SENECA — Herscher, Beardstown and Rockford Lutheran lived up to their billing this past weekend at the 2012 Seneca Fighting Irish Wrestling Invitational. According to Seneca coach Todd Yegge those three teams, along with Clifton Central made the trek to the event as ranked team by Illinois Best Weekly on Saturday.
"We had a quality turnout this year. Things went really well," Yegge said. "It was great competition and one of the best turnouts we've ever had."
Herscher won the event as a team with 223 points, Beardstown was second with 173 and Rockford Lutheran third with 163. Manteno was fourth (161), Seneca fifth (146) and Central sixth (138).
"I knew it was going to be a tough tournament. There are a lot of good teams here," Seneca 126-pound champion Sage Friese said. "Coming in that pushed me to work harder. I had some tough matches and I was able to come out on top. It's a good feeling."
Friese, Tommy Lovett (160) and Brandon Webb (220) were champions for the Irish.
"I knew it was going to be a very hard tournament this year," Lovett said. "There were four ranked schools here ... I think this is a tournament we can build off of."
"I definitely think its a tough tournament," Webb said. "There are a lot of good quality teams here. I think we did good as a team. I think we upset some teams here today."
After winning the tournament two years in a row, the Irish fell to ninth last year, so the finish by the locals was significantly better than last season.
"I'm proud of the guys. They competed well today," Yegge said. "Even the younger guys wrestled well and scored us a lot of points today. We got some great performances from the younger kids and the state qualifiers did what they were supposed to do."
Friese, Lovett and Webb made it to state a year ago and they looked in good form on Saturday.
"Sage beat three or four ranked kids, either from 32 or 26 but he got through it. That kid at the end was tough, but he was able to pull it out," Yegge said. "Tommy lost to the kid from Beardstown (Friday) but he turned around and beat him today. He looked really good. I can't say enough about Brandon. He's also beaten three or four ranked kids in the last week. That's impressive."
Friese beat Caleb Micho of Rockford Lutheran after struggling into the third period. He was down 4-0 at one point and Micho was dominating when he got the opening he was looking for an got the pinfall victory at 4:39.
"I was getting a little nervous but I knew I couldn't stop trying. I was looking for something to open up and it did," Friese said. "He took a nice shot and I tried under-hooking him and got my hip through. At that point I was looking for the fall to seal it away."
Lovett beat Mike Waldmerson of Illiana Christian by major decision 13-5.
"I believe I am one of the best athletes on my feet and I want to use that to my advantage," he said.
Perhaps Lovett's biggest win was not in the finals, but in the semifinals against Beardstown's Dakota Longley (5-4). He had lost the night before in a dual with the Tigers.
Webb won by fall in just 44 seconds over Jordyn Waisel of Manteno.
"I fell into a headlock," he said. "I wasn't trying to force anything. I was actually being careful when the headlock appeared. He shot in and I took it."
Those three, however, were not the only ones to make their mark on Saturday according to Yegge.
"We had others step up and get some points," Yegge said. "(Gary) Wantroba was third, Spencer Leake was sixth, (Jonah) Lamboley was sixth, but he won three matches. (Dayton) Coyle was fourth and he was real physical today. We wrestled tough all day and (Lucas) Altobella was fourth and also did a great job."