St. Charles East, Glenbard N. headline 1st DKC tournament.
From the moment the ink was dry on the agreement to make the new DuKane Conference, it immediately became one terrific wrestling conference.
And why not.
If together a year ago, this new group advanced 23 to the state tournament, celebrated six state medal winners and one state champion: Abe Assad from Glenbard North.
The first DuKane Conference tournament, hosted by Wheaton Warrenville South, will be held starting at 9 a.m. Saturday with the finals scheduled to begin about 2 p.m.
What the newly formed DuKane also did was to make the rivalry between Glenbard North and St. Charles East more intense as these two will meet next weekend at regionals.
"North has been a long time state power, but sure has been in our way for a long time in regionals, including last season," said Saints coach Jason Potter.
In four of the last five years, Glenbard North has claimed the regional team title ahead of Potter's club, last year by 26 points, and 33 over Wheaton North, one of the charter members of the DuKane.
The two clubs are also thisclose to each other in recent state polls with the Saints at No. 9, the Panthers at No. 10.
St. Charles East would take round one between the two when it used six pins to defeat Glenbard North 39-31 in the DuKane season opener one week after Thanksgiving.
It was the first dual-meet victory for the Saints over Glenbard North since 2000.
However, this inaugural conference tournament brings a new day, and fresh start for all involved, including Batavia, and Justin Major (28-6) who comes in as the No. 10 rated 152-pounder in the state.
"It's great to be a part of a new wrestling conference that has so many quality teams which makes each and every dual a real challenge during the week (and) the type of test all of us needs in order to help us get ready for regionals and sectionals," said Major.
The affable Bulldogs senior hopes he gets the chance to avenge an earlier loss to St. Charles East star Tommy Schroeder if bumped to 160 by coach Scott Bayer.
"I was up 3-0 against Tommy, and he came back to win which likely cost us the dual," said Major of his 4-3 loss, and the Bulldogs' eventual 34-29 defeat.
While the Panthers boast the No. 2 rated man in the nation in Assad (182), No. 1 in Illinois, the Saints lead the way with six in the top 10.
Numbers 6 and 7, Quintin Nelson (Wheaton North) and Anthony Pennington (Glenbard North), could provide one of the more attractive matches should both reach the finals at 170, as would a No. 6 Justin Benjamin (St. Charles East, 32-3) vs. No. 9 Mikey Caliendo (Batavia, 32-3) at 138 pounds.
Lake Park junior DeMarco Lee, fifth a year ago at state, and No. 2 at 220 now, is the highest rated individual in the DuKane next to the aforementioned Assad.
Honorable mention rated wrestlers dot the rosters of all of the teams, insuring some terrific competition in this day-long event.
"There will be a lot of weight classes to watch, which will make this a great tournament overall," said Wheaton Warrenville South coach Matt Janosek, who figures 120, 160 and 195 could be the most competitive on the day.
"Our most consistent guys have been Aidan Waszak and Dominic Duve (195) and it's that group at 120 that in my opinion is one of the toughest weights in the tournament."
No. 9 Mark Guerrero (St. Charles East) leads this class, followed closely by Dominick Mallinder (Lake Park), Brice Balosky (Wheaton North) and Waszak.
"Everything is in place to be an exciting Saturday of wrestling which should come down right to the wire," said Potter. "One of the big keys (for us) is to get all our guys to score for the team, and to pick up bonus points whenever, and wherever you can.
"Each team here has its all-stars, who usually carry the load, but in a tournament like this where there's only eight teams, everyone of your guys has to score points."