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Brother Rice's Nuntrae Jackson wrestles Oak Park River Forest's Davonte Mahomes at the Hinsdale Central Invitational. - Stacia Timonere/for Sun Times Media
Round 1 goes to Oak Park-River Forest.
Sandburg and the Huskies were the consensus No. 1 and 2 wrestling teams in Class 3A heading into Hinsdale Central's Rex Whitlatch Invitational, the first of what could be four meetings between them this season.
Oak Park had five champs and held off short-handed Sandburg 286.5-278 Saturday to win the 25-team tourney. Class 3A No. 9 Harlem edged No. 12 Hinsdale Central 169.5-168.5 for third.
"It's good to see them," Oak Park 132-pounder Larry Early said of the Eagles. "This will get our momentum up for them at team state. We lost to them last year [30-24 in the Class 3A state championship]. That's why every time we go up against them in a match we're so pumped up."
So what does this title mean, given that the teams could meet again at The Clash in Rochester, Minn., later this month, at the Sandburg Super Duals in mid-January and in the Class 3A state quarterfinals?
"For us, it means a little," Oak Park coach Mike Powell said. "We want a higher seeding than them at The Clash; we're hoping to get the No. 4 seed. If this helps us do that, then it was worth it. But other than that, it means nothing."
Sandburg will be without two-time state finalist Sebastian Pique (elbow) till sometime next month. And the Eagles didn't get the points they expected from 220-pounder Bill Gore, who came in 11-0 but was battling the flu and lost his only match 11-2.
"Our sport is not about excuses," Sandburg coach Eric Siebert said. "Oak Park is very good. ... I thought we battled well. We hung in there."
Early (16-0) and Davonte Mahomes (15-0) each won battles of unbeatens in the finals for Oak Park.
Early edged DeKalb's Doug Johnson (12-1) 5-4 at 132. Johnson's skill — he's a two-time state placer — and the fact that he's left-handed presented challenges, but Early prevailed. "I just had to keep my emotions going and I knew I could beat him," Early said.
Mahomes (15-0) got past Brother Rice's Nuntrae Jackson (15-1) 6-5 in the 160 final.
Oak Park's other champs were Matt Rundell (15-1) at 120, Johnny Gahagan (13-2) at 145 and Joe Ariola (14-0) at 182.
Sandburg had titles from its two Class 3A top-ranked wrestlers, each of whom bumped up a weight. Colin Holler (17-0) beat Proviso West's Kenard Washington 3-2 at 170 and Ricky Robertson (17-0) decisioned third-ranked Jameer Thurman (9-1) of Proviso West 7-1 at 195.
"The only problem with going up is some of these kids are a little stronger," Robertson said. "But I mean, when it comes to technique, I think I pretty much have the edge over everybody at that weight class. ... That's one of the reasons I wanted to stay up at '95 this week. I figured there'd be some good '95-pounders. I could show I'm just as tough up there as I am down low."
Brother Rice freshman Rudy Yates (16-0) continued the perfect start to his prep career, beating Homewood-Flossmoor's Mike Burke (14-1) 7-2 in the 103 final. It was the first competitive meeting of the pair, who are offseason practice partners. "I always beat him, but he's a tough kid," Yates said.
Yet another matchup of unbeatens came in the 138 final, where Downers Grove North's Cullen Cummings (18-0) edged Belleville West's Mech Spraggins (12-1) 5-4.
"He's ranked No. 2 [in 3A], I'm ranked No. 3," Cummings said. "Next time I'll probably see him is downstate. It was good to give him a nudge, saying, 'I'm here.'"
Also winning titles were Hinsdale Central junior 285-pounder Brian Allen (16-0), who is a three-time Whitlatch champ; and Naperville Central 220-pounder Luke Roth (9-0).