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Ridgewood's Joe Perez shoots in on Highland Park's Brandon Garcia-Galvan during the Leyden Wrestling Invitational at Leyden East January 5, 2013. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Heading into his Leyden Invitational title match on Saturday, Conant senior Ben Clifford’s approach included a bit of wisdom that should be etched in every wrestler’s mind before every match.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Clifford said. “That’s always a good idea.”
Clifford did just that, avoiding tie-ups with a solid Greco-Roman wrestler in Lakes’ Levi Smith, and winning a 15-7 decision win on the title mat at 132 pounds. Teammate Bobby Alexander (120) also dominated his way to an individual title as the Cougars won their second consecutive team crown at Leyden, posting a 189.5-162.5 edge over second-place Oak Forest.
Conant sent 11 wrestlers to the awards stand and four to the title mat, including second-place finishers Griff Rose (138) and Tyler LaBarbera (220).
“We have a good team this year and a lot of young guys. We only have four seniors,” Clifford said. “I think we’ve only lost three duals and they were close meets that I think we should have won.”
Oak Forest sent four to the title mat and got a title from Alec Brown (220), while third-place Stevenson had a pair of champions in Justin Weber (145) and Ned Valtchev (182). Weber was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler after winning by tech fall on the title mat over previously unbeaten Hasan Muhammad of Richards.
Weber has also wrestled at 152 pounds this year, and improved to 24-1 with his title win. “I’m at 145 now and every match I wrestled at 152 was just to wrestle a better kid,” Weber said. “I feel bigger at 145 and I can feel the size difference. Every weight class is a big jump.”
Vernon Hills’ Jordan Reich won a 3-1 overtime decision at 106 against top-seeded Danny Swan of Oak Forest, and both Proviso West’s Jameer Thurman (195) and Leyden’s Javier Rhoades (285) pinned their way through their brackets in winning titles.
No one at 285 made it out of the first round against Rhoades, who at 225 pounds could easily wrestle instead at 220 pounds. “Guys at 220 move around too much,” Rhoades said. “I just want to stand there and fight.”
Richards’ Corey Willett (113) and Deion Carter (152), South Elgin’s Cory Pych (126), and Ridgewood’s Joe Perez (138) won titles, along with Lakes’ David Gregory (160) and Proviso West’s Kenard Washington (170).
Pych improved to 22-2 and used a third-period cradle and back points to secure his 4-0 title-mat win over Vernon Hills’ Brae Cruz.
“The cradle was there and it’s one of my reliable (tools) but if it’s not there I’ll do something else,” Pych said. “I’m comfortable on top but I’m much more confident on my feet this year.”