With Coal City's wrestling team making the step up to Class 2A this season, coach Mark Masters did his best to prepare his squad with that move by seeking out quality opponents from each of the state's three classes.
And to say that the Coalers have been very busy during the 2018 portion of their schedule would be an understatement since they've already won 27 of their first 29 dual meets.
Last weekend's Abe's Rumble in Springfield proved to be a very successful boost to Coal City's postseason preparation. The Coalers defeated Lena-Winslow 40-31 to complete a run of nine-straight dual meet wins over two days to help them claim top honors in the 55-team dual team tournament. Their average margin of victory was 59.8-14 and eight members of the team posted records of 7-1 or better.
The Coalers, who took third place a year ago in Class 1A and were second in 2016 and third in 2015, will face another good test this weekend and hope to win their third-straight title in the two-day Princeton Invitational Tournament.
"We set up a schedule to include schools from all three classes so we won't notice the move until tournament time," Masters said. "The talent pool in 2A will be a little deeper but that's to be expected. Our kids have embraced it and are excited to see how well they measure up to everyone in the new class. If we can get healthy by regional time, we'll be alright."
The Coalers are ranked fourth in the latest Class 2A rankings on the IWCOA website and have several athletes who are listed among the state's best in their new class.
Alex Friddle, a three-time medalist and runnerup in 2018, is 25-0 and top-ranked at 132. Ryan Wasielewski (24-2) is eighth at 152 and Evan Rivera (23-3) ranks ninth at 106.
Others Coalers with top records include Zach Finch (24-4 at 113), Trent Akre (21-6 at 120), Connor Huston (20-5 at 126), Ashton Harvey (19-6 at 160), David Papach (24-3 at 170), Cole Garcia (18-2 at 195) and Wills Payton (17-5 at 220). Daniel Jezik (9-0 at 182), a two-time medalist and state runnerup a year ago, has been out of late with an injury.
Coal City still has a few more dual meets on its schedule, including January 24 when it hosts the top-ranked team in Class 2A, Washington, the three-time defending state champions.
DeKalb's Flavin Invite: Several local teams had good showings in another top dual teams tournament, DeKalb's Flavin invite, which was also this past weekend.
Lincoln-Way West went 5-1 and was second in the platinum pool, falling, 39-27, to DeKalb. It was led by Javen Estrada (126), Payton Geigner (145), Chris Kennedy (152), Josh Pakula (170) and Jacob Cronk (182).
Lemont went 3-3 and finished second in the gold pool. The Indians were led by Drew Nash (132), Kyle Schickel (138) and Apollo Gothard (220). Plainfield South took fourth in the gold pool after going 3-3. Leading the Cougars were Enzo Silva (120), Will Johnston (182/195) and Andrew Bejarano (285).
Others who competed were Lincoln-Way East, who was led by Nick Mihajlovich (182), Paul Malito (138) and Noah Alsguson (170); Joliet Central behind Mike Anderson (113), Mario Leon (138), Jayden Perez (195) and Damaris Stanley (220); And Plainfield East was led by Alex Villar (120), Ryan Graff (126), D’Anthony Hopkins (138) and Barry Stevenson (145).
Updated state rankings: The latest state rankings presented by Rob Sherrill were posted on Thursday on the IWCOA website. Four area teams are listed in the top-25 in Class 3A, three are ranked in Class 2A and another made the the Class 1A rankings.
In Class 3A, Lockport remains in fifth, Lincoln-Way West moved to seventh, Minooka is ranked 14th and Plainfield South is 20th. In Class 2A, Lemont is third, Coal City is ranked fourth and Joliet Catholic Academy is 21st while Wilmington is ranked 18th in Class 1A.
Lockport's Matt Ramos is top-ranked in Class 3A at 120. Also for the Porters, Anthony Molton (third at 126) and Baylor Fernandes (third at 152) are in the top-10. Lincoln-Way West has four in the top-10, Payton Geigner (eighth at 145), Javen Estrada (ninth at 126), Chris Kennedy (ninth at 152) and Jacob Cronk (tenth at 182).
Plainfield South also has four in the top-10, James Pierandozzi (third at 145), Andrew Bejarano (fourth at 285), Enzo Silva (seventh at 120) and Jake Kendall (eighth at 160). Providence Catholic has three athletes who are ranked, Ryan Boersma (third at 220), Josh Ramos (fourth at 138) and Jacob Lindsey (eighth at 113).
Minooka has two top-10 individuals, Drew Gutknecht (third at 285) and Alec Dufour (sixth at 170). Others who are ranked in 3A are Lincoln-Way East's Nick Mihajlovich (fifth at 182), Plainfield North's Jacob Macatangay (seventh at 106), Plainfield Central's Nick Minnito (eighth at 126) and Joliet West's Jeremy Pullen (eighth at 152).
In Class 2A, Coal City's Alex Friddle is the lone area top-ranked individual, at 132. Others in the top-10 for the Coalers are Ryan Wasielewski (eighth at 152) and Evan Rivera (ninth at 106). Lemont leads all local teams with five in the top-10. They are Apollo Gothard (second at 220), Grant LaDuke (third at 145), Drew Nash (fourth at 132), Kyle Schickel (fourth at 138) and Evan Schiffman (fifth at 106). And Joliet Catholic Academy has two-ranked individuals, Dean Hamiti (second at 126) and Jack Finnegan (third at 120).
In Class 1A, Peotone's Paul Keane is top-ranked at 120. Others in the top-10 in 1A are Dwight's Cade Emerson (eighth at 152) and Cameron Klingler (ninth at 170), Seneca's Jackson Beene (ninth at 152) and Wilmington's Landon Flynn (ninth at 132).