ST. CHARLES – The tone for St. Charles East’s 43-24 victory over Batavia in Upstate Eight Conference River Division wrestling action Thursday night was set by Isaiah Vela in the opening moments of the first match.
The Saints’ 138-pounder recorded two takedowns in the first 11 seconds of his bout with Charlie Smorczewski en route to a 19-9 major decision.
“I was just trying to stay on him and push the pace a little bit in the beginning, get him off his tempo,” Vela said. “It just worked out from there … and the match went my way.”
Vela is used to matches going his way. As a freshman in 2010-11, he placed fourth in the state. Last season, he was sidelined by a broken rib, but so far this season he’s off to a fast start that includes a No. 6 IllinoisMatmen.com ranking in his weight class.
“I’m just working on my conditioning,” Vela said. “More on my feet, more on top, more on the bottom – just a little bit of everything to get ready for the next competition.”
A decision by Keone Derain at 145 and a pin by Ramon Lopez at 152 pushed the East lead to 13-0 before the Bulldogs (4-8, 2-1 UEC River) finally got on the board with Jon Wagner’s 4-1 victory over Brad Kearbey at 160.
The second fall of the night for the Saints (11-1, 4-0), by 170-pounder Cam Carlson, and a 3-2 victory by Jordan Meadows over Noah Frazier at 182 extended the St. Charles East lead to 22-3 before Batavia battled back, starting with Mickey Watson’s hard-fought 8-7 victory over Keegan Furmanski at 195.
Furmanski came out ready to brawl and took an early lead with a four-point move.
“I took a lazy shot and he caught me,” Watson said. “I just had to wrestle back from there.”
Watson finally tied the match at 6-all in the third period, but Furmanski escaped to take a 7-6 advantage with 33 seconds left. With 14 seconds remaining in the match, Watson scored a takedown to eke out the win.
“I just snapped him down to a front headlock,” Watson said. “He tried to come up and bear hug me. I neck-wrenched him. Then he got out of that and I just circled around and snapped him. It was like a scramble.”
Watson is nursing a sprained MCL and acknowledged the upcoming Christmas break will give him a needed chance to recuperate.
Batavia got back-to-back falls from Connor McKeehan at 220 and heavyweight Jack Breshears to pull within 22-18. The Saints countered with a major decision by Anthony Rubino at 103 and a technical fall by 113-pounder Ryan Rubino.
“My season’s going really good so far,” Ryan Rubino said. “I’m doing pretty good, working hard with my little brother. … I feel really good where I’m at right now. I think I’m doing a lot better than I did last year.”
Combined with forfeits by Batavia at 120 and 132, the victories by the Rubinos clinched the win for East. Batavia’s Joel Shump recorded a pin in the final contested match of the night at 126 pounds.
“They’ve got some quality guys in their lineup,” Batavia coach Scott Bayer said of the Saints, who seized control of the conference title race. “We knew going into the dual it was going to be tough. … I’m proud of the way some of our guys stepped up. Jack Breshears at heavyweight, a first-time varsity wrestler went out and stepped up for us. That was great. We got some pins where we could get them, but you give up two forfeits in the lineup and you run into a buzz saw there [with the Rubinos].”
Taking the forfeits out of the equation, East still won 31-24 on the mat, a fact that pleased coach Jason Potter.
“I’m excited to be back and put ourselves in a good position as far as conference goes,” Potter said. “That was our goal tonight.”