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Sandburg's Colin Holler (top) wrestles with Stevenson's Ian Burns. Stacia Timonere~For Sun Times Media
Sandburg’s wrestlers had no trouble repeating as Wheeling Invitational champs on Saturday.
But don’t think the Eagles weren’t missing one of their leaders on and off the mat.
The Eagles reached the finals at 13 of the 14 weights and won 11 titles, but didn’t enter anyone at 120 pounds. That spot usually belongs to two-time state finalist and 2011 champ Sebastian Pique, who is out till mid- to late January with a dislocated elbow suffered in a dual meet against Lockport on Dec. 1.
“Sebastian is going to be out for a while, which sucks,” said teammate Colin Holler, who’s top-ranked in Class 3A at 170 pounds by Illinois Best Weekly. “He brings so much energy to the room. ... He works out hard, he’s a beast. But guys have got to step up.”
“That hurts us right now,” said Ricky Robertson, another top-ranked Eagle. “I think it’ll get some of the other guys around that weight — make them better because they know they have to step up for the team.”
The Eagles aren’t expecting as easy a time next weekend when they go up against Oak Park-River Forest at Hinsdale Central’s 25-team Rex Whitlatch Invitational.
“It’ll be nice to see OP-RF next week and see how we match up against them,” Robertson said. “Hopefully, we’re looking to win the tournament and keep our No. 1 spot.”
The Eagles are top-ranked both by the Sun-Times and in 3A, but it’s not their ultimate focus, according to Robertson. “It doesn’t matter till the state tournament,” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized as the No. 1 team. But we have to perform to our expectations, not let it fill up our heads.”
There didn’t seem to be much evidence of overconfidence on Sandburg’s part Saturday.
Getting pins in the finals were freshman Christian Robertson (10-1) at 106, Jim Pellegrino (10-1) at 113, Holler (12-0) at 170, Robertson (12-0) at 195 and Bill Gore (10-0) at 220. Holler, Robertson and Gore all had three first-period falls.
The Eagles’ other champs were Jake Vales (10-2) at 126, John Pellegrino (11-1) at 138, Alante Walker (12-0) at 145, CJ Brucki (11-0) at 160, Chris Pajak (10-2) at 182 and Robert Boyde (4-1) at 285.
Lake Zurich, which was second to Sandburg by a 287-138 margin, had two champs: Jerry Nigro (8-6) at 120 and Gresh Henderson (14-2) at 132.
The closest final of the day was at 152, where Stevenson’s Justin Weber (14-1) got an overtime takedown to edge Sandburg’s Mitch Cook (10-2) 3-1. It was the first competitive match between them, but not their first time on the same mat.
“We go to the same offseason club,” Weber said. “I’ve wrestled him there a lot. But never in a real match and everyone knows practice doesn’t mean anything.”
Weber bumped up from 145 specifically to wrestle Cook and get a better test.
“I was looking forward to it because he’s a returning state placer and I was a match away [from placing],” Weber said.