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Neuqua Valley is off to a 6-3 start in dual meets with a squad that coach Mick Ruettiger believes will only get better as the season moves forward.
“We’ve put ourselves in a situation where after Christmas we’re looking to become a pretty good team,” Ruettiger said. “We’re fairly inexperienced and we’re trying to get that experience back as we wrestle through the season.
“I know it’s a cliché but we’re just trying to get better, every day, and that’s how you have to look at it.”
An extended football season at Neuqua kept some key contributors on the sideline to start the year, but wrestlers like Andrew Geers and Connor Swier are now slowly rounding into wrestling shape.
Two-time state medal-winner Geers is 8-0 at heavyweight since returning to the lineup, and Swier is 7-2 at 195 pounds, with both losses coming against fellow ranked, high-level competitors.
“Swier has been tested right away this season and that’s a good thing,” Ruettiger said. “He’s making some early adjustments and sometimes you need to tweak yourself in terms of where your wrestling is.”
In addition, through Saturday’s 2-1 team performance in a quad at West Aurora, Neuqua Valley’s Justin Killacky (120) is 8-4, Alex Skarr (145) is 7-4, Andy Sykes (106) is 7-6, Colten Ratz (126) is 8-6, Justin Klein (132) is 7-5, Godfrey Collins (220) is 4-0, and Brett Lindeman (170) is 7-2.
The Wildcats beat East Aurora 35-5, West Aurora 44-24, and lost 51-9 to highly ranked Oak Park-River Forest on Saturday.
“Guys like Klein and Killacky have been varsity wrestlers for three years and those are the guys you really expect to see some strides from in the course of the year,” Ruettiger said. “They’ve lost to some pretty tough kids but I expect them to continue to get better. They’re tough kids.”
Naperville Central placed fourth at an 11-team tournament at Hoffman Estates on Saturday, getting individual titles from Ryan Berg (195) and Luke Roth (220), and a second-place finish from Ben Williamson (132).
Five Redhawks placed fourth, two earned fifths, and two earned sixth-place finishes on the day.
“Our schedule is top-loaded so we’ve taken a few lumps so far, but we’ve got some talented kids,” Redhawks coach Rob Porter said. “It’s the same thing every year for us — we start out slow and build toward being a pretty good team by the end of the year.”
Berg improved to 8-1 with his 3-2 title-mat decision over Elgin’s previously unbeaten Ritchie Santana, while Roth’s 7-2 decision win on the title mat against Libertyville’s Kevin Barbian kept his record at a perfect 5-0 to start the year.