Dual Perfection for Vernon Hills at D-C
By John Bumbales | Daily Herald Correspondent (1/25/15)
It was a very successful outing for at least two wrestling teams Saturday at the Dundee-Crown megaduals. Both Huntley (15-10), and Vernon Hills (21-7) went 3-0 in the triple-dual meet which featured seven squads from a wide variety of conferences and counties.
Vernon Hills rolled to a 51-27 victory over Harlem in the first round as Harlem's lineup was really hampered with six forfeits against the Cougars. They next added a narrow 35-31 triumph over Johnsburg in the second round before closing out the day with a hard-fought 42-38 victory over the host Chargers.
Vernon Hills' outstanding performance was led by senior Joe Blitstein (27-4 at 285), who went 3-0 on the day. The Cougars' other 2014 state qualifier had to settle for a 2-1 record Saturday as 145-pounder Peter Vanderbloomer's record is now 30-5. Vernon Hills also got 3 wins apiece from Jesse Goldufsky at 106, Angel Tino at 120, and Dylan Geick at 152.
"We're getting better, we're healthy, and we're where we need to be," said Vernon Hills coach Jerry Miceli, whose team heads into the powerful North Suburban Conference meet next weekend at Warren. "I'm not worried about the conference meet, but I'm really looking forward to regionals and we're hosting that meet."
Dundee-Crown had plenty of bright spots up and down its lineup starting with No. 2-ranked junior Christian Brunner, who improved his perfect record to 33-0 with three more victories at 195. Starting the dual meet at 170 pounds, the Chargers led Vernon Hills 38-24 with three bouts remaining.
But the Cougars were able to pull off the comeback win with a pin by Vanderbloomer at 145, a pin by Geick at 152, and a forfeit win by 160-pounder Colin Alexander to close out the day.
Vernon Hills flexes its upper-weight lineup strength
By John Bumbales | Daily Herald Correspondent
After getting postponed against Warren on Thursday night due to inclement weather, visiting Mundelein and Vernon Hills squared off in a rare North Suburban Conference wrestling dual meet to open the 2015 part of their season Friday night.
Starting the meet at 145 pounds, the Mustangs kept it close with the Cougars in a 12-12 deadlock after four matches. But Vernon Hills (13-7) took command of the meet after that point with its upper weights really doing some damage en route to an impressive 52-24 NSC crossover victory over Mundelein (5-10).
Vernon Hills 145-pound senior Peter Vanderbloomer (22-3) showed why he is basically a lock to return to the Class 2A state meet in February as he pinned his opponent in 3:39 to stake the Cougars to an early 6-0 advantage. Then Mundelein 152-pound senior Brae Cruz (17-2) showed why he is also a serious contender to reach the Class 3A state meet in February as he pinned his opponent in 3:14. Ironically, Cruz went to state as a sophomore when he wrestled for the Cougars. A forfeit win at 160 by Mundelein senior Chris Adams gave the Mustangs a brief 12-6 lead.
But the Cougars really got rolling after that point as a pin by 170-pound senior Patrick Pranica (11-8) in 3:36, a pin by 182-pound senior Jake Stinson (9-6) in 1:39, a forfeit win by 195-pound senior Max Donato (13-7), a pin by 220-pound sophomore Collin Turley (10-8) in 3:14, a pin by 285-pound senior Joe Blitstein (19-4) in 1:27, and a pin by 106-pound sophomore Jesse Goldufsky (13-5) in 2:49 gave Vernon Hills an almost insurmountable 42-12 lead with five bouts remaining.
"This year we're definitely in the best shape we've ever been in, and we haven't wrestled a team that is in better shape than us," said Stinson, who is one of four captains on the Cougars' squad. "We're definitely looking to keep improving on an upward plane and we're hoping to get five state qualifiers this year."
Besides Cruz continuing his great 2014-15 campaign, which included a runner-up finish at the powerful, 31-team Palatine tournament just before the new year, Mundelein did have some other very bright spots in its lineup.
113-pounder Marco Rosales pinned his opponent in 3:28 before 120-pound junior teammate Alec Riportella (14-1) recorded a pin in just 50 seconds to cut the Vernon Hills lead to 42-24.
