Joel Shump advanced to the championship round of the Batavia tournament as a junior last season. He left for home with a broken hand.
On Saturday, the Batavia senior 126-pounder again reached the title bout. He not only kept a clean bill of health, but maintained a perfect record, too.
Shump improved to 31-0 with a 7-0 victory against Maine South senior Terry Calkins. Teammates Charlie Smorczewski (138) and Connor McKeehan (220) were second.
"It's exciting," Smorczewski said of Shump. "He was let down short because of his broken hand and stuff, but this year he's bounced right back and looking to do big things again."
Shump, who passed Jon Escamilla for sole possession of third place on Batavia's all-time wins list, credits his surge to first-year coach Scott Bayer's emphasis on live wrestling during practice. Bayer, a longtime Bulldogs assistant before the season, calls the tactic "sharking." One practice partner engages another for a short, intense stint before switching, and they keep swooping in.
"I can last six minutes no problem," Shump said. "My pace is a lot better, and all my moves feel a lot more crisp."
Knights keep Flott streak going
Margaret Flott, the namesake of Kaneland's annual wrestling tournament, taught at the school for 26 years.
While the wrestling team hasn't won the Flott Memorial tourney quite that many years in a row, its four-season streak still isn't shabby.
Kaneland romped to its most title on Saturday, scoring 227 points on the strength of six champions – including Connor Williams (120 pounds), Esai Ponce (132), Sonny Horn (138), Dan Goress (145), Zack Russell (160) and Zach Theis (285).
Runner-up Elgin tallied a distant 156 team points.
"It was a good warm-up for what's to come in the next few weeks here," Knights coach Monty Jahns said. "The real season starts about now with conference and state series, and a lot of guys are looking good and really continuing their development."
'Barn' raises Cumbee's eyebrows
Ryan Cumbee came to Marmion from Providence with a working knowledge of the Cadets he was about to coach.
As a former Celtics assistant, he grabbed a close-up view when a handful of Marmion wrestlers tangled with Providence athletes at recent state tournaments.
Now that he's privy to the inner workings of the emerging state power Cadets, Cumbee finds himself especially impressed with something he didn't know existed until this season. Several Marmion standouts – including many of the team's seven freshmen starters – began their developmental days at St. Charles-based SCN Youth Wrestling. "The Barn," located at the intersection of Route 47 and McDonald Road, has been known to churn out champions, or at least wrestlers ready to push that level.
"By the time I get them, they're already prepared. As a coaching staff, we've just got to prepare them further," Cumbee said. "It's no surprise to me that they're successful, because they've been doing it since they were kids."
Marmion was ranked 24th in the most recent InterMat Wrestling Fab 50 national poll. The Cadets were off the board in mid-December.
IN THE GROOVE
What they did: Helped steer the host Knights to six individual championships and a team title at Saturday's Margaret Flott Memorial tourney. "They have good practices, set goals and are off to an extremely good start to the revamped goals they had for the rest of the year," Knights coach Monty Jahns said.
Batavia, Sr., 138 pounds
What he did: Smorczewski upset the second-seeded wrestler in his class at Saturday's Batavia Invitational en route to a second-place finish. Smorczewski lost to unbeaten Downers Grove North senior Cullen Cummings, a returning state runner-up, in the finals.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
All-day tournaments don't have to be taxing. On Saturday, Burlington Central sophomore Craig Kein captured the 170-pound title at Kaneland's Margaret Flott Memorial tourney by winning two bouts. Kein notched a fall (in 3:00) in his first match before scoring an 11-0 major decision for the title.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether seniors Brad Martens (Geneva) and Ryan Rubino (St. Charles East) can repeat as Upstate Eight Conference champions. Competing at 120 and 106 pounds last season, respectively, Martens and Rubino will be among the Tri-Cities talent to watch at the tournament hosted by Batavia this weekend. The Saints topped the Bulldogs for the UEC regular season title, finishing 6-0 in River duals.
COACH SLY SEZ
Tournament brackets have always doubled as wrestling currency, but this weekend brings a little consolidation with the Upstate Eight Conference tournament in Batavia.
Once the state series hits, it's the same thing – more teams at fewer sites – until everyone gets centralized for next month's state tournament in Champaign.
Sly's looking forward to writing wrestlers in on paper as they navigate the challenges of these all-day events. Wherever you go, getting from the far left-hand side of the paper to the far right-hand side is the goal.