OPRF uses late surge to outlast Carl Sandburg

ORLAND PARK, Ill. -- The pair of teams favored to win the Illinois Class 3A dual meet state championship met on Saturday afternoon, as No. 13 Carl Sandburg hosted No. 10 Oak Park River Forest. Each squad features excellent balance throughout the lineup, and the 160 pound weight class start would test that.

To start the dual meet, No. 18 Davonte Mahomes of Oak Park River Forest was held to a closer than expected 9-6 decision victory by C.J. Brucki. On the other hand, senior Colin Holler -- ranked No. 11 nationally -- took care of business in a second period pin over freshman Al Stallings. Then, dual meet lineup strategy would play a role, as Carl Sandburg flip-flopped from their individual event lineup.

At 182 pounds, Carl Sandburg placed senior Chris Pajak against state qualifier Joe Ariola. Ariola, who is having an excellent senior season for the Huskies, tied the dual meet at 6-6 with a 7-3 decision. In the next weight, Eagles senior Ricky Robertson -- ranked No. 3 nationally at 182 -- responded with a 9-4 decision at 195. Returning state qualifier Bill Gore would make it consecutive wins with a 6-0 decision over Malik Broumant at 220 to give Carl Sandburg a 12-6 lead heading into a crucial match at 285.

With neither team having a strong wrestler, a potential swing match played to form, as the wrestlers were tied 1-1 through regulation. Then, in the overtime session, Oak Park River Forest got a takedown to the back from Adam Lempke to cut the deficit to 12-9 after a 6-1 win. However, it was short-lived momentum as the Eagles saw Christian Robertson defeat Robert Campos 5-2 in a battle of freshmen at 106 to extend the Carl Sandburg lead to 15-9.

The 113 pound match involved wrestlers who split a pair of matches at last month's Rex Whitlach Invitational. Living up to that expectation, it was Huskies freshman Gabe Townsell earning a 6-4 victory over senior Jim Pellegrino, who qualified for state last year. Within the next four matches, missing personnel from each squad would play a role. Oak Park River Forest did not have sophomore Matt Rundell (120), who was a state runner-up last year; while Carl Sandburg was without two-time state finalist Sebastian Pique (120/126), part-time starter in sophomore Tom Slattery (132), and state qualifier John Pellegrino (138).

At 120, senior Jake Vales earned a technical fall to stretch the Carl Sandburg out to 20-12 before Oak Park River Forest went on a four-match winning streak. That started with a 14-7 decision from freshman Isaiah White at 126 pounds, beating fellow freshman Brad Krasowski. It was continued with Larry Early's 15-6 major decision, which cut the Carl Sandburg lead down to one at 20-19.

A technical fall from senior Jake O'Mara, who was a Junior Greco-Roman All-American, would enable the Huskies to take their first lead since the opening match, 24-19 through 138 pounds. State qualifier Johnny Gahagan would clinch the dual for Oak Park River Forest with a 5-4 victory over Tom Brennan at 145 pounds, while state placer Mitch Cook's 12-4 major decision over Zach Pickering at 152 pounds yielded the final score of 27-24 in favor of the Huskies.

160: No. 18 Mahomes (OP) dec. Brucki, 9-6
170: No. 11 Holler (CS) pinned Stallings, 3:10
182: Ariola (OP) dec. Pajak, 7-3
195: No. 3 (at 182) R. Robertson (CS) dec. Lee, 9-4
220: Gore (CS) dec. Brumant, 6-0
285: Lemkpe (OP) dec. Halpin, 6-1 SV
106: C.Robertson (CS) dec. Campos, 5-2
113: Townsell (OP) dec. Pelligrino, 6-4
120: Vales (CS) tech. fall J. Robles, 5:50
126: White (OP) dec. Krakowski, 14-7
132: Early (OP) maj. dec. Schneider, 15-6
138: O'Mara (OP) tech. fall T.Slattery, 3:12
145: Gahagan (OP) dec. Brennan, 5-4
152: Cook (CS) maj. dec. Pickering, 12-4


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