St. Charles East lost one dual meet during the regular season, a singular statistic that's among many reasons the team enters this weekend's 3A Glenbard North Regional with lofty aspirations.
So what if the host Panthers bring a streak of 12 consecutive regional titles into competition? The Saints have been tangling with – and topping – tough opposition throughout the season, even in their own mat room.
"The room's intensity has definitely changed, you know," junior 132-pounder Isaiah Vela said. "We're switching up partners a lot, coach [Jason Potter] is pushing us for everything we've got, and it's ended up working for us."
East enters the postseason as the 17th-ranked 3A team in the Illinoismatmen.com rankings. The Saints captured tournament titles at Conant and Glenbard West before winning the unofficial team crown at the Upstate Eight Conference tournament earlier this month.
Rockton Hononegah, ranked eighth in the poll, handed East its lone dual defeat.
Potter, a former state champion in his first season coaching at his alma mater, has preached constant toughness and alertness throughout the winter. Although the Saints' regular-season setbacks were few, he made sure athletes learned from them as the state series approached.
"We just had to retool it. Get ready to rock," Potter said. "I'm looking forward to regionals. If we wrestle well, we might be able to surprise some people."
Knights sense urgency Five starters missed Kaneland's regular-season finale at Batavia last Friday, but Knights coach Monty Jahns said that group is expected back for this weekend's 2A Sycamore Regional.
Connor Williams (120) and Sonny Horn (138) were among those held out due to injury. This week, however, there was no dwelling on bumps and bruises as the program prepared to build on last season's haul of four individual state qualifiers.
"They realize this is the last go and they have to do whatever it takes to get to the next level," Jahns said. "I think they're focused and ready to give everything they've got this week, this weekend and the next two weeks to reach our goal of getting downstate."
Kaneland is familiar with much of the regional field, namely the host Spartans, who defeated the Knights during the Northern Illinois Big 12 East dual season and as part of their recent runner-up finish at the NI Big 12 tournament.
Burlington Central and St. Francis also are part of the Sycamore draw. Kaneland defeated BC by criteria earlier this season.
"We know we've got our hands full," Jahns said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to wrestle above where we're expected to wrestle at and be able to make a run at it."
IN THE GROOVE
Batavia, Sr., 126 pounds
What he did: Shump capped a 35-0 regular season by notching a fall in Friday's home dual against Kaneland, extending his school record for career pins.
What the Cadets did: Finished another top-notch regular season. Counting on an effective mix of veterans and freshmen, Marmion enters the postseason as the third-ranked Class 3A team in the Illinoismatmen.com rankings.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK Batavia keeps surging. The Bulldogs' 42-30 victory against Kaneland on Friday cliched a 14-12 dual record for the team, its first winning mark since the 2008-09 season. The Bulldogs touted the leadership of senior co-captains Joel Shump, Charlie Smorczewski, Jon Wagner and Mickey Watson from the beginning of the winter, and have had no reason to stop.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD Which wrestlers advance in this weekend's invidual regionals – and whether any Chronicle-area teams can take the first step in the push for a spot in the team duals state tournament. "The new season starts [this weekend]," Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said. "Everybody's 0-0 going in."
COACH SLY SEZ
A handful of Chronicle-area wrestlers bring a handful of losses into the postseason. One of them, Batavia's Joel Shump, is undefeated.
While it's possible to advance from regionals and sectionals and sectionals to state with a blemish, the ultimate goal for all wrestlers is perfection. Even the guys with scratch or subpar regular-season records.
Sly's looking forward to seeing things get going. While athletes don't downplay the regular season, there's always that undertone of doing everything with the "second season" in mind. That, we know, is the state series.
And here it comes.