The Bison may have only finished with 78 team points (good for 9th place) Saturday at the MSL Conference Championships, but Bison coach Dave Durlacher was only seeing positives.
"Last year we had zero wrestlers in the finals," Durlacher said of the competition that showcases the most skilled and toughest area wrestlers. "This year we have two; it's not exactly what we wanted, but it's an improvement."
With some of the area's toughest kids wrestling in his 112-pound division, it is still difficult to find a wrestler that is ranked higher in the state than Eugene Blackmon who is currently 11th; yet, he would still need to battle just to get the chance to face his opponent in the championship round where he would face the second-ranked wrestler in the state, junior Jared Parvinmehr of Barrington.
The match remained close throughout and while at 3-3 Blackmon earned three points for a near fall on Parvinmehr that pushed the score to 6-3. But Parvinmehr showed why he is ranked second and managed a reversal, starting the third at 6-5. During the final period Blackmon was called for stalling; that tied the match at 6 and moments later Parvinmehr took Blackmon down to earn the two points and secure the championship match.
"I wanted to get really offensive and try to just use my technique," Blackmon said following his match. "He just capitalized on my mistake."
The crucial team points from the match went to Barrington, which is currently ranked fifth in the state. The team scored 235 points en route to its MSL championship.
Hoping to avenge his teammates' loss by securing a championship for the Bison at the 130-pound weight class was junior Jordan Rathje, but he would have an equally difficult task before him. Conant's Mitch Alexander battled throughout the match and beat Rathje with a tough 5-1 decision.
"I definitely had plans to finish first, so it was a bit disappointing," Rathje said of his bittersweet finish. "Overall, though, I'm happy with my finish."
Rathje is eager to get back to the mat and will have his chance to bounce back when he attends the Deerfield Regionals on Saturday.
Other honorable mentions that helped the Bison to ninth place:
Freshman Chase Ori (103) managed a gritty performance as he wrestled through a nagging knee injury to capture the third-place finish.
"My knee was on my mind through out the match but I managed to work through it," he said.
"I thought [Chase] would be wrestling in the finals," Durlacher said. "But we are pleased with how he finished."
Junior Hunter Ori didn't fare quite as well, as he suffered an injury that required him to pull out of his 119-pound match. He conceded at fifth place.
Also finishing in sixth in their individual weight divisions were juniors Matt Zabrin (171) who lost to Wheeling's Sam Rosengarden, and Eddie Haro, who fell to Fremd's Nate Hanks in a 6-1 decision.
Senior Christian O'Campo (125) captured fifth with his 13-6 decision over conference rival Joe Hauser of Elk Grove.
"As a team we had a tough go at it, especially after having a good week last week," Durlacher said.