bonus points, which usually can be the deciding factor.”

This sensational 2A/3A field would see top-rated stars validate their lofty status in the state polls, including Aaron Stewart (Warren) and Matty Jens (Grayslake Central) while seeing future No. 1’s like freshman Caleb Noble (Warren) and Vince DeMarco (Grayslake Central), who faced each other in the opening match of the finals.

Lake County Invitational championship results:

103 – Caleb Noble, Warren

Add another major trophy to the resume of Warren’s Caleb Noble after the Warren freshman recorded a pin over Grayslake Central’s Vince DeMarco.

Noble (29-2) now has four big trophies on the season, including trophies won at the Rex Whitlatch and at Wisconsin’s Cheesehead.

“It feels great to win my first Lake County Invite championship,” Noble said. “Vince is a great wrestler with plenty of success at Fargo, especially in Greco, so this was a good win. But I know that I’ve got to continue to push myself if I want to get on top of the podium in Champaign.”

This highly anticipated final would see the No. 2 man in 3A  in Noble versus the top-rated 106-pounder in 2A in DeMarco.

“Vince is off to a great start to his high school career, he has not lost to a 2A opponent yet – he’s an awesome young man, and he just comes in, and gets to work, and is making everyone around him better,” said Grayslake Central head coach Matt Joseph.

DeMarco (35-5) has two victories over 2A state runner-up, Wauconda’s Gavin Rockey (29-2). Rockey used a tech fall to beat Stevenson’s Evan Mishels (26-13) for third place while Antioch’s Jacob Smith (19-5) earned fifth place over Libertyville’s sixth-place Jake Shafer (19-12) who was forced out of action due to a medical forfeit.

113 – Vince Jasinski, Grant

Grant’s Vince Jasinski (27-6) was a hometown hero when the sophomore beat Stevenson’s Ayush Bajaj (24-13) to win the 113-pound title much to the delight of the Bulldogs faithful.

“Vince had a relentless offseason, where he wrestled nearly a hundred matches, traveling all around the country,” Grant head coach Mark Jolcover said.  “So as we continue to work on being consistent in his competition, we believe he’s quite capable of beating anyone, at any time.”

With his two pins recorded in advance of his 10-5 victory over Bajaj, Jasinski now has a team-high 20 pins.

“It feels great to win a conference title here at home, and to win at the same time my sister (Ayane) won last night in the girls’ conference tournament,” said Jasinski, who was a sectional qualifier a year ago with a record of 31-14.

Lake Forest’s Charlie Biddle (20-12) claimed third with a win by medical forfeit over Libertyville’s Tyler Wuh (13-11) and Antioch’s Quinton Cohen (17-13) took fifth over Warren’s Jonathan Marquez (22-7) due to a medical forfeit.

120 – Gavin Hanrahan, Antioch

Antioch’s Gavin Hanrahan (29-6) is aiming for a third consecutive appearance in the state tournament. Only this time, the Antioch junior is ready to bring back a 2A state medal.

“Getting so close to a state medal last year and then losing in my wrestle-back quarterfinal was a huge disappointment,” Hanrahan said. “But it gave me a ton of motivation to work harder in the offseason.” 

Hanrahan won a 6-0 decision for the title at 120 over No. 4 in 3A, Libertyville’s Luke Berktold (26-6).

“I knew Luke liked his drags but I thought I did well watching out for that,” Hanrahan said. Hanrahan, ranked No. 7 in 2A, reversed Berktold to start the second period to go up for good at 2-0, before adding two more takedowns and two back points before riding out the period.

Round Lake’s three-time state qualifier Alejandro Cordova (31-6) beat Stevenson’s Mikey Polyakov (22-14) in the third place contest while Warren’s Carlos Ordonez (17-9) majored Grayslake Central’s Krish Sahu (23-13) for fifth place.

126 – Tyler Weidman, Grayslake Central

Grayslake Central coach Matt Joseph is thrilled with how Tyler Weidman (32-3) has come back from a midseason injury to put himself in position to challenge for state hardware next month.