"We need to do more, but we're a really young team," said Mundelein coach Vinny Jiuditta, whose team will be heading out to the Sycamore tournament on Saturday. "They (Cruz and Riportella) are the hardest workers in the room for sure, they do everything we ask them to do, and we're looking forward to them doing some good things this season."
With the lead cut to 18 points, the Cougars got rolling again when 126-pound junior Angel Tino (18-7) posted an 11-0 major decision over Bryce Swanson to officially clinch the team victory at that point. Vernon Hills junior Issam Khayr (8-6) held off Carlos Hernandez for a 2-0 decision in a classic defensive struggle in the 132-pound match. Then Vernon Hills 138-pound junior Jeff Echeverria (14-12) posted a 14-7 decision over Alex Hendon to put the finishing touches on the Cougars' first win of the new year.
"Our goal was one match at a time, keep it close, and those guys (at upper weights) started pinning," said Vernon Hills coach Jerry Miceli, whose team will compete in the Leyden Invitational Saturday. "We did really well over Christmas break, and we're getting healthy so we're getting there day by day."
When the post-season rolls around, Vernon Hills will face some tough competition against the likes of Carmel, Lakes, and other squads vying for a trip to state in both the individual and team state tournaments.
"I was really happy with the way the kids wrestled and they were ready to go tonight," added Miceli, who has coached numerous state medalists in his previous 14 seasons. "Angel Tino really worked hard in the off-season and he's really been a surprise in the room."
Vernon Hills wrestler Joe Blitstein aims to climb state podium
By Steve Sadin | Special to the Tribune | @prepspioneer
Vernon Hills heavyweight wrestler Joe Blitstein knows what it is like to wrestle at the Class 2A state meet, but he wants to know how it feels to stand on the podium.
Blitstein, a senior who has qualified for the state meet the past two years, has compiled an 18-4 record so far this season and is learning each day in practice and meets what it will take for him to get to the next level.
The 283-pounder has a special training partner who is helping him with his journey. With no one near his size on the team, Blitstein didn’t usually have someone to effectively train with during practice.
That changed this year.
“We brought in a new coach, Thomas Ingram, and he’s helped me a lot,” Blitstein said. “He’s my training partner and he beats me up pretty well.”
A former wrestler at Luther College, Ingram, nearly 100 pounds lighter than Blitstein at 190 pounds, used the same tactics in 2010 to help turn Evanston’s Jeffrey Brown into a state champ.
“I wrestled with [Brown] in practice and he became a state champ,” Ingram said. “I guess I became a heavyweight coach.”
Blitstein and Ingram grapple each day in practice, and that is teaching the Cougar wrestler a greater awareness on the mat. He is trying to take control of matches rather than let opponents control him.
“In the past, I used to wait for my opponent to make mistakes,” Blitstein said. “Now I’m becoming more aggressive and looking for opportunities. Coach [Ingram] is teaching me to do it my way, to win matches my way.”
As a freshman, Blitstein got the same experience he gleans from Ingram now from then-senior heavyweight Jeremy Brazil. Brazil won the 2012 state heavyweight championship and is now wrestling for Upper Iowa University.
“Jeremy Brazil was his role model,” Vernon Hills Jerry Miceli said. “He saw what Jeremy did and now he’s trying to do the same thing. He saw what it could be like.”
A second-place finish in the 32-team Mid-States Wrestling Classic on Dec. 29 and 30 in Whitewater, Wisconsin, showed Blitstein how far he has come and the distance left to travel to ascend the podium at the state meet. He lost the championship bout in overtime.
“I didn’t pick up when I needed to,” Blitstein said. “I fell off at the end. If I had followed the coaches’ plan, I would have won. I’m going to do that the rest of the season.”
As Blitstein continues to compete this year, there will be an eye toward performing his best at the state meet.
“He’s been to the state meet and he knows what it’s like,” Miceli said. “He’s got the tools to be on the podium this year.”
Vernon Hills’ Peter VanderBloomer a leader on the wrestling mat
By John Kerr | Special to the Tribune | @prepspioneer
A wrestling room can be a disorganized place before a practice session. Vernon Hills senior Peter VanderBloomer is charged with keeping order.
“I control the tone of the room and get us motivated,” said VanderBloomer, a 145-pounder. “I have respect in the room.”
