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Lincolnshire Saturday, 1/26/13 Libertyville's Austin Pettinato tries to avoid being taken down by Stevenson's Justin Weber during their 1st place match at 145 lbs during Saturday's North Suburban Conference Wrestling Championships hosted by Stevenson High
Libertyville coach Dale Eggert has a prime example of mental toughness wrestling for him at 145 pounds.
“I don’t know if he is in any better condition than his opponents,” Eggert said of senior Austin Pettinato. “But when crunch time comes around, he clicks into another gear and raises the intensity to a point that very few people can stay with him.”
Libertyville won the North Suburban Conference championship Saturday, outpointing runner-up Grant 223.5-211.5 to win its fourth title since 2006. Pettinato helped lead the way, placing second at 145 pounds.
His philosophy on elevating his game in tough situations is simple.
“Some people crack under pressure, and some people do better under pressure,” Pettinato said. “I just choose to do better.”
With a 21-4 record this year — and a No. 5 ranking in Illinois from Illinois Matmen — Pettinato has beaten some of the best wrestlers in the state, including a state place-winner in Barrington’s Cord Wiseman and a state-qualifier in Lake Zurich’s Sean Lynch.
In both of those matches, Pettinato’s mental toughness was on display. He trailed Lynch 6-2 before coming back to win a 10-8 decision at 152 pounds, and he beat Wiseman 3-1 on a takedown late in the match.
“I train hard in practice, right at the tape line in front of coach, all the time, and I think that helps me on the mat,” Pettinato said. “I don’t quit, and I’m never going to quit.”
Libertyville teammate Kayne MacCallum, who won an individual NSC title at 160 pounds Saturday, will vouch for that.
“He goes so hard in the practice room, and he constantly goes hard,” MacCallum said. “If someone gets tired, he’ll grab someone else to get him to keep working hard.”
Pettinato competed in judo before he began wrestling in sixth grade, a late start by today’s wrestling standards. He had a lot to learn.
“Mr. Eggert is the best coach in the state,” Pettinato said. “When I came in as a freshman, all I knew was a headlock and a butcher, and he’s done wonders for me. I can’t say enough about the guy. He has made me evolve from a grunt wrestler into a technician.”
In 26 years as Libertyville’s coach, Eggert has coached plenty of wrestlers with long pedigrees in the sport. Pettinato may not be one of them, but Eggert sees potential for a deep postseason run.
“He doesn’t have a huge wrestling resume. He didn’t place in the junior high state, he has one trip to high school sectionals, and hasn’t been to state yet,” Eggert said. “But I’m sure anyone who has seen him wrestle knows he is going to be a tough draw for any opponent because he is never out of a match.”
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