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The La Salle-Peru wrestling team opened its doors with smiles on their faces for three other schools to compete in a quadrangular dual meet Saturday.
Once the Cavaliers hit the mat, glares of determination replaced the smiles as L-P beat Rockford East 33-25, Lincoln Way-North 34-17 and United Township 37-32 to go undefeated at the meet and to stay above .500 on the season with a 5-3 record.
“At the beginning we started off really slow, but we’re really pushing it and our practices are getting a lot better,” Cavaliers’ senior 220-pounder Mike Denyes said. “We’re all pushing the pace and it’s showing on that mat that we’re doing better. I think we’re improving.”
Denyes was one of four L-P grapplers along with Collin Groleau, Chris Morehouse and Alec Freschi to post unblemished marks on the day as he went 3-0 securing victories by fall, major decision and decision.
He started his unbeaten day with a bang, pinning Rockford East’s Jacob Limberg in 20 seconds. His six points created an 18-3 advantage for the Cavs after three previous L-P wins.
Senior Ryan Marlett beat Xavier Nicholls with a 7-2 decision at the 194-pound weight class, senior 182-pounder Morehouse had a pinfall against Austin Hauser in 56 seconds and Luis Vega secured a 3-1 decision over Matt Wyman at 170-pounds.
The 18-3 lead then blossomed into a 24-9 lead after junior Riley Sweetland pinned Josh Chavez at 113-pounds in 1:58. Rockford East took three straight bouts but the 138-pound Freschi and 145-pound Grouleau were able to put the match away with a 4-0 decision and a fall in 3:31.
“I kind of just went out and was listening to my coach,” said Groleau, who went 3-0 with one fall and two decisions. “Whatever he told me to do, I just did what he said because I’ve always had faith in my coach whenever he’s told me to practice. I just do what he says.”
With one dual win in the books, there didn’t seem to be a reason to stop there. Although L-P dropped three of the first five matches against L-W North to find itself down 10-9, the fight was nowhere near over.
L-P took the next six bouts at the 113, 120, 126, 132, 138 and 145 to pull away for a 34-17 victory.
“I was pretty happy with the way they competed,” L-P coach Matt Fletcher said. “Some guys stepped up that hadn’t been wrestling the way we wanted to, but for the most part some guys are getting a little tougher wrestling through positions that we need them to stay tough and just wrestle through.”
The Illinois Class 2A No. 11-ranked 106-pounder Sweetland was the definition of wrestling through different positions as he jumped up from his regular weight class to fight at 113 pounds.
The team needed him most in the last dual when the Cavs faced United Township, which also won its first two duals.
Sweetland won his first two matches by a fall and an 11-3 major decision but was up against a real challenge in the Panthers’ Jeronnie Steward, who is Class 2A’s No. 7-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds.
“Fletcher wanted me to bump up to face him because he’s ranked seventh at 113, the weight class above me,” Sweetland said. “I bumped up to help the team and get that good match because that’s what we’re looking for — good matches.
“That’s what it was — a good, hard-fought match, I wish it would have come out my way, but I’m thankful for the opportunity and will get ’em next time.”
The two wrestlers battled back and forth but Steward’s two points in the third round helped him edge Sweetland 3-0.
Steward’s victory pulled United Township within 10 at 19-9 with six weight classes finished.
The Panthers were able to pull within four at 19-15 with a fall, but once again the Cavs went on a surge, winning the next four matches.
Blake Billig won a 4-2 decision after his opponent Aaron Halligan was penalized with an unsportsman-like foul. UT coach Lambros Fotos was then penalized for the same when he had words with the referee. The Panthers were penalized a point for the fouls to make the score 22-14 after Billig’s victory.
Senior 132-pounder Brenden Fasken followed the excitement up with a pin in 3:40, and a pin by Freschi in 3:34 and an 8-3 decision for Groleau helped L-P build a 37-14 lead.
United Township won the last three bouts by fall, but the Cavs held on for the 37-32 victory.
“We knew a couple of the dual meets were going to be tight and we’ve been struggling a little to find ourselves this year, but we’ve been preaching the basics and wrestling through positions,” Fletcher said.
“They did a good job of that (Saturday).”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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