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Wrestling: Dvorak Invitational title a boon for Marist

Alex Benoit Marist | File photo

Alex Benoit, of Marist | File photo

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Updated: February 4, 2014 6:28AM



Before the season began, this question was posed to some of the top guns on Marist’s roster:

Who has the best technique on the team?

More often than not, the answer was junior Nick Lukanich. And the 113-pounder has done well to make his teammates look smart.

Lukanich recently beat out a handful of the state’s top contenders to take first place at the 29-team Dvorak Invitational, widely considered the most rugged in-season tournament in Illinois.

Lukanich avenged a 2012 Dvorak defeat to St. Rita standout Jake Silzer in the quarterfinals before topping Marmion state medalist Anthony Bosco for the title. Lukanich also is the only person to down Oak Forest’s reigning state champ, Danny Swan, this season.

“He’s an extremely hard-working guy,” Marist coach Brendan Heffernan said. “In the past he’s had trouble staying healthy. We certainly knew he was right up there with all the top guys.”

Lukanich and fellow champion Alex Benoit (182) helped Marist to its first Dvorak title since 1995.

“That’s when I was a freshman on the team,” said Heffernan, who went on to wrestle at Illinois. “We’ve been second and third plenty of times. I couldn’t believe it was that long. It was really nice, especially with a national powerhouse like Montini being there.”

Heffernan said Benoit won his Dvorak title by being aggressive after wrestling conservatively to start the season. Most of Benoit’s opponents have tried to keep their matches close rather than go for the win, which shows the respect they have for his skill.

Heffernan also pointed out strong Dvorak performances from heavyweight Jake Ford and Jakada Hull (152), who took third and fourth, respectively.

“Jake Ford dropped a tough match Friday night,” Heffernan said. “He was sick and missed a week of practice. It was good for him mentally and physically to see he could push through all the wrestlebacks.”

The Clash awaits

There’s no rest for Marist, which, along with Sandburg, is headed to Rochester, Minn., over the weekend for The Clash, a dual-team tournament that includes 11 state champions from around the country.

“It’s a really entertaining tournament with a bunch of nationally ranked teams,” Heffernan said. “We expect to be one of the teams that people look forward to watching.”

Teams from Illinois have performed well since The Clash’s inception in 2003. Sandburg won consecutive championships in 2004 and ’05. Montini and Glenbard North also are previous winners.

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The other big out of state tournament that’s happening over the weekend is the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukana, Wis. Lockport, Mount Carmel and St. Rita are making the trip.

The Porters, the deepest of the bunch, seem poised to improve on their 11th-place finish from a year ago.

Lockport’s Tyler Johnson (195) and Mount Carmel’s Bryce Brill (152) bring undefeated records after winning Dvorak crowns.



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