The respect has been earned. After winning all four of his matches at a dual meet against Lakes on Friday and a quad at Riverside-Brookfield on Saturday, VanderBloomer is 14-0 in 2014. He is ranked in the honorable mention category by the wrestling website illinoismatmen.com
The accolade and unblemished record have come while the Cougars senior is wrestling up three weight classes from 126 pounds, where he finished last season. The extra weight is not a burden for VanderBloomer. In fact, it’s been a revelation.
“A lot of wrestlers don’t want to gain much and wrestle bigger guys,” he said. “I’m wrestling better now at this weight class.”
“He’s just gotten better and better each season,” coach Jerry Miceli said. “He’s physical and now he has the experience.”
In previous seasons, VanderBloomer was most comfortable scoring from his knees. In 2014, he’s scoring on his feet. It’s a change that signals a wrestler moving to the next stage of his development.
“I’ve gotten better going from one [the mat] to the other [his feet],” VanderBloomer said. “If one shot doesn’t work, I work my way to a second takedown. One move to the next.”
That doesn’t happen by accident. It comes as a result of training.
VanderBloomer participated in the last season’s Class 2A state meet at 126 pounds. He lost his only match. Over the summer and fall, he sharpened his technical skills at Poeta Training Center in Lake Forest. He had to put on weight. He did so not through excessive weightlifting, but through body-weight workouts.
“I would run and do pull-ups in the park,” VanderBloomer said. “Those [exercises] are the biggest help you can possibly get. It gives you dense muscle mass. A lot of the kids I’ve beaten this year are muscular and huge.”
In the wrestling room at Vernon Hills, the extra weight has VanderBloomer working out with a new partner. Sophomore Dylan Geick (152) pushes VanderBloomer, much like state qualifier Jordan Reich did in 2013-14.
Now a freshman at Princeton, Reich’s regimented practice mentality was adopted by VanderBloomer, a second-year captain.
“Without him [Reich] pushing me, I wouldn’t have gotten downstate,” VanderBloomer said. “He made me the wrestler I am today. Hopefully I carry those principles into being a leader.”
“Peter has the mentality when drilling that the pace and tempo is fast,” Miceli said. “Whoever is with him has no choice but to drill like that. This is the way it’s going to be done, or get off the mat.”
VanderBloomer hopes his time to get off the mat isn’t until February’s state meet. Early this season, he is leading the way in his weight class and in the Cougars’ wrestling room
“Getting to wrestle at the state meet motivated me for senior year,” VanderBloomer said. “Thinking about getting back down there pushes me every day.”
Cougars qualify 3 for State!
Jordan Reich places 3rd
Vernon Hills' Jordan Reich reaches good stopping point
It was late Friday morning inside Assembly Hall in Champaign. Vernon Hills senior wrestler Jordan Reich had just lost his Class 2A state quarterfinal match to Sycamore’s Kyle Akins by a 3-1 decision. At around noon, Reich was scheduled to wrestle again. This time, he’d be in the 120-pound consolation bracket.
“It’s hard to have your dream broken and have to wrestle a half hour or an hour later,” Reich said. “It was really tough.” After a conversation with coach Jerry Miceli, Reich got his head on straight. He wrestled well enough to beat Evergreen Park’s Will Jones 5-1. Then, with a night to rest and recalibrate, he entered Saturday’s grueling three-match slate having revised his season goal. “I wanted to get third place and end my career off on a good note,” Reich said. That’s just what Reich did, winning all three matches, including a convincing 8-2 decision over Jerseyville’s Brandon Critchfield in the third-place match. It’s the second year in a row Reich has medaled at the state tournament. In 2013, he was a third-place finisher in the 106-pound weight class.
Reich said a dedicated summer — which included his third straight trip to the USA Wrestling Nationals in Fargo, N.D. — combined with a more evolved technique allowed him to jump up two weight classes and still place at state. “Going up two weight classes was strange. The kids were a lot stronger,” Reich said. “I’ve gotten better on the mat. I turned the kid [Cahokia’s Dameon Adams] a couple of times in the [wrestleback] semifinals. If I didn’t have [that move], I don’t think I would have gotten that far.” Another boost to Reich this year was his partner in the wrestling room.
Peter Vanderbloomer, a 126-pound junior who also competed in Champaign, worked out daily with Reich. “Just having [Reich] in the room helped Peter but not as much as it benefitted Jordan,” Miceli said. Vanderbloomer did not win a match at state, losing in both the preliminary and consolation rounds.
