ROCKTON- Area wrestling programs are gearing up for a huge Saturday, albeit with different outