St. Charles East's bid to snap Glenbard North's run of 13 successive team regional titles on Saturday figures to hinge on any bouts between the Saints and Panthers.
Other matches at the 3A South Elgin Regional also are significant, however, and the Saints arguably hold a leg up after seeing the rest of the field en route to winning the recent Upstate Eight Conference tournament.
"We looked at matchups with kids that we know we need to beat [Saturday], and we're going to fix those things and make sure that we beat those kids in a match," East coach Jason Potter said.
East competed just once between conference and regionals, defeating DeKalb in a home dual Friday. Concern about ramping up the focus again come the weekend is nonexistent.
"Our mentality is very high in the wrestling room. High tempo," Saints senior 138-pounder Isaiah Vela said. "We're competing to be No. 1 for regionals so we can go downstate as a team. Potter has high hopes for our team. So do I, if we all wrestle like I know we can."
Cadets' objective: 'Making a statement'
There's no shortage of confidence at Marmion, either. Considering the program's recent track record – including two 3A champions and a team state berth last season – that's elementary.
"We plan on coming out strong as usual, making a statement," said Cadets sophomore 152-pounder Trace Carello, a North Aurora resident. "The plan is to win the regionals and get into the team sectional. We're always looking to do well."
Another challenging schedule of regional and national tournaments steeled Marmion for the state series. It was especially beneficial for any Cadets who remained healthy throughout the winter.
"Everyone gets banged up during the wrestling season," Carello said. "I mean, it just happens. I really haven't been banged up too much this season, but everyone around me seemed to be getting banged up."
Marmion's health is in a much better place as regionals loom.
Inspired Knights aiming high
Dan Goress achieved something no other Kaneland wrestler had in 20 years by winning a Class 2A state title last season.
While graduation kept the former 145-pounder from trying for a repeat, there are plenty of Knights wanting to join him in program lore.
"You've got to set a goal out there if you're going to keep going with it," freshman 126-pounder Matthew Redman said. "One day, I'd like to be on that podium at state, but I've just got to keep pushing forward and keep trying and keep practicing."
Kaneland also produced multiple state place-winners for the first time since 1993 last season, bolstering the atmosphere in the mat room this winter.
The Knights hope a strong week of practice propels them into Saturday's 2A Belvidere Regional, but also are putting stock in Friday's narrow dual victory against Batavia, a 3A school.
"That got us on a roll and got the momentum going," Kaneland coach Monty Jahns said. "It was an exciting meet."
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles East
What happened: The two-time defending Upstate Eight Conference champion Saints earned a comfortable dual victory against DeKalb on Friday and enter the state series on a sizable roll.
Kaneland, Fr., 132 pounds
What he did: Patterson closed Friday's dual at Batavia with an 11-2 victory, helping the Knights to a 37-32 team win.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Friday's mini Upstate Eight/Northern Illinois Big 12 challenge was a push. While UEC champion East handled DeKalb in a home dual, host Batavia – the UEC's fourth-place finisher – suffered a narrow defeat to Kaneland, which placed sixth in the NI Big 12 tournament.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Which individuals – and possibly teams – advance from Saturday's IHSA regionals to the sectionals set for Feb. 14 to 15.
In Class 3A, St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Geneva are headed to the South Elgin Regional, while Batavia and Marmion compete at the Waubonsie Valley Regional.
Kaneland and Burlington Central are headed to the 2A Belvidere Regional, and St. Francis is part of the Elmwood Park Regional.
In 1A, Aurora Central Catholic, Wheaton Academy and Mooseheart are slotted in the Alden-Hebron Regional.
COACH SLY SAYS ...
This is it, don't get scared now.
With apologies to "Home Alone," which Sly may or may not have caught before the Super Bowl, the most urgent time of the season is upon us.
Regionals, sectionals, state: For some athletes, that progression is a safe proposition. For others, it's a great surprise.
Whatever the case, the road to Champaign starts Saturday. This is it. Should be fun.