SYCAMORE – Esai Ponce has wrestled against the best.
Specifically, the Kaneland 132-pound senior wrestler has lost twice to DeKalb's Doug Johnson, Class 3A's third best 132-pounder as ranked by Illinoismatmen.com. Those losses helped expose areas of needed improvement, and he thinks that's one of the reasons he swept his way to a regional championship on Saturday.
“It makes you realize what you need to improve upon,” Ponce said. “It makes me want to be on that level. [Johnson] whupped me the first time and he beat me pretty good the second time. It makes you strive to be on that level, to finally be able to take some of those guys.”
Ponce was joined atop the medal stand by three fellow seniors: Sonny Horn (138), Dan Goress (145) and Zach Theis (285). Seven Kaneland wrestlers will move on to next week's Rochelle Sectional after the team finished second with 144.5 pounds, 65.5 points behind winner Sycamore.
Goress won by pin and technical fall before winning by injury default in the final. Coach Monty Jahns expects big things from Goress down the road after the senior made it all to the quarterfinals at the state meet last year.
Kaneland's other sectional qualifiers included Adam Mish (106), Stephen Gust (113) and Connor Williams (120).
Burlington Central's Brady Weinrich (132) and Craig Kein (170) also advanced, along with St. Francis 138-pounder Alex Alcantara.
Class 3A Glenbard North Regional: At Carol Stream, regional champions Keone Derain (145) and Cam Carlson (170) highlighted East's haul of nine qualifiers to next week's Maine East Sectional.
Wes Pasholk, St. Charles North's lone sectional qualifier, won a title at 220.
The Saints' other qualifiers included Ryan Rubino (106), Anthony Rubino (113), Isaiah Vela (132), Jake Mende (138), Ramon Lopez (152), Brad Kearbey (160) and Jordan Meadows (182).
Host Glenbard North registered 222 points to win its 13th successive team regional title. East (174.5) finished third, in close pursuit of runner-up Wheaton North (183.5).
Class 1A Harvard Regional: At Harvard, team runner-up Aurora Central Catholic advanced nine wrestlers to next week's Oregon Sectional. They were: Dan Cuevas (106), Jacob Jerwers (113), Adrian Avilar (126), Caleb Park (132), Eric Iles (145), Danny Mowka (182), Karlo Valenzuela (195), Tony Hizo (220) and Eddie Gonzalez (285)
Alex Budsisz (152) and John Gemmel (170) advanced for Wheaton Academy.
Mooseheart, which finished third in the team standings behind host Harvard (238.5) and ACC (102.5) with 78 points, had three regional champions in Joe Freemolu (170), Junior Smith (182) and U-Jay Smith (220). Mooseheart's Sam Strickland also advanced to sectionals, competing at 120.
Geneva 69, Quincy 55: At Geneva, Nate Navigato (23 points) and Chris Parrilli (15) helped Geneva improve to 16-6.
Wheaton Academy 57, Marmion 47: At West Chicago, Gordon Behr notched 17 points and five blocks to boost Wheaton Academy in Suburban Christian Conference play. Collin Roy was next with 15 points.
Alex Theisen tallied 18 points for Marmion in defeat.
Aurora Central Catholic 67, Aurora Christian 55: At Aurora, visiting ACC overcame a 14-point deficit in the second quarter to claim an SCC win.
Batavia 65, Streamwood 40: At Streamwood, Batavia denied Streamwood a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division crown with a convincing win. The Bulldogs (17-9, 8-4 UEC River) allowed archival Geneva (10-2) to win the conference title outright, as Streamwood finished 9-3 in league play.
Liza Fruendt boosted the Bulldogs with 23 points, while fellow guard Sami Villarreal swished four 3 points. Posts Erin Bayram (11 points) and Hannah Frazier (10) also were effective for Batavia, which won for the fourth time in five games.
Sami Villarreal was hot from behind the arc, hitting four three point shots. The post combination of Hannah Frazier and Erin Bayram finished with 10 and 11 points respectively. Liza Fruendt led the way once more with 23 points.
Kaneland 52, IMSA 19: At Aurora, Kaneland outscored the hosts, 46-13, after the first quarter en route to a comfortable nonconference win. Allyson O'Herron and Sarah Grams scored eight points apiece for the 14-10 Knights. O'Herron added four steals.
St. Charles East 53, Elgin 32: At St. Charles, East (14-11, 9-3 UEC River) handled Elgin on the Saints' senior night.
Schaumburg Sectional: At Poplar Creek Bowl in Hoffman Estates, St. Charles North junior Bobbi Jo Buhlman and St. Charles East sophomore Erin Heuer finished first and third, respectively, among individuals, to advance to next weekend's IHSA state tournament at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
Buhlman rolled a 1,217 series over six games, while Heuer notched a 1,203.
Team champion Lake Park (5,481) and runner-up Schaumburg (5,478) beat out North (5,389) and East (5,353) to move on to state.
"It was just a tough competition all the way around," Saints coach Mary Ann Carrell said. "Erin just kind of was pretty steady all day with scores. I've said before any one of my girls could have stepped up and done it. She's been pretty much leading with team average, so I"m not surprised."
• Anthony Zilis contributed to this report .