ALTON – After earning its first-ever trophy a year ago with a third-place showing in Class 3A, Lincoln-Way West saw an otherwise outstanding season conclude earlier than it anticipated when it fell to Providence Catholic in the Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional.
Coach Brian Glynn's Warriors got an opportunity to take some of the sting out of that regional showing during Friday's Class 3A Alton Sectional and through the first day of the competition, West was quite pleased with its performance through the quarterfinals.
The Warriors won four-straight quarterfinal matches to go 4-2 in that round as it posted the second-highest number of semifinalists of area teams behind Lockport, who had six.
Jacob Cronk started the late burst of success when he pulled out a 5-4 victory at 160 over Plainfield Central's Jamel Sheppard. Kyle Quinn followed at 170 with an 18-4 victory. That followed earlier quarterfinal losses by Garrett (120) and Payton Geigner (126).
While Quinn entered the tournament ranked tenth at his weight, Cronk was certainly a darkhorse to each the semifinals since he competed on the junior-varsity level last season.
"I listened to my coach and just focused tunnel vision on each match, one at a time, and try not to get too concerned what I had next," Cronk said. "I definitely think that a lot of it has to due with I've been practicing with since I've had a lot of good training partner this year."
After Jimmie Olds (No. 5) beat Yorkville's Brady Fisher (No. 3) by fall in 3:02 to advance in the rugged 220 bracket, Nick Skentzos closed out the evening by getting an escape in the ultimate to capture a 3-2 victory at 285 over Yorkville's Keenan Ness (No. 8).
"He beat me in my first match of the year by a 1-0 score," Skentzos said. "Just like that one, it was about who scored first."
Other than the disappointment of seeing returning placewinner Baylor Fernandes, who was ranked third and the tournament's favorite at 145 not competing, it was a very successful quarterfinal round or Lockport.
Mike Kaminski (106), Matt Ramos (113), Anthony Molton (120), James Pierandozzi (138), Zach Reese (152) and Yousif Salah (182) all picked up wins Matt Kronsbein (132) fell.
"It's been a good day so far, but today was not our goal since we've got way more wrestling to do," Reese said. "I don't think that anyone is going to have an easy time in their semifinal match so we'll have to hunker down."
After dropping its first four quarterfinal matches, including a 2-0 defeat by Nick Matthias to Kaminski at 106 and a 10-8 overtime loss by defending state champion Jacob Lindsey (No. 5) at 113 to Plainfield Central's Nick Minnito, the Celtics won three of their next five.
Dominick Ambrose (No. 9) won 1-0 over Minooka's Adam McDowell at 138, Josh Ramos (No. 10) was a winner by technical fall over Minooka's Noah Boles at 145 and Cole Smith (No. 2) recorded a fall in 1:15 over Plainfield South's Erik Santiago before Logan Anderson (No. 2) was upset 10-3 by Plainfield Central's Tom Gustafson.
"After my loss against Mount Carmel in our last dual, I've just been working hard and thinking about state," Ramos said. "So want to qualify by finishing in the top four. After I got that first-period turn, I was confident that I could keep on getting it. I have Dom Ambrose, Cole Smith and Kevin Countryman pushing me every day in practice."
Lincoln-Way East also finished strong in the quarterfinals, going 3-2 from 170 to 285 after getting wins from Nick Mihajlovic (No. 5) at 182, John Christensen at 195 and Devin O'Rourke (No. 4) at heavyweight.
Joliet West had four sectional qualifiers, all whom advanced to the quarterfinals. Eric Davis-Smith edged Minooka's Zach McDowell at 126 and Jonathan Pullen pulled out a 5-4 win over Normal Community's Thaddeus Nartey at 170. Terrance Snapp (132) and Jeremy Pullen (152) both fell in that round.
"I just keep working hard," Jonathan Pullen said. "I'm going out there to wrestle and trying to beat people so that I can make it downstate. I bounced back from last week, which was was a little rough. So I came back and worked hard all week and bringing my all out here."
The Tigers were joined by four other Southwest Prairie Conference teams with two winners in the quarterfinals.
Those teams squads were Minooka (Austin Markee at 120 and Drew Gutknecht at 195), Plainfield Central (Minnito and Gustafson), Plainfield North (Dylan Amico at 106 and Matt Hennessey at 220) and Plainfield South (Enzo Silva at 113 and Jake Kendall at 152).
And Plainfield East also advanced one individual to the semifinals. After Anthony Zamora lost a 7-3 decision to Marian Catholic's Travis Ford-Melton (No. 2) at 120, Artese Gregory got an escape in the ultimate tiebreaker to pull out a 3-2 win at 285 over Moline's Cobie Underwood in Friday's final match.
"I try to pull what offense I can, but sometimes if the other guy seems a little more dominant, I just wrestle smart," Gregory said. "I'm very excited for Saturday since state is the goal. I've got my coach to thank for pushing me and getting me ready for the ultimate tiebreaker."