The Huntley Red Raiders’ wrestling team faced off against the Golden Eagles of Jacobs on Thursday night. The match was emotional for many of the Raiders, as it was Senior Night for Christian Olivera, Dominic Swanson, Jalen Blanchard, Petros Mihalopoulos, John Kitsis, and Kevin Landmeier. Sadly, the Raiders fell 32-28 in a riveting context.
Coming into the meet, the Raiders were motivated, not only looking to get a victory on Senior Night, but hoping to defeat one of the area’s toughest teams and one of their biggest rivals. Everyone from Huntley knew that the match would be close and the smallest of mistakes could tip the scales in the favor of the Golden Eagles.
“We were hyped about Senior Night, but I think it was better because it was Jacobs and we wanted to win,” said Swanson. “We knew it was going to be close and come down to the little things in the end.”
The Raiders started out the match strong, with sophomore Brad Zbilski blazing out of the gates to score a 13-3 victory in the 152-pound weight class. Junior Hunter Kowalski was set to wrestle next in the 160-pound class, but lost 11-1.
The intensity picked up considerably after the first two matches. Both teams vied to assert their dominance and take a commanding lead. Wrestlers flew around the mats doing all they could to break down their opponents. The next three matches ended in pins. Unfortunately for Huntley, Olivera and Mihalopoulos were pinned in the 172 and 195-pound weight classes, respectively. However, sophomore Justin Allen was a bright spot as he quickly pinned his opponent in the 182-pound class.
Heading into the bigger weight classes, the matches began to slow considerably as it became harder for the wrestlers to takedown and pin their opponents. Blanchard lost a heartbreaking 2-1 decision in his last home meet at the 220-pound class. Swanson helped the Raiders claw back into the meet by taking a dominant 17-2 win at 285 pounds to end his home career on a high note.
Once again, the matches played out at a considerably quicker pace as the weight classes switched to the lower levels. Freshman Gannon Kosowski wowed the crowd with an impressive 11-1 victory at 106 pounds, emphasizing that the future is bright for Huntley. At 113 pounds, sophomore Zach Spencer put on a nail-biting performance that sadly ended with a 4-1 defeat. Junior Josh Stenger, one of Huntley’s top wrestlers, absolutely dominated his opponent at 120 pounds, winning by pin in a ridiculous 48 seconds.
At 126 pounds, junior Joey Armijo made an amazing comeback to defeat his opponent 5-4. Sophomore Luke Loprieno fell 13-5 at the 132-pound weight class, but scored several key points towards the end of the match that helped Huntley maintain their lead. Junior Jason Pawlak was up next at the 138-pound weight class, but lost 17-3.
The final match of the night would be the 145-pound weight class. Representing Huntley was sophomore Juan Quiroz. The crowd quickly got loud as the match would decide the victor of the meet. Going into the match, Jacobs led 29-28. Quiroz started off strong and appeared to have the upper-hand. However, his opponent was able to score a key takedown that pushed momentum into his favor and forced Quiroz to wrestle more aggressively to retake the lead. Sadly for the Raiders, Quiroz was defeated 6-1 and Jacobs rolled off with a 32-28 victory.
Even though they lost, the Raiders were glad to see so many of their fellow students come out to support the team. Many of the wrestlers enjoyed having the opportunity to perform in front of a larger crowd.
“I loved it. I like being under pressure, it usually makes me wrestle better,” said Spencer. “It was exciting to see people come for a change.”
Although they weren’t victorious, the Raiders put on a great match and showed a lot of resolve. Even though the team will be losing many seniors next season, underclassmen such as Allen, Kosowski, Spencer, and Quiroz proved that the team will have plenty of talent to work with. The Raiders’ next match is Jan. 16 at the Stevenson Triangular.