Joe Blitstein, a 285-pound junior, also wrestled at the state tournament, losing both of his matches. Miceli said the results were not as important as the experience for his two junior state qualifiers. “It’s really important. We had a meeting [Sunday night] and talked about what we have to do to get better,” Miceli said. “They are already talking about the offseason. It was kind of neat to hear them talk and that they are hungry.”
Reich’s time with the Cougars is over but not his time as a wrestler. He will continue his career at Princeton next season. Before his first match at state, Reich was inside the tunnel leading to the wrestling floor. He took a moment to absorb the atmosphere inside Assembly Hall, an arena that has seen him perform at his best time and time again. “In the tunnel I took it all in. I was thinking, ‘This is the last time I will be a high school wrestler,’ and to wrestle my best,” Reich said. “I felt I gave it my all.”
Vernon Hills' Jordan Reich moving up
Vernon Hills senior Jordan Reich physically grew in the offseason, adding about 20 pounds to his natural weight and moving up two weight classes as a result.
Reich, who took third at 106 pounds in Class 2A as a junior, has been wrestling at 120 pounds this season. The move to 120 pounds has forced him to grow accustomed to competing against stronger wrestlers, and it’s also forced him to diversify.
“I feel like I’m more mature,” said Reich, when asked how he’s wrestling differently this year. “I’ve learned a lot more moves, and I’m able to attack my opponents from different areas. I was a one-(dimensional wrestler) last year.” Reich said he’s been able to start his senior campaign with a 26-1 record by adding to his offensive repertoire.
Reich, who said he was primarily a neutral wrestler last season, has improved at wrestling from both top and bottom positions in the offseason. He said he’s added a lot of tilts from top, some escapes and single-leg takedowns. Adding new skills has been important because he’s not able to muscle his opponents around to the degree he did as a junior, Vernon Hills coach Jerry Miceli said.
Reich, in addition to being a better offensive wrestler this season, continues to be one of the state’s smartest wrestlers both on the mat and in the classroom. His accomplishments in both areas have opened the door for him to wrestle in the Ivy League, Miceli added. “He doesn’t make mistakes and he has great mat sense,” Miceli said after Reich won the 120-pound title at the Leyden Invitational on Jan. 11. “He knows where he’s at [during matches]. I think that maturity has really helped him a lot. This week, he went to Princeton [to visit]. Next week he’s going to Brown. He’s going to do well in wrestling and in life.”
Jordan Reich finishes 3rd in State!
Reich ready for another shot at state
CHAMPAIGN — After finishing third in his state wrestling meet debut, Vernon Hills’ Jordan Reich feels he can do even better next season.
The junior’s only loss came in Friday night’s Class 2A semifinals at Assembly Hall, when eventual state champion Danny Swan of Oak Forest beat Reich 4-3 at 106 pounds. Reich (46-6) claimed third by pinning Montini’s Jimmy Pawelski (32-20) at 1:53.
“After that loss you have to let it go. You have to move on,” Reich said. “I thought I wrestled pretty well. Obviously, I did not wrestle my best. I beat that kid before. It is what it is.”
Reich met Swan earlier this season and defeated him 3-1 in overtime.
“I knew I had the potential to place. My goal was to win it,” Reich said. “I didn’t reach my goal, but I still wrestled pretty good.”
Reich became Vernon Hills’ third different state medalist in the last three years. He follows 2012 state champion Jeremy Brazil and Gideon Yim, a state runner-up in 2011.
Teammate David Pierce came within one win of earning a medal at 145 pounds, but lost 5-2 to Springfield’s Haratio Austin in the wrestlebacks. Joe Blitstein lost his only match at 285.
Cougars finish 6th at Leyden
Vernon Hills’ Reich no longer a pushover
VERNON HILLS — When Vernon Hills junior Jordan Reich was an 84-pound freshman wrestling at 106 pounds — and getting manhandled by bigger, stronger wrestlers — the sport wasn’t particularly fun for him.
“I got pushed around a lot,” Reich said. “I couldn’t finish my shots and I was just getting overpowered.”
Knowing that the key for any wrestler lies in the space between his ears, Vernon Hills wrestling coach Jerry Miceli stayed in psychologist’s mode that season.
“He was giving up 20 pounds to the guys he was wrestling, which at the time was about a quarter of his body weight,” Miceli said. “I didn’t want him to get discouraged, and we just kept telling him not to worry about wins and losses that year.”
Reich ballooned all the way up to 95 pounds his sophomore season. He was a sectional qualifier, and he finished the season with a 29-19 record.
“All I did was eat last year, so that was fun,” Reich said. “I just had to keep on fighting during my freshman year, even when I felt like giving up. I knew I’d get bigger the next year, and I did.”
During the past two offseasons, Reich attended Fargo’s national high school tournament, and he also trained at the Overtime School of Wrestling, one of Illinois’ top training venues for high school wrestlers. He continued to fill out physically, and is now cutting weight in order to wrestle at 106. The additional weight has made all the difference.
Reich improved to 26-3 en route to winning the title at 106 during Saturday’s Leyden Invitational. Heading into the tournament, Reich was ranked third in Class 2A by Illinois Matmen, behind Oak Forest’s Danny Swan (No. 2).
After Reich won a 5-2 semifinal decision against Conant’s Danny Madonia at Leyden, Swan was waiting for him on the title mat. The match was tied 1-1 after three periods, before Reich earned a takedown in overtime to nab the crown.
“(Swan) was tough,” Reich said. “It was a tough match and I hit a fireman’s (carry) for the takedown. I felt really good. I controlled my matches, didn’t do more than I had to, and did enough to win. That’s what I wanted to do.”
All three of his losses this season came at 113.
“I learned more from those matches than from any others I wrestled this season,” Reich said. “Those losses made me better and got me more prepared.”
And where he was once pushed around as a freshman, the junior Reich is now doing the pushing.
“He’s beating guys that may have beaten him before, just because he’s filling out the weight,” Miceli said. “He’s having a great year.”
Other award winners at Leyden included: Brae Cruz - (2nd, 126 lbs.), Joe Blitstein - (2nd, 285), David Pierce (3rd, 145), Zach Eckstrom (3rd, 182), Ben Rappaport (4th, 152), Max Rickard (5th, 106).
Wrestling Spirit Wear
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2011-12 Season News
Jeremy Brazil is STATE CHAMPION!
Brazil earns State Crown
By Mike Clark | Vernon Hills Review; February 25, 2012
CHAMPAIGN — Mission accomplished for Vernon Hills’ Jeremy Brazil, even if it took a while.
Brazil beat Yorkville’s Seth Gonzalez 4-2 in overtime on Saturday night to win the Class 2A state heavyweight title title at the Assembly Hall.
“That was my longest match of the season by far,” said Brazil (45-1), whose only loss came against DeLaSalle’s James Buss, the unbeaten Class 3A winner. Brazil was impressed by Gonzalez, a senior who finished 39-7 and was coming off another overtime match in Friday’s semifinals.
“I give it to him,” Brazil said. “He had really good defense.”
Brazil, who was second at state last season, is Vernon Hills’ first state champ.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, Brazil advanced to the final by downing Carmel Catholic’s Jake Cochrane 5-0.
“I was just trying to get back here (title bout),” Brazil said. “I tried to finish what I didn’t finish last year, finish off with a title.”
All the scoring Friday came in the second period, when Brazil had a takedown and a near fall.
“I had to go out, I had to be as brutal as I can be,” he said. “I had to push the pace. I could tell in the second period I was starting to get to him, pounding on his head.”
The two had met previously in the frosh-soph state series years ago, with Brazil winning both of those matches as well. But he didn’t take this one for granted.
“He’s improved a lot,” Brazil said of Cochrane (37-9).
Vernon Hills' Brazil starts, finishes on top
CHAMPAIGN — There isn't a lot of flash or bling in Jeremy Brazil's wrestling approach — but the big man from Vernon Hills knows how to win.
Atop the Class 2A state polls from the beginning to end, Brazil put an exclamation point on his season with a thriling 4-2 win in OT over Seth Gonzalez of Yorkville to not only win a state championship, but also the first individual crown in school history.
In the final match of a long day of wrestling, the senior provided the killer blow with a cat-like move for a reversal to send coach Jerry Miceli airborne. Miceli went aloft once more — when Brazil picked him and gave him a ride moments after the referee had raised his hand.
“You should have seen (Jeremy) when he was a freshman,” said an out-of-breath Miceli, who still couldn't believe what he had just witnessed. But his success came to him because he worked so hard to become the wrestler that he is — and the best part about him is that he is such a great kid.”
