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Wrestling: Sandburg places third in duals meet

Isaih White Oak Park River Forest looks for point confirmatiduring 138 weight match against Hononegah's Anthony Silvfor Sandburg Wrestling Duals

Isaih White, of Oak Park River Forest, looks for point confirmation during the 138 weight match against Hononegah's Anthony Silva for the Sandburg Wrestling Duals Tournament at Carl Sandburg, Saturday, January 18th, 2014, in Orland Park| Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 18, 2014 11:37PM



January is a quiet month for most prep wrestling teams, a time to regroup after the big holiday tournaments and to gear up for the upcoming state series.

For Larry Early and his Oak Park-River Forest teammates, though, it’s just another four weeks of grinding away.

The Huskies, top-ranked all year in Illinois and currently No. 3 nationally according to Intermat.com, started the month at The Clash Duals in Rochester, Minn., losing 30-27 to Apple Valley, Minn., in a hard-fought final.

The week after that, they knocked off fellow nationally-ranked Montini and beat a pair of top Michigan teams on the road. On Saturday, the Oak Park road show came to Orland Park for the Sandburg Duals and a possible state tourney preview for both the Huskies and Early.

It was another showcase for the state’s best team and one of its stars. Early beat Hononegah’s Fernie Silva 14-7 at 145 pounds to highlight Oak Park’s 51-9 romp.

Sandburg, which lost 30-18 to Hononegah in the semifinals, rebounded to beat 14-time Tennessee state champ Baylor 50-15 for third place in the eight-team tourney.

It was also a bounce-back for Early after a tough weekend in Michigan.

“I just [took] it to heart and changed what I was doing before,” said Early, who’s ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by IllinoisMatmen.com. “Just started working harder in practice and this is the result.”

He knew what he was in for after Silva, ranked fourth in 3A, beat third-ranked John Pellegrino of Sandburg 10-4 earlier in the day.

Sandburg had pins from Pellegrino, Matt Frostman (285) and Christian Robertson (126) against Baylor. The Eagles beat South Elgin 61-6 in their first match of the day.

“Silva threw the kitchen sink at him,” Oak Park coach Mike Powell said. “That’s a Larry Early-style match. That’s the Larry Early we know and we’ve grown to like watching and coaching because he wrestles non-stop.”

So does Oak Park freshman 126-pounder Jaime Hernandez, whose takedown in the closing seconds edged Kameron VanTassel 3-1 in the last bout of the day. “We wrestle hard every single match, whether we’re winning by 60 points [or not],” Early said. “That’s what we’re about. That’s why he kept going at it.”

Early wasn’t the only top-ranked Huskie who had a test against Hononegah. Kamal Bay beat third-ranked Zach Benkovich 15-6 at 160 and Davonte Mahomes defeated fifth-ranked Tyler DeMoss 15-6.

Oak Park also had a pin from top-ranked Isaiah White at 138 along with technical falls from Matt Rundell (152) and Jake Renteria (106) and major decisions from Allen Stallings (182) and Adam Lemke-Bell (285).

“After what we’ve been doing week in and week out, it’s just another hard match for us,” said Powell, whose team beat Sycamore 66-6 and Baylor 63-3 before facing Hononegah. “These guys have become hard; I’m proud to say that. I wouldn’t have said that a month ago.”

Sandburg had pins from Pellegrino, Matt Frostman (285) and Christian Robertson (126) against Baylor. The Eagles beat South Elgin 61-6 in their first match of the day.

“Some good, some bad, [it was] that kind of day,” Sandburg coach Eric Siebert said. “We lost two matches we thought we would win [against Hononegah}.

“It goes back to the same old thing: to beat good teams, you’ve got to have things go your way.”

Like Oak Park, Sandburg has had a demanding schedule lately, with duals against the No. 4, 5 and 6 teams in the current 3A rankings in an eight-day span. But the Eagles fell to Lockport, Hononegah and Glenbard North.

“As a team, we’re kind of looking for something to hang our hat on,” Siebert said. “We’re looking for that big win.”



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