“He’s back to full strength, has had a real solid run in his final year with us, and really looks ready to make a strong run in the postseason,” Joseph said of Weidman, who is a three-time state qualifier, a fourth place 2A state medal winner, and is currently No. 7 in the state polls.

“My work ethic is so much stronger this year,” Weidman said. “I attribute that to my loss at state in the quarters, where I fell behind and then chased the rest of the way.” 

Weidman went 40-13 a year ago and leads his club with 21 pins.

“Nobody’s perfect but I was sloppy in that (state quarterfinal) match, so I decided to just go out and be the best that I can this season,” Weidman said. “So far it’s been very good for me.” 

Weidman won by fall at 5:44 over a league rival, Wauconda’s Lucas Galdine (24-14), in his final.

Round Lake’s Grayson Kongkaeow (30-11) won by fall over Stevenson’s Yash Jagtap (11-11) for third place and Carmel Catholic’s Matthew Lucansky (25-7) beat Warren’s Evan Glowinski 7-1 in the fifth-place match.

132 – Edgar Albino, Antioch

Antioch’s Edgar Albino (29-4) gave 2A teams their third consecutive title after his hard-fought 6-4 victory over Grant’s Erik Rodriguez (26-12).

Albino is a three-time state qualifier who has collected three state medals, his best coming in 2022 when he brought home a third-place medal at 120 pounds.

Albino dropped a 5-2 decision in his semifinal against the eventual state champion, Mascoutah’s Santino Robinson.

“Last year at state was disappointing but I guess it’s never a great success unless you’re on top of the podium on Saturday night,” said Albino, who wants to wrestle in college next fall at either UW-Parkside or Wabash College in Indiana.

“I decided to go out there this year and have more fun, and really enjoy my last season here at Antioch,” Albino said. “I really feel a lot better about myself and my chances (downstate) because of that.”

The Sequoits senior, who now is 104-11 during the past three years, is No. 3 in the most recent state polls.

Libertyville’s Orion Moran (27-10) majored Grayslake Central’s Liam Halloran (24-16) for third and Wauconda’s Brian Hart (29-13) took fifth after Zion-Benton’s Luis Medina (12-6) had to medical forfeit.

138 – Andrew Chamkin, Stevenson

It’s been a breakthrough season for Stevenson senior Andrew Chamkin, who claimed his second major of the season thanks to his 11-6 decision over Mundelein’s Ethan Banda (24-7).

Chamkin, who pinned his way to the 138-pound crown at Leyden’s Randy Conrad Invite just after the new year, stunned the top-seed, Wauconda’s Cooper Daun, in the semifinals via an 18-6 major decision.

In the other semifinal, third-seeded Banda sent off second-seeded Chase Nobiling (28-9) by 7-2 decision. In the title match, Chamkin (20-11) got the ever-important first takedown.

“That first take-down was so important, and even though (Banda) came back in the second period, I always felt confident thanks to that early take-down,” said Chamkin.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be in the room for three years with an amazing wrestler and an equally amazing person in Lorenzo Frezza (now wrestling at Columbia after a brilliant four-year career). He was a real inspiration to me when he was here.”

Chamkin has been looking at Texas A&M, Clemson, Penn State, among others, and will likely pursue a degree in finance.

Wauconda’s Cooper Daun (30-7) won 2-1 over Antioch’s Chase Nobiling (28-9) to take third place and Round Lake’s Marshawn Washington (23-16) pinned Libertyville’s Antonio Kelly (11-7) to earn fifth-place honors.

144 – Logan Andrews, Wauconda

Logan Andrews was the first of two-straight wrestlers from Wauconda to lift the championship bracket board.

The Bulldogs senior opened strong against Carmel’s Tony Hinojosa (26-5) with a 5-0 first period advantage. He extended his lead to 7-0 with an early reversal, before using a near fall at three minutes to make it 11-0 before Hinojosa could take a small bite of Andrews’ big lead.

“I had to get better with the mental part of my game this year – it just wasn’t strong enough to help me compete against the top guys in the state at my weight,” admitted Andrews, No. 7 in the state and 30-18 a year ago.