Brazil, who went 40-7 last season on his way to a second-place finish, was as relaxed as anyone could be considering the enormity of the moment, taking a look at the match next to him between 3A heavyweights James Buss and Rob Bain when that match drew a big roar from the crowd.
“Yeah I had to look,” said Brazil, “because let's face it, when the fans cheer heavyweights, something good must have been going on.”
“That's Jeremy,” quipped Miceli. “He's so cool, calm and composed, and it showed in that final.
“We were a little nervous because it was so close, but I knew his opponent couldn't deal with his size and strength, and that was the difference.”
Brazil's lone defeat of the year was to Buss in the finals of the Leyden Invite, but even then it didn't faze the state champion. Brazil accepted plenty of handshakes and congratulations on a mini-victory tour down the big floor at the Assembly Hall. Included were Libertyville coach Dale Eggert and many of his athletes; then Brazil met an eager press crew.
“I had to work and wait four years for all of this,” said Brazil, “but the wait was sure worth it.”
Brazil and Klema qualify for State
Vernon Hills High School senior wrestler Jeremy Brazil prepared diligently for the Grayslake Central Sectional, held Friday and Saturday.
He left nothing to chance, and was as ready as he could be. Then, Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head. Brazil (285 pounds) woke up in the middle of the night — about 2:30 a.m. Friday — with a fever and stomach flu. He slept throughout his lunch hour, and on the bus ride to sectionals.
“I was trying to get as much of my energy back as possible,” Brazil said. Brazil (41-1) proceeded to easily win his match Friday, and then dominated two more opponents Saturday en route to a sectional championship — and his second consecutive trip to the IHSA state tournament. Last year, he was the Class 2A runner-up. After gutting it out Friday, Brazil said he was about 90 percent recovered on Saturday.
“As the day went on, I slowly got more fatigued,” he said. “I kept some strength in reserve and tried to wrestle strategically. I wrestled a lot smarter and set up my shots more than I usually do.” In the sectional final, Brazil pinned Hampshire High School’s Zach Oranger at the 1:08 mark of the opening period. Perhaps as a way to avoid dwelling too much on how he was feeling, Brazil was much chattier than normal before he wrestled, particularly on Friday.
“He was light-hearted, and talked to other wrestlers and coaches,” said Vernon Hills coach Jerry Miceli. “This was his last sectional, and he was kind of an ambassador of wrestling.” By Sunday, Brazil was starting to feel like himself again. “He’s a better wrestler than he was at this time last year,” Miceli said. “He worked really hard in the offseason; he has more matches under his belt. He’s improved his technique in all three phases of the game.” Brazil said he likes the fact that he will not take an undefeated record into the state tournament. His lone loss came to Class 3A wrestler James Buss of De La Salle at the Leyden Invitational on Jan. 7.
“People come after you even more if you are undefeated,” he said. “It also helps me to know that if I don’t wrestle like I should, I will get beat.” Added Miceli: “He’s mentally prepared and has all the tools he’ll need. He’s in a good place.”
Choice company: Senior Dan Klema became just the second wrestler in VH program history to qualify three times for the state tournament. Klema (152) finished in second place and ran his record to 37-10.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone that works harder than he does,” Miceli said. Klema finished third in a loaded regional, and managed to move up one spot at sectionals. He defeated highly regarded Damon Cloe of Marengo in the semifinals to secure a trip to State. Cloe topped Klema at regionals.
“(Klema) could have lost in the semis, and had to wrestle back for his life,” Miceli said. “We had a really good plan, and I’m proud of him.”
Nice run: Senior Tim Claussen (195) advanced to the quarterfinals before losing there. He finished the season with a 25-15 record. Junior Jake Hallendorff (138) ended the year at 16-12. Brae Cruz (113) came close to being the Vernon Hills’ first freshman to qualify for State. His final record was 26-15. “He beat two kids who beat him previously,” Miceli said. “That shows how much he is improving.”
On the schedule: At State, which will be held at Champaign’s Assembly Hall, will be a three-day event, beginning Thursday. Brazil will open against Gage Park’s Chris Ballard (26-2). He will not face Buss, who will take his undefeated record (38-0) to Class 3A. Meanwile, Klema will don his Vernon Hills uniform and go up against a wrestler from downstate Mt. Vernon — Blake Stricklin (36-4) — in the opening round.
