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Wrestling: Brother Rice’s Balich has burning desire to reach state

Brother Rice's Paul Balich (right) | File photo

Brother Rice's Paul Balich (right) | File photo

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Updated: January 21, 2014 11:22AM



After winning the Catholic League’s 132-pound crown last season, it appeared Brother Rice’s Paul Balich was getting hot at the right time.

Then he got too hot.

“I’m not one to make excuses, but I had a 104-degree fever the week of regionals,” said Balich, a Palos Park resident. “My fever was down the next week for sectionals, but I was so gassed and so out of it.”

Balich improved to 30-2 after winning the Catholic League title in January. That record earned him a first-round bye at regionals, where he managed to go 1-1 despite the flu and advance to the sectional. He was eliminated after his first two sectional matches and what looked like a probable trip to the state finals never came to fruition.

A senior, Balich is back and looking better than ever. He trounced the competition at the Harvest Classic — a 17-team tournament hosted by Lake Central, Ind. — and won the 138-pound championship with a 16-0 technical fall.

Returning state champ Rudy Yates (113) also placed first, while senior Nolan Parker (182) took third in helping Brother Rice to a fourth-place finish.

Balich said “the team is still building” but believes it could be a force down the line. It helps to have the versatility of Balich, who can earn wins at either 138 or 145 in the lineup.

Reavis in the mix

Reavis is starting to look like the top challenger to reigning champ Oak Forest in the South Suburban Conference. With Sam Almousa at 145 and a tough group of lightweights — Tino Ibarca (106), Mo Sbitan (113) and Jesus Vasquez (120) — the Rams have won all three of their conference duals and sit at 7-3 overall.

“We have so many good practice partners you can work with,” Sbitan said after winning the Stagg Invite. “And everyone has their own taste, so when you go out and wrestle (competition), you’re used to everything.”

Marist downs national power

Marist is one of three teams from Illinois ranked among the nation’s top 20, according to ranking site Intermat.

The RedHawks checked in at No. 17 after recently topping Lowell, the two-time reigning state runner-up in Michigan and the nation’s No. 26 team. Marist defeated Lowell 33-28 after Purdue-bound Mario Leveille secured a 5-2 victory in the final bout.

The RedHawks added another huge win when they beat Lockport 34-26 Saturday. Marist’s Mark Duda topped Dan Radcliffe in a bout of highly ranked wrestlers.

Oak Park-River Forest ranks No. 2 nationally, while Montini came in at No. 4.



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