L-Way Central claims eight qualifiers
By Curt Herron
It wasn't that long ago that Lincoln-Way Central fell out of the Class 3A rankings after experiencing a few midseason struggles.
But in a season that started slowly because of a lot of inexperience, the 11th-ranked Knights certainly seem to be performing well at the right time.
That fact was demonstrated on Saturday when coach Jason DePolo's team wound up with the second-best total of sectional qualifiers at the Lockport Regional.
Competing against four other teams ranked among the top 16 in Class 3A, the Knights also just missed out on a second-place finish at the state's best meet.
Lockport edged Central 190.5-190 for second place honors but the Knights had eight sectional qualifiers while the Porters advanced six competitors.
Top-ranked Carl Sandburg won the 11-team competition with 230.5 points after qualifying 11 individuals for this weekend's Granite City Sectional.
Central led Lockport by a 174-169 margin heading into the medal round after collecting victories in six of its seven semifinal matches.
The Knights received championships from Tyler Price (103) and Tom Gross (160). It was the second regional title for both individuals.
After claiming a 14-6 semifinal win at 103 over Sandburg's Jim Pellegrino, #9 Price captured an 8-4 title victory over Lockport's Brian Rossi.
"I've learned from some tough losses and that's helped make me to come back stronger and I'm obviously doing better now," Price said. "It was nice to get some experience against bigger, tougher kids."
Gross qualified for his third sectional after beating Andrew's Alex Thill 9-6 in the semis and then Sandburg's Kyle Hughes 6-5 in the 160 finals.
"I was sick all week so I had to tough it out in this tournament," Gross said. "It was good to win the last match so I get the bye in the first round of sectionals and that puts me in a better position."
Turning in second place showings for the Knights were Joey Nelson (112), #8 Robbie Mikenis (125), Mick Korte (130) and Brett Ditchman (171).
Following a 1-0 semifinal win at 112 over Romeoville's Darshawn Hardy, Nelson lost an 8-4 title decision to Joliet Central's #12 Travon Zabala.
"I just tried to play a little defense and wait until he shot, but it didn't work out," Nelson said. "I was really happy after winning in the semifinals since I knew it would be a battle if I had lost."
Mikenis pulled out a 5-3 overtime win over Sandburg's Dan Garcia at 125 before losing by technical fall in 5:16 to Providence's #1 Eddie Klimara.
After winning 10-2 over Sandburg's Scott Redman in the 130 semifinals, Korte fell 8-1 to Lockport's #2 Jameson Oster, a four-time regional champion.
Ditchman pinned Joliet West's Dan Hougas in 1:46 in the 171 semifinals before injury defaulting to Sandburg's #5 Brandon Lopez in the title match.
Matt Schneider (152) and Luke Fisher (215) both advanced after winning dramatic third place matches while Logan Doyle (145) wound up taking fourth.
After dropping a 3-2 semifinal loss to Sandburg's Mitch Cook at 152, Schneider recorded a pin in 1:00 over East's David Rollins in his final match.
Following a quarterfinal defeat at 215, Fisher won his next three matches, including a 3-1 win over Joliet Central's Johnny Moore for third place.
Doyle lost his opener at 145 to Sandburg's #2 Nick Fishback and then won two matches before losing by technical fall to Fishback in his finale.
Seniors Ryan Bertocchi (119) and Austin Seliga (135) as well as Tyler Schneider (140) and Chris Attaway (189) missed the medal round by one match.