Wrestlers take Flott Invitational championship
KANELAND—Joe Orosco earned his first tournament win as Kaneland High School wrestling head coach Saturday behind four first-place finishes, and seven more wrestlers in the top five, at Kaneland’s Margaret Flott Invitational.
“It’s good to win our own tournament,” Orosco said after the Knights clinched the victory. “I knew coming in with these tougher teams—Naperville North, Machesney Park (Harlem)—they are tough teams, (and) I was thinking we’d wrestle tough, but I didn’t expect to win it.”
Orosco’s crew finished with 196 points, 19.5 ahead of runner-up Naperville North’s 176.5 and Harlem’s 172. Plainfield North (152), Niles North (142), Johnsburg (114), Rochelle (54) and Elgin (41) rounded out the field. The Knights had won four straight Flott Invitationals from 2010-13, and placed second in 2014.
“They did very, very well,” Orosco said of his wrestlers.
Four Knights earned tournament wins on their home mat Saturday: George Strang (junior, 145 pounds), Colin Gussman (sophomore ,170), and brothers Riley Vanik (sophomore, 160) and Tom Price-Vanik (senior, 195).
Strang’s road to the 145-pound championship saw the junior get a first-round bye before edging out Joe Broton of Niles North 5-4 in the semifinal. In the championship, Strang burst out to a 6-2 lead after the first period. After an uneventful second, a Broton escape in the third brought the score to 6-3 before Strang was able to put him away for an 8-4 final. It was Strang’s first tournament win.
“It’s great to have (my first tournament win) at home, because everyone you love is watching you,” Strang said. “Winning the tournament just means we’ve seen improvements, but there’s always things I can work on.”
Gussman pinned Javier Aguirre of Rochelle in his quest for glory at 170 pounds, before earning an 18-13 major decision win over Harlem’s Dalton Hambrock in the semifinal. In the championship, it was all Gussman, earning a 5-0 decision over Calvin Rosenburgh of Niles North.
“I finally feel like I’ve earned it,” Gussman said. “I’ve put all this hard work in, just trying to do my best every day in practice. And I’m hoping this is what I get out of it the rest of the year.”
At 160 pounds, Vanik earned an opening-round 10-3 major decision win over Johnsburg’s Riley Buchanan, and a 10-2 major decision over Rochelle’s Alex Eckhardt in the semifinal. In the championship match, Vanik was up 4-1 after the first period, and pushed his lead to 6-1 before pinning Naperville North’s Steve Schmult in 2:29.
“I’m so happy, because I lost last year (at the Flott Tournament),” Vanik said. “The team works so hard to get everyone better, and knowing I could win at home makes me feel I’m in a much better position than anything else.”
Not to be outdone by his younger sibling, Tom Price-Vanik steamrolled his way to the Flott championship at 195 pounds, earning three pins in as many matches. Price-Vanik wrestled a total of 1 minute, 39 seconds en route to the victory. He opened his day with a :24 pin over Anthony Moore of Johnsburg, and kept his effort short against Tommy Higgins of Naperville North, pinning the Huskie in :49. In the championship, the Knight senior pinned Cameron Cichowicz in :26 to earn the tourney win.
“I’m pretty excited for winning,” Price-Vanik said. “A lot of hard work went into it with the team. We’ve practiced really hard this week.”
Earning runner-up finishes for the Knights were Matthew Redman (126 pounds) and Austin Parks (182), while Mitchell Jones (138) and Zach Thielk (285) earned third place at the tournament.
Also placing were Adam Mish (4th, 120), Zac Parker (4th, 182), Austin Kedzie (5th, 106), Luke Eggenberger (5th, 132) and Hayden Patterson (6th, 152).
With just three seniors and two juniors, Saturday’s win demonstrated the promise the young, talented Knights have going forward.
“I’m really proud of my team. I’m really glad that we’ve been working so hard to get all the accomplishments we have this year,” Price-Vanik said. “Practice has been a lot more intense this time of year—a lot more sprints, a lot more hard wrestling. Really, we have just all turned up the intensity, and it’s working out very well.”
Orosco noted that the team has been working hard at practice.
“We just keep pushing,” Orosco said. “We’ll see some issues during a dual meet and we’ll go back and spend the next practice working on those little minor issues,” Orosco said. “Because it’s those little minor things—like head down, being on your knees—that really set the tone in a match and keep you from scoring and keep you from winning. We’ll spend a lot of time on just the basics.”
The concept of minor things making a big impact is also something Orosco’s wrestlers have bought in to.
“I want to improve my top position, because I usually don’t have enough hip pressure,” Vanik said.
Looking ahead, the Knights will travel to Yorkville Saturday for the annual Northern Illinois Big 12 tournament. The tourney will begin at 9 a.m, with wrestlebacks begining at 12:30 p.m. and finals at approximately 4:15 p.m.
Following the NIB-12 showcase, Kaneland will travel to Batavia for a dual on Jan. 30 before heading to the Belvidere Individual Regional Feb. 7.