With 11 of 14 starters from last season’s state championship team having graduated in the spring, this year’s Sandburg wrestling squad is definitely younger.
The Eagles still have talent, however, most noticeably with defending state champ Johnny Pellegrino. But he’s not going it alone.
It’s already evident that Sandburg’s youthful makeup isn’t hindering its performances. The Eagles opened their 2013-14 season last Wednesday with a dual-meet win over Homewood-Flossmoor, then went 3-0 at their own quadrangular on Saturday.
And Sandburg wasn’t too sternly challenged over the weekend, as TF South (76-3), Class 2A No. 4-ranked Lincoln-Way West (44-16) and No. 2-ranked Washington from downstate (46-20) all fell hard. Pellegrino (152 pounds) and fellow senior Hunter Pindel (195) both pinned all three of their opponents on Saturday and are 4-0 for the year, and junior Matthew Frostman also won three times in the quad.
“We’ve come across some solid opponents, and so far we’ve fared pretty well,” Eagles coach Eric Siebert said. “John Pellegrino is our leader and centerpiece, but we also have some young, scrappy, hard-nosed guys who are eager to learn and who are going about their business the right way thus far. We’re 4-0 and showing really good signs.
“We’re really young, which is kind of fun. They’re young, but the kids are also talented and hungry. A little green and rough around the edges, but they have great attitudes and are really scrappy — that’s a hard thing to teach.
“We’re working on learning to become tougher. We want them to learn how to beat better wrestlers and better teams by buying into the Sandburg system. I think they’re doing that.”
Seniors Adrian Gutierrez (120 pounds), Moe Shuaibi (132), Brad Crnich (145), Mathew Drozd (195) and Nate Sonneveld (heavyweight) comprise the veteran core behind Pellegrino, and sophomore Christian Robertson (126) also gained experience last winter.
Newcomers of note include sophomores Louie Hayes (106), Kevin Stearns (113), Colin Glascott (120), Christian Robertson (126), Benjamin Schneider (138), Thomas Slattery (160) and Brian Krasowski (160). Also part of the youth movement are freshmen Cole Bateman (182) and Patrick Brucki.
Brucki and Robertson are younger siblings of former state champs CJ Brucki and Ricky Robertson, respectively.
The Eagles will definitely be tested in the weeks ahead, beginning with this weekend’s quad against Batavia, Lyons Township and Naperville North. Also on tap are the 28-team Hinsdale Central Invitational, which will include Montini and Oak Park-River Forest in the field; The Clash, which is considered the toughest tournament in the country, on Jan. 3 and 4; and dual matches versus highly ranked Glenbard North and Lockport.
“We’re not so much worried about the wins and the losses right now,” Siebert said. “We feel we have a pretty solid bunch, and we think that we’re going to get considerably better as we go on in the season.
“We’re still figuring some things out, but our attitude and work ethic is great. We hope to be a contender by the end of the year.”
Shepard dropped a 43-27 match to Brother Rice last Tuesday. Reigning state champion Rudy Yates recorded a pin at 113 pounds to power the Crusaders.
Brandon Dietz rolled a 277 game and 483 series for Shepard, as the Astros defeated TF North 1,993-1,676 in a South Suburban Conference crossover match at Castaways Bowl in Calumet City last Tuesday.
Stagg suffered a 2,047-1,616 setback against Lincoln-Way North in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover match last Tuesday at Tinley Park Bowl.