By Mark Gregory
With the IHSA Class 3A wrestling regional coming up this weekend at Notre Dame, all four local schools will compete head to head – not only for the team title and a chance to advance individually to the Conant sectional.
The host Dons are looking to be at full strength for the first time in awhile and are looking to compete for the team regional title after finishing the season 19-7 and ranked in the top 25 of Illinois Best Weekly.
There are several wrestlers coach Augie Genovesi is looking at to compete.
“I’m looking at 106-pound freshman Sean Crump to start it off for us,” Genovesi said. “Sean finished the regular season at 20-14. At 113 sophomore Vincenzo Genualdi finished third in the conference and is wrestling well. At 120, sophomore Mikey Moore finished at 20-13 and improving everyday, while 126 brings us conference champion Andy Poniatowski who sits at 23-4.
At 132 and 138 respectively will be a pair of sophomores Alex Valenzona and Carlo Orlandi both back from injuries, while at 145 will be senior Augie Whittington who placed third in the conference and ended the season with a 31-10 record. Senior Vince Spedale at 27-9 will be at 152 followed by conference champion Josh Barzowski at 160 with a 32-3 record, Sam Grillo is at 170 after finishing runner-up in the conference and carries a 16-8 record into the regionals. Nick Prozanski is set at 182 with a 28-8 record and a runner-up finish this past weekend, at 195 will be Conor Flaherty who is on a nice roll after finishing runner-up in conference has a 14-18 record. Junior Brandon Griefelt is at 220 with a 17-9 record and at 285 will be Senior Joe Zanca who is 16-5.”
With a deep team this season, the Dons will look to advance as a unit, as well as send individuals to sectional.
“I think we prepare as a team as well as most,” Genovesi said. “Our goal is to get all 14 guys to score points in order to win the regionals. Our schedule has helped us get the team ready for therRegionals, we have either wrestled duals or been in tournaments with 16 of the top 25 and many honorable mention teams this season.”
Genovesi is also hoping for a little home court advantage as well.
“Hosting the regional is nice in a few ways,” he said. “The wrestlers are use to the facility and we usually draw good crowds of alumni, family and friends.”
The state series is also Genovesi’s final tournament as head coach of the Dons as he is set to retire at season’s end.
One of the teams looking to stop Notre Dame from taking the team title is Maine South. The Hawks will send a talented group to the mat looking to advance several to the next round.
“I think we have everyone to the weights they want to be at and conditioning is back and they are wrestling well,” said Maine South coach Kevin Hansen. “I think we are ready. We are wrestling well and we have made some improvements and the guys are wrestling hard.”
Hansen knows the regional will not be easy.
“There are some really good kids. Evanston and Notre Dame are quality programs,” he said. “This is 3A wrestling in Illinois and there is no easy route.”
The Hawks have several wrestlers with a chance to advance, with three in particular.
“Mike Milito as our senior captain has put together a really special year and Jon Halvorsen at 160, Josh Bess at 106, Eugene Lee at 152 are guys that have aspirations beyond regionals, but really we have a lot of other guys that have that opportunity,” he said.
Niles West also has a few wrestlers looking to move on to the next round.
“Next week, that is the end of it so everyone has to be ready to wrestle,” said Niles West coach Anthony Genovesi. “We will have a good week of practice and hopefully be ready. Neil O’Shaughnessy is a senior and he won the conference at 145 last week. Our 160 pounder, Bruce Blumenthal is a senior and he took second in conference and at 138, Daniel Pimentel took fifth in conference. Those three have a good chance and then we will see the rest. Hopefully the seniors go out and compete as hard as they can.
“There are some good teams, Maine South has some good guys and Evanston and Notre Dame and we will go out and compete and do the best we can.”
While Notre Dame, Niles West and Maine South are looking to make noise this year, Maine East is looking to the future for its explosion.
“We decided to keep our young talent down this year and not rush it to the top with the varsity group, so we are going to struggle this year,” said coach Emiliano Hernandez. “I have two kids that can maybe qualify for sectional and that is Julio Cabrales and Ceaser Hernandez. Right now, we have to wait a year and hope for next year.”
Emiliano Hernandez said while some programs can inject underclassmen into the lineup without issue, it is different with the Demons.
“At Maine East, we don’t get the kids that have played sports their whole lives,” he said. “A lot of our guys don’t wrestle until their freshman year. So, we have to nurture that and hope that it works in the next year or two. They have to establish success as a group.
“We hope they all come back and they spend the summer lifting weights and get ready for the battles of varsity wrestling.”