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Wrestling: Lincoln-Way Central finds leaders in Bryce Gorman, Joey Nelson

Lincoln-Way Central’s Bryce Gorman (right) | File photo

Lincoln-Way Central’s Bryce Gorman (right) | File photo

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From a preseason question mark to a midseason exclamation point, Lincoln-Way Central has punctuated its stance as one of the top programs in the state.

The Knights, coming off a fourth-place finish in Class 3A a season ago, were one of the bigger unknowns heading into the season after graduating five state qualifiers including Matt Schneider (Arizona State) and state medalist Robbie Mikenis.

Projected holes in the lineup quickly were filled and the leadership torch passed to seniors Bryce Gorman (182 pounds) and Joey Nelson (132).

“Gorman and Nelson have that swagger about them that they belong,” Central coach Jason DePolo said. “They try to put a beating on whoever is in front of them. I think a lot of our guys follow their lead.”

The Knights have ripped off 15 straights wins — with notable victories over Sandburg, Lincoln-Way West, Plainfield Central and Minooka — after dropping their opener to state power Glenbard North.

“I knew coming into the season that we’d be better than (our ranking),” Gorman said. “I wasn’t sure how good, though. We have a lot of guys stepping up.”

Stepping up and stepping high. Central added a 12-team tournament championship at Hoffman Estates, putting six atop the podium. Gorman, Nelson, Ian Meagher (120), Vinnie Piunti (106), Sean Kelly (195) and Bryan Ditchman (285) earned crowns.

“Sean Kelly was a .500 wrestler for us last year as a sophomore,” DePolo said. “He’s 16-3 right now, and wrestling real mean and physical.”

Under DePolo, the Knights have hung their hats on that sort of aggressive style, which has been the perfect system for Gorman.

“(Gorman) has the potential to do anything he wants to do,” DePolo said. “He’s real tough to take down. There are a couple of components that make him a real dangerous wrestler.”

Gorman finished fourth at state at 170 a year ago and is eying a title run. He’s put in extra work, hitting the gym for CrossFit and cardio after practice.

“I wanted to work on my stamina,” he said. “Third period I’d be getting gassed. Now I’m not tired the whole match. I wanna go hard for three full periods.”

Central will need Gorman in peak form as it heads to the Granite City Tournament, which concludes Saturday. The Knights finished second out of 25 last season behind a nationally ranked team from Memphis, Tenn.

The Knights should be in contention again, with another tournament win likely pushing them further up the rankings.

“Climbing up the ladder is fun,” Gorman said.

There’s no question about it.

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