KICKER: State wrestling
HEADLINE: Eagles stopped one step shy of team title
By Anthony Nasella
The word “dynasty” gets tossed around a lot in sports when it comes to programs that dominate over an extended period of time.
But when considering the past decade of wrestling achievements at Sandburg, calling it dynastic is apt. It’s difficult to argue with the Eagles’ year-in, year-out success, which was at the forefront again at Saturday’s team state final in Bloomington.
Sandburg reached the championship match at U.S. Cellular Coliseum against the nation’s No. 1 team, Oak Park-River Forest. And while the Eagles dropped a 39-16 verdict in the finale, their runner-up showing gave the program its eighth top-three finish in the past 11 years.
And with only two senior starters on this year’s 23-man roster, the Sandburg dynasty should continue into 2015-16 and beyond.
“I’m really proud of our kids and the way they performed.” Eagles coach Eric Siebert said. “They did exactly what we were hoping they would do -- go out there and lay it on the line. They really battled and it’s really gratifying. It was a great weekend overall.
“I’m so proud to be associated with the program -- the coaches, the kids and the families. In 11 years there’s definitely a lot to proud of with this program. If you want to be successful, you have to have quality people -- we have four coaches on varsity and nine on staff [and] i’s really a team effort.
“Everybody is invested in this program. We have a common philosophy and the coaches, kids and parents all buy into it. It makes for one big movement going forward.”
Sandburg defeated Mt. Carmel 39-27 last Tuesday night at Shepard to advance to the quarterfinals. On Saturday it defeated Lincoln-Way Central 55-12 in the quarters and Glenbard North 34-24 in the semifinals.
The Eagles used major decisions from state placers Brian Krasowski (36-9 at 170 pounds) and Patrick Brucki (39-4 at 182) to jump out to an 8-0 lead over the Caravan. Mt. Carme pulled within 14-12, but Sandburg rolled off victories in six of its next seven matches to seal the victory.
Winners for the Eagles during that pivotal span included Louie Hayes (106), Robbie Precin (113), Kevin Stearns (120), state singles champion Rudy Yates (132), Christian Robertson (138) and Ben Schneider (145). Matt Frostman (220) triumphed later in the match.
Logging wins for Sandburg versus the Knights were Hayes, Precin, Stearns, Ben Kirby (126), Yates, Robertson, Schneider, John Prieto (152), Tom Slattery (160), Krasowski, Ameer Barbour (182) and Cole Bateman (195). Bateman, Brucki, Frostman, Hayes, Krasowski, Robertson, Slattery, Stearns and Yates led the way versus Glenbard.
Garnering the Eagles’ victories against Oak Park-River Forest were Yates, Hayes, Brucki and Slattery. Hayes was runner-up at his weight at the individual state meet, Brucki took third and Slattery was also a medalist.
Although the Huskies’ winning margin was rather wide, beating Sandburg wasn’t easy. Oak Park-River Forest’s Maxwell Metzger, Allen Stallings and Savonne Bennette all triumphed by one point. Metzger did so by a 3-2 count over Krasowski while Stallings and Bennette recorded 4-3 decisions over Bateman and Robertson, respectively.
Other close matches were Precin’s against Jason Renteria (3-0) and Frostman’s versus Adam Lemke-Bell (6-3).
“Oak Park is ranked No. 1 in the nation,” Siebert said. “You have to give them their due. There’s a good reason why they’re ranked where they’re ranked.
“They’re the most talented team that I’ve ever seen from top to bottom. They’re nationally ranked in seven weight classes -- that’s half their starters.
“We tried our best to manipulate our lineup the best we could to be competitive, but you feel like you’re going up against the 1985 Chicago Bears. I thought we really battled -- five of the losses were in matches that we could have potentially won.”
Only Slattery and Frostman have wrestled their last matches for Sandburg, which was ranked 19th entering the state finals. The Eagles will likely finish among the top 15 nationally.
“Finishing 15th is a great starting point for us,” Siebert said. “The fact that we are returning 12 starters next year [means] we’ll probably be in the top 10 to start next season. With a great group of kids that are talented and experienced, we have a lot of momentum going forward.”