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Sandburg wrestler Mitch Cook (in blue) pins his 152-pound opponent, Richards' Delon Carter during a Regional final match Saturday at Marist. | John Booz~for the Sun-Times Media
The match was slipping away from C.J. Brucki and maybe too was Sandburg’s chance to defend its Class 3A team title.
But somewhere Brucki found an extra burst of energy, enough to save himself and the Eagles. The Sandburg senior turned a 5-1 third-period deficit into a 9-7 overtime victory against Marist’s Peter Andreotti in the 160-pound final at Saturday’s Class 3A Marist Regional.
That eight-point swing in the team standings was the difference in the No. 3 Eagles’ 244-238 win over No. 5 Marist in the state’s most anticipated regional matchup.
“He had me ... beat,” Brucki said. “It showed on the scoreboard. But it’s about how tough you are. It’s the biggest factor in wrestling. Third period is my period and I took it to him.”
Brucki (34-5) was one of seven champs and 13 qualifiers for next weekend’s Shepard Individual Sectional for the Eagles, who trailed Marist by 12 points heading into the finals. The rivals met eight times in that round and Sandburg won five of the bouts, including two of the three that went to overtime, before a vocal, near-capacity crowd.
“It’s like watching a college dual,” said Sandburg 120-pounder Sebastian Pique, who was struck by the similarity to Friday’s Penn State-Iowa match. “That’s what this atmosphere reminded me of.”
One of the matches that ramped up the intensity was the 113 final, where Mark Duda (29-2) of Marist won 5-3 over returning state champ Kris Williams (12-1) of Thornton. Duda was motivated by some Internet chatter: “I noticed when I got on there people were saying [about Williams], ‘He’s too big, too strong,’ and I just kind of wanted to put it in other people’s [minds] ... that I could come out, I can wrestle tough.”
Pique (8-1), a former state champ and two-time state finalist who missed almost two months with an elbow injury, followed that by winning Sandburg’s first title, 13-4 over Marist’s David Kasper.
“I think I’m at 100 percent,” Pique said. “It was rough, but I tried to stay positive. ... I knew it was going to be a little shaky [coming off the layoff]. Surprisingly, it was better than I thought it would be.”
Jake Vales’ 2-1 overtime win against Nick Gasbarro at 126 put Sandburg up 215-213. But the lead seesawed back and forth for the next several weights.
Marist’s Mario Leveille (30-9) won at 132, Sandburg’s John Pellegrino (30-4) took first at 138 and Marist sophomore Jakada Hull beat Sandburg’s Alante Walker 8-6 in overtime at 145. That gave the RedHawks a 221-219 lead.
But Sandburg went ahead to stay, 225-224, through 152, where Sandburg’s Mitch Cook (30-8) pinned Richards’ Deion Carter in the title bout.
Wins from Brucki and unbeatens Colin Holler (40-0 at 170) and Ricky Robertson (40-0 at 195) pushed the Eagles’ lead to an insurmountable 244-229.
Sandburg coach Eric Siebert was glad to get the win and sad to see Marist get victimized by the IHSA’s state series format. Tournament scoring in regionals is used to set the sectional field, but then teams compete in duals the rest of the way.
“The two things you take from today — it’s a great day of wrestling and shame on the IHSA for not having a format that should put the appropriate teams where they need to be,” Siebert said.
“All year we struggled putting back-to-back-to-back solid rounds together,” Marist coach Brendan Heffernan said. “We talked about that [how] at regional it could come back to haunt us.”
Marist, which qualified its entire 14-man lineup for the sectional, also got a first from Tom Howell (30-5) at 220. Third-place T.F. South (105.5) had two champs: Joe Young (27-2) at 182 and Corinthian McBridge (34-1) at 285. The other winner was Shepard 106-pounder Santo Marciano (29-7).