The Plainfield Central wrestling team took its lump earlier this season at the Dvorak and Cheesehead tournaments. Now the dividends are beginning to show.
The Wildcats won the first five matches to grab a 21-0 lead and costed to a 42-25 Senior Night victory Thursday over Southwest Prairie Conference rival Minooka.
Dylan Cramer (120 pounds) got things rolling with a technial fall and Jared Ellingwood (126), Nick Nasenbeny (132), Clayton Ledbetter (138) and Jordan Dinoffria (145) also won before returning state placer Carson Oughton (152) got Minooka on the board with a major decision.
"From the get-go, they were in control," Minooka coach Jeff Charbelois said. "You spot them a 20-point lead, it sets the tempo for them. Our guys start thinking it's going the wrong way and it affects them.
"Each kid has one responsibility, that's to wrestle their six minutes. But the fact of the matter is, when the team is down, that plays on their minds."
Nasebeny, who improved to 16-2, said there was no way he would lose on Senior Night.
"It's always a rivalry between the two top teams in the conference when we wrestle them," he said. "When you're trying to beat the best, it sets a different tone. We pushed the pace tonight, but we still have a lot to improve on."
Central coach Jim Kappas said toughness is a key.
"We have been lacking some toughness," he said. "At tournaments like the Dvorak and Cheesehead, your mistakes are glaring. We had kids who went out and won today that lost five matches in a row in those tournaments.
"That's when the little things really show up. It's easy to be average or good, but it takes more to be great."
After Oughton's win, Roger Thigpen (160) won for Central by fall. Minooka's Chris Hiscock (170) rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat Akwasi Aikins 6-5 in the meet's closest match.
The Indians' Josh Bouie (182) won by fall, and two matches later, teammate Erik Velazquez did likewise to get Minooka within 32-19. But Central's Andrew McAllister (285) won by fall to sew it up.
Central's other winners were Dominic Sterr (195) and Cody England (106). KJ Minor (113) won for Minooka.
"We knew this rivalry and we wanted to win every match," said Sterr, who improved to 26-5. "As a team, we need to finish. We should have gotten more bonus points. We could have done better.
"But its nice to win on Senior Night. I'm happy I'm a senior and moving on to the next level, but I also wish I could start all over. I'll miss all these guys."
A seson of struggles continued for Minooka,which has reached the Elite Eight five straight seasons. Some problems are injury related, some not.
"When you're not consistently working hard, it shows in competition," Charlebois said. "It has shown throughout the season.
"We keep talking about it. But we're not improving our cardio and our techniques at practice. A couple of spots have injuries, but that's not the story. Our other 12 spots aren't making it happen."
Is there a fix on the horizon as the postseason nears?
"It's not some insurmountable hill," Charlebois said. "But it's going to take disipline."