Whether he was stationed in a matside chair or somewhere on the sidelines, Batavia assistant coach Tom Arlis made himself heard throughout Saturday's 3A Naperville Central Regional.
That's nothing new to certain Bulldogs, who have relished the return of their one-time head coach to the program.
The animated Arlis coached Batavia's seniors as freshmen before retiring at the end of the 2009-10 season. He joined coach Scott Bayer – a one-time Arlis assistant – in the mat room at the start of workouts in November and has been a welcome fixture since.
"It's just like freshman year all over again," senior 126-pounder Joel Shump said. "It's kind of nice. Except the roles are reversed."
Bayer has credited Arlis' expertise throughout the winter, and is glad a new crop of athletes can draw from it. Arlis' sons, Clint and Logan, were program standouts in the mid- and late-2000s, right around the time Batavia's seniors were developing in the sport and beginning high school.
Senior Mickey Watson, who competes at 195 pounds, knows about Arlis more than most. Watson's older brothers, Danny and Augie, wrestled under Arlis for all or part of their careers.
Should Mickey Watson join his siblings as a state tournament placer, he won't be shy about thanking Arlis.
"He has so much experience with wrestling, especially with high school kids, and he's been part of so much success with the program," Watson said. "I can always trust his advice."
Classmates and fellow captains Charlie Smorczewski (138) and Jon Wagner (160) will join Shump and Watson as part of Batavia's six-athlete contingent at this weekend's Shepard Sectional.
Geneva senior 152-pounder Mike Villanueva clinched the first sectional berth of his career at Naperville Central. The late escape that made him a 6-5 winner against Thomas Nimakoh of Downers Grove South in the third-place bout all but resulted from muscle memory.
"The coaching staff definitely really stuck with me through the entire year," Villanueva said. "They made sure that I worked on the techniques that I needed to work on."
Villanueva, whose 5-4 semifinal loss to West Aurora's Brandon Farias kept him out of the title match, nearly created more breathing room against Nimakoh after notching his escape with about 20 seconds to go.
"He came at me with a bad shot. I was working around to score and ran out of time," Villanueva said.
What might have been
Four Kaneland seniors claimed individual titles at Saturday's 2A Sycamore Regional.
Only one did so without competing in a championship bout – 145-pounder Dan Goress.
After winning by fall and technical fall to advance to the title match, Goress won via an injury default from runner-up Dylan Foster of Sycamore.
“Unfortunately we didn't get to see him wrestle in the final match, but [Goress] is just solid,” Knights coach Monty Jahns said. “He's right on, and that's carried over in the room. Esai [Ponce, a champ at 132] is right behind him.”
IN THE GROOVE
Marmion's lower-weight wrestlers
What they did: Although the entire Cadets program was dominant at Saturday's 3A Naperville Central Regional, five of Marmion's eight individual champs emerged from the first seven weight classes.
St. Charles East, So., 145 pounds
What he did: Derain won an individual title at the 3A Glenbard North Regional by hitting first-period falls in his quarterfinal and semifinal matches, then blanking Vinnie Terrazas of Wheaton North, 4-0, in the championship. He's one of nine Saints heading to the Maine East Sectional.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Marmion's move from Class 2A to 3A isn't a death knell. After rumbling to 244 points and breezing to the 3A Naperville Central Regional team title – the first in program history – the Cadets secured a spot in the Hinsdale South dual team sectional after the individual state tournament. First thing's first, though. The Cadets have 13 wrestlers trying to advance from this weekend's Shepard Sectional to the individual state meet in Champaign.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Which Chronicle-area athletes will be headed to the IHSA state tournament in Champaign from Feb. 14-16. This weekend's sectionals determine who advances to the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall, where Marmion, St. Charles East and Kaneland will be among the programs looking to clear paths to the podium.
COACH SLY SEZ
Thirteen outta 14 for 244.
Sounds like one of Sly's Tecmo Super Bowl passing lines (this fox is old-school), but no. It's actually got to do with Marmion; 13 of a possible 14 Cadets advanced from regionals to sectionals, helping the team to 244 points and a berth in 3A dual team sectionals later this month.
Folks – me included – had a hunch the Cadets wouldn't blink in their move up from 2A, but the grit the team showed in the process is phenomenal. We'll see how many get through from sectionals to state. Are there any more heads for this program to turn?