“We’ve had a good season as a team thus far, and I really feel like things are coming together for all of us. So there’s no reason why we cannot get back to (dual-team) state and bring home another team trophy.” 

Andrews is now 27-10, with 13 pins on the season.

“Logan has significantly improved over the last two years, and he put a ton of training in last summer, and it’s paying off,” Wauconda coach Trevor Jauch said. “He’s much more focused, and he’s staying disciplined in his training as well.”

Stevenson’s Val Vihrov (25-13) earned third place when Grayslake North’s Owen Anderson (19-9) was forced out with an injury at 1:39. Libertyville senior Will Carney(18-13) won by fall over Grant’s Adrian Khi (14-14) to finish fifth.

150- Cole Porten, Wauconda

Wauconda’s Cole Porten shifted all the momentum in his favor when he registered a takedown just moments into his final with Mundelein’s Kevin Hernandez (28-6) en route to a 6-0 decision.

Porten, No. 8 in the state, won 30 matches in 2023.

“I’m much more calm and composed than I was last year,” said Porten, who leads Wauconda with 15 pins. “It’s something I knew I had to be better at this year, as well as having a higher pace and better set-ups.

“We lost some quality guys from last year, but the new guys have filled in really well, so I feel like we’re a stronger team this season.” 

The Bulldogs finished third at the IHSA Class 2A Dual Team Finals last year, giving the program its second dual team state trophy in its history.

Grayslake North’s Jacobs Ronsman (29-13) majored Warren’s Warren Nash (30-14) in the third place bout while Warren’s Nicholas Hermsen (16-10) used a 11-4 decision over Antioch’s Marcus Macias (9-5) in the fifth-place match.

157- Aaron Stewart, Warren 

It was yet another blistering attack from Aaron Stewart that helped the Warren sophomore easily wrap-up his second-straight Lake County Invite title and third of the season for the No. 1 man in the state at 157 pounds.

Stewart (29-2) started slowly in the scoring column despite an all-action first two minutes with Lake Forest’s Seth Digby (27-1), and the fourth-ranked individual in Class 2A did his best to hold off the ever-attacking Stewart,  who led after one period, 2-1.

Stewart started down, grabbed a quick one-point escape, then in an instant, it became a 7-1 contest before the 2023 state third-place medalist ended the period with a takedown near the edge to increase his advantage to 9-3.

“People will watch Aaron’s final and think it’s just business as usual with him, but that would be further from the truth,” said Warren coach Brad Janecek.

“He’ll (Aaron) make it look easy at times, but what nobody knows is how much work he puts in, and away from the room, is free time, and the time he spends lifting for football, and track (his) work ethic is very high, which he takes into the classroom as well.”

Stewart’s 13-5 major decision ended Digby’s 27-match unbeaten streak, which along the way included individual titles at Richmond-Burton, and later at Glenbrook South’s Russ Erb.

“The biggest motivation for Seth which stands out for me is his failure to place the last two years,  he took that personal, and is on a mission this year,” said Lake Forest head coach, Nick Kramer.

With his pin in the semifinals, Digby now has collected 16 thus far.

Libertyville’s James Scanio earned third place over Mundelein’s Ethan Thomas (17-7) due to a medical forfeit and Stevenson’s Erick Wade was fifth following his pin of Grayslake North’s Jacob Deleon.

165 – Royce Lopez, Warren

Warren’s Royce Lopez (21-7) won a second championship trophy of this season after his impressive six-minute contest with Grant’s Christian Wittkamp (25-11) that saw the Blue Devils sophomore record a 16-3 major decision.

“I am very happy for Royce, he is a consummate hard worker, who just wants more, and today in his final, you saw how he just goes out there always looking to score points (right) up until the very end,” said Blue Devils coach Brad Janecek.

“He had a real solid freshman season last year but this year his expectation(s) are so much higher than a year ago and we’re seeing him getting those big points when he goes looking for them.”

Last year, Lopez came this close to 40 wins, falling one match short to earning a state medal  at 160 pounds, and later, proved to be a key figure in the Blue Devils advancing to its first-ever IHSA Class 3A Dual Team appearance.

Previously, Lopez, No. 7 in the state polls, had won at the Neuqua Valley Invite, and had finished fourth overall at the Rex Whitlach.

Antioch’s Ben Vazquez (27-10), a 2023 state qualifier, beat Stevenson’s Everett Ciezak 6-1 in the third place match and Libertyville’s Charlie Clark (24-15) finished fifth after his 7-5 decision over Wauconda’s Zac Johnson (22-14).

175 – Matty Jens, Grayslake Central

Libertville’s Matt Kubas will never compete for a tournament championship this season against his good friend, Grayslake Central’s Matty Jens, but if Jens has his way, both he and Kubas could be under the spotlight on that Saturday night inside State Farm Center in Champaign.

Jens is the reigning 182-pound IHSA 2A champion, and the No. 1 man in the state at 177, while Kubas is No. 2 in Class 3A and has a sparkling 33-3 overall record with his three defeats coming at the hands of Jens, now 31-1 after his hard-fought and tense, 5-1 decision.

“Matt is my great friend, I love the guy like a brother, he also happens to be an unbelievable wrestler and competitor and I see no reason why we both cannot be in the state final in February,” said Jens, who has beaten Kubas in the Moore-Prettyman, the Dvorak and now ther Lake County Invite final, by 6-5, 7-4, and 5-1 scores.

These two freight trains would collide head-on from the opening period with Jens’ returns the story of the second period which ended 0-0.

Jens started down to begin the third period, and earned an escape, then 90 seconds from time grabbed two points near the edge with a takedown.

Kubas drew closer with an escape of his own to make it 3-1 at five minutes but a late takedown by Jens ensured his victory.

“There was nothing easy about that match, it was exactly how I thought it would be,” said Jens, a state runner-up in 2023.

“The only loss of the year for Matty is against the defending state champ from Wisconsin in the Mid-State final, and that was a 3-2 match in UTB,” said Grayslake Central coach Matt Joseph.

“(He) has an incredible gas tank, and one that can go 8 1/2 minutes if needed.”

Jens has 15 pins on the season while Kubas has 22, tying the program record of 73 with 2004 state runner-up Mark Friend.

Stevenson senior Themba Sitshela (27-14) used a 1-0 victory over Warren’s Justice Humphreys (16-9) to claim third place and Grant’s Aaden Arroyo majored Lake Zurich’s Maciej Szelazek for fifth place.

190 – Caleb Baczek, Libertyville

Caleb Baczek had a brief call-up to the big club during his rookie season for Libertyville, going 3-3, yet still managed to earn a spot in the Barrington Sectional at 160 pounds.

Last year, a regional title eventually led to a berth in the 182-pound bracket of 16 in Champaign where a pair of losses saw Baczek finish with a respectable 18-11 record.

This season, Baczek has been difficult to get the best of as witnessed by his hard-fought 6-5 victory over a league rival, Warren’s Jeremija Hixson (15-6) to push his record to 27-6.

“I feel like I’ve come a long way this year, I was way too defensive of a wrestler a year ago, so this year I’ve become more aggressive in my attack, tried to push the pace more, and just turn up the pace in order to compete in this weight class,” said Baczek, who won earlier at Glenbard West and has a second-place finish at the high-profile Mudge-McMorrow.

“The experience of going downstate last year gave me a huge boost and to be going live against guys like Cole Matulenko (2023 state champion), Matt Kubas, and Owen McGrory (it) can make for some incredible time in the room,” Baczek said with a wry smile.

Baczek is third behind McGrory and Kubas with 15 pins on the season.

Wauconda’s Michael Merevick (26-7) pinned Waukegan’s Lamero Ceaser (12-6) to take third place and Grant’s Casey Gipson (20-15) won 6-4 over Antioch’s Colin Arquilla to finish fifth.

215 – Owen McGrory, Libertyville

The meteoric rise up the charts for Owen McGrory has been to marvel at with the Libertyville senior bursting onto the scene full time to advance into the state tournament where he came one victory away from earning a state medal in his first-ever trip downstate.”

“Last year was a good one, but there are/were still a lot of things that I needed to clean up, and improve on in order to compete with the best in my weight at state,” admits McGrory, now 33-2 following his 11-2 major decision over Warren junior Anthony Soto (19-5).

“(Anthony) Soto is a big, tough, solid opponent,  someone I’ve wrestled 3-4 times before, so we know each other and what to expect,” continued McGrory, who was 45-8 in 2023 and No. 3 in the most recent IWCOA state polls and also has a team-high 23 pins.

“I’m looking forward to the next two weeks to continue to work on a few of the little hiccups in my game, and to clean those up before regionals.”

Lake Forest’s Yaree Sandifer (27-9) pinned Zion-Benton’s Isaiah Tellado (18-10) in the third place match while Grant’s Matthew Longabaugh (19-12) claimed fifth place after Antioch’s Owen Shea (17-13) took a medical forfeit.

285 – William Cole, Round Lake

William Cole continues his remarkable junior campaign as all three of his Lake County Invite opponents on this day were unable to muster up any kind of attack on the Round Lake big man who won a second-straight league title at 285 pounds with a 9-3 victory over Mundelein’s Abisai Hernandez in the finals. 

“Winning here for the second time feels really good, it’s the first of many goals I’ve set for myself, and I am going to continue to work as hard as I can in order to reach my biggest goal of getting on the podium in Champaign,” said Cole, a junior who is 33-1.

The 6-6, 265 pound Cole, currently fifth in the state, made an early statement to the rest of the state when he pinned Hinsdale Central’s No. 3 Marko Ivanisevic, who is a two-time third place state medalist. Hernandez, a junior who is 28-5, recently won at the Sycamore Invite.

Waukegan’s Ivan Martinez (14-5) won 3-1 by sudden victory over Warren’s Jacob Bolender (20-10) to take third place and Stevenson’s Andrew Timmons (18-12) also won by sudden victory over Antioch’s James Kasprzak (12-2) to finish in fifth place.

Championship matches for the Lake County Invitational

106 – Caleb Noble (Warren) F 1:49 Vince DeMarco (Grayslake Central)

113 – Vince Jasinski (Grant) D 10-5 Ayush Bajaj (Stevenson)

120 – Gavin Hanrahan (Antioch) D 6-0 Luke Berktold (Libertyville)

126 – Tyler Weidman (Grayslake Central) F 5:44 Lucas Galdine (Wauconda)

132 – Edgar Albino (Antioch) D 6-4 Erik Rodriguez (Grant)

138 – Andrew Chamkin (Stevenson) D 11-6 Ethan Banda (Mundelein)

144 – Logan Andrews (Wauconda) D 12-6 Tony Hinojosa (Carmel Catholic)

150 – Cole Porten (Wauconda) D 6-0 Kevin Hernandez (Mundelein)

157 – Aaron Stewart (Warren) MD 13-5 Seth Digby (Lake Forest)

165 – Royce Lopez (Warren) MD 16-3 Christian Wittkamp (Grant)

175 – Matty Jens (Grayslake Central) D 5-1 Matt Kubas (Libertyville)

190 – Caleb Baczek (Libertyville) D 5-4 Jeremija Hixson (Warren)

215 – Owen McGrory (Libertyville) MD 11-2 Anthony Soto (Warren)

285 – William Cole (Round Lake) D 9-3 Abisai Hernandez (Mundelein)

Team Scores for the Lake County Invitational

1. Warren 196, 2. Libertyville 193.5, 3. Stevenson 172.5, 4. Wauconda 164.5, 5. Antioch 147.5, 6. Grayslake Central 145.5, 7. Grant 139, 8. Mundelein 111.5, 9. Round Lake 82, 10. Lake Forest 65, 11. Grayslake North 49, 12. Waukegan 42, 13. Carmel Catholic 39.0, 14. Lake Zurich 32, 15. Zion-Benton 28, 16. Lakes Community 0.

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