Cougars enjoy big day at Leyden Invite
By Bob Gosman | Vernon Hills Review
Very few wrestling fans exited their seats early during Saturday’s 36th annual Leyden Invitational.
“One guy who left even came back to see it,” said Vernon Hills High School coach Jerry Miceli. Miceli was referring to the much-anticipated showdown at the 285-pound weight class between Cougars senior Jeremy Brazil and De La Salle’s James Buss. The two undefeated wrestlers were on a collision course all day, and sure enough they met in the championship match. Buss prevailed 7-2, but it was still quite a performance for Brazil and Vernon Hills. In fact, the Cougars finished fourth with 139.50 points, edging fifth-place Stevenson (138) in the 14-team invite. Conant (182.5) enjoyed an almost 10-point cushion over its closest competitor, second-place Leyden (173.50). Buss ran his record to 22-0 while Brazil took his first loss and fell to 24-1.
“Both kids were looking forward to that final match,” Miceli said. “It was two warriors going at it.” The entire six minutes was not typical of what you normally see when two heavyweights square off.
“It was all action; there was no stalling going on,” Miceli said. Added Brazil: “It was a good match. I made a couple of mistakes and he capitalized on them, as he should. He wrestled really well and showed me what I need to work on for the state tournament.”
Collective success: It was the best finish for the Cougars ever in the prestigious invitational. Vernon Hills took particular pride in finishing ahead of Stevenson. The Patriots defeated the Cougars on Dec. 9. “Our goal going in was to beat Stevenson,” Brazil said. Depth helped the Cougars finish fourth.
“We had two kids in the finals last year ,and this year we had three,” Miceli said. “Some of our younger kids stepped up.” In addition to Brazil, David Pierce (145) and Dan Klema (152) reached the finals. Pierce (18-6) wrestled a smart match in the semifinals, pinning Maine East’s Pablo Lopez. “He’s stingy with points,” Miceli said. “He knows it’s a six-minute match, and he just grinds on people and rides them hard.” Klema was impressive in reaching the finals, where he lost a 7-2 decision. He improved his record to 22-4.
“That could have been the toughest weight class in the whole tournament,” Miceli said. Miceli said Klema deserves the success he’s enjoying as a senior. “He’s not the most talented kid but he works so hard in the room,” Miceli said. “He’s relentless and I think the other kids feed off that.”
Freshman Brae Cruz continued to impress. He lost in the semifinals, in overtime, and placed third. “When we show him something, he’s not afraid to go out there and try it,” Miceli said. “He’s learned a lot. He’s a sponge.” Zach Eckstrom (182) and Jeremy Sullivan (160) each claimed fourth place. “Zach will keep it close and take it to six minutes,” Miceli said. Jordan Reich (106) finished sixth.
Vernon Hill's Brazil mentoring young Cougars
Vernon Hills High School senior Jeremy Brazil now has a better appreciation for the fundamentals of wrestling. The catalyst? His role as a mentor/unofficial assistant coach to some of the Cougars’ wrestlers at the lower levels.
“Coaching is totally different,” he said. “You look at things a different way. When you’re forced to break something down for someone, you pick up on all the little things. You see what might be open to use in your matches.”
Cougars coach Jerry Miceli said Brazil is a natural coach and leader. “He’s like a big brother to some of our younger kids,” Miceli said. On the mat, no one seems to want to wrestle Brazil of late. At Vernon Hills’ own quad Saturday, three of his four opponents forfeited (one by injury). Through Monday, Brazil had a perfect 12-0 record. So Brazil spent Sunday with his club coach, working on technique squaring off against one of the state’s best wrestlers, Byron’s Reid Sealby.
“It was frustrating Saturday,” Brazil said. “It was nice to make up for it on Sunday by getting in a really good workout and going live for a bit with Reid. We’ve been wrestling each other since eighth grade.”
Brazil prepared for his senior year by tweaking his weightlifting routine. He introduced clean and jerks and other exercises to best mimic the strength he needs in matches.
“In wrestling, we work muscles that other people don’t even know they have,” he said. “I feel stronger. I’m confident that I’ve improved pretty substantially since last year.” He will get no argument from his coach. “His technique has improved and he’s wrestling with a lot of confidence,” Miceli said. Brazil never takes a day off and that approach rubs off on the team. “No matter what, he’s always ready for a tough workout,” senior Dan Klema said. “He had a huge drive for wrestling and never takes the easy way out. He loves to wrestle.”
Early impressions: Featuring a blend of experience and youth, the Cougars have impressed in the early part of the season. Vernon Hills’ best performance was a second-place finish in the 10-team Maine East Invitational on Dec. 2.
“(The title) came down to the last match against Maine West,” Miceli said. “I was really happy with the way we wrestled. We looked really strong. I feel really comfortable with where we’re at. The guys work hard and don’t screw around. It’s a good group of kids.”
The Cougars defeated Highland Park 60-24 in their own quad on Saturday and dispatched Palatine 44-27. Warren defeated Vernon Hills 43-19. For the first time this season, Klema wrestled at 152 pounds. By Klema moving down to that weight class, it allows rapidly improving Jeremy Sullivan the chance to compete at 160. “That fits our lineup perfectly,” Miceli said. Klema was undefeated coming into the quad, and went 2-1 on Saturday. “Now that I’m locked in at that weight, I’m feeling really good,” he said.
Cougars finish 2nd at Maine East
The Cougar wrestling team started strong over the holiday weekend by placing 2nd at the always tough Maine East Dual Meet Tournament. The Cougars finished the event by beating St. Ignatius 70-6, Glenbrook South 55-15, Proviso West 57-23, Hoffman Estates 48-17. After going 4-0, the Cougars then faced Maine West, who also was 4-0 going into the championship match. Heading into the last bout of match, the score was 33-34 Maine West. Maine West came out on top by winning the last bout and defeated the Cougars in the final by a score of 40-33.
More to follow...
Cougars ranked 21st in State to start season
from Rob Sherrill, Illinois Best Weekly
21. VERNON HILLS (N/A) – another north suburban team that shined in February, the Cougars were well represented at state last year, with senior state runnerup Jeremy Brazil (40-7 at 285) and two other state qualifiers, junior David Pierce (31-15 at 140) and senior Dan Klema (44-10 at 145), leading 10 returning starters. Coach Jerry Miceli also returns seniors Patrick Conrad (14-23 at 130) and Wayne Dider (20-14 at 215), juniors Tyler Nagle (12-19 at 103), Israel Montelongo (10-10 at 112), Ben Turley (9-23 at 152) and Roger Ramirez (4-2 at 160) and sophomore Jonathan Ramirez (15-9 at 135).
Jordan Reich places 6th at USAW Cadet Nationals -
Jeremy Brazil helps Team Illinois win a National Dual Title
VHHS Sophomore Jordan Reich competed for Team Illinois at the 2011 USAW Cadet Freestyle National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota on July 20-22, 2011. Reich competed in the 84 lb. division and went 5-2 over the two days earning All-American status and a 6th place medal. Reich got by Brandon Staley of Florida and Shane Ross of Texas to earn himself a spot in the 5th place bout. In that match, he lost a close 1-0, 2-0 decision to Christopher Cuccolo of New York. You can watch that match by clicking HERE.
Senior Jeremy Brazil meanwhile had another outstanding summer competing for Team Illinois. Competing at 285 lbs., Brazil represented Illinois in both the 2011 Individual USAW Junior Freestyle & Greco-Roman Championships in Fargo, ND over the weekend of July 17-23, 2011 and as a key member of Team Illinois that won a National Title in the 2011 USAW National Freestyle Duals held June 23-27, 2011 in Oklahoma City, OK. At Fargo, Brazil went 1-2 in Freestyle and 3-2 in Greco, just missing a chance at the medal round. In freestyle, Jeremy won an exciting first round match over Alex Henry of Virginia 7-1, 3-0 that you can watch by clicking HERE.
At the Junior Freestyle Duals, Jeremy went 6-3 as Team Illinois defeated Michigan, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota 1, Oklahoma 2, Georgia and Pennsylvania in pool competition to earn their top seed in the medal round. In the medal round, Illinois beat Wisconsin, Minnesota 2, Iowa and faced Oklahoma for the National Title. Illinois defeated Oklahoma 1 47-12 in the championship dual with Jeremy defeating Evan McGee 2-1, 3-0 in the final bout of the competition. Click HERE to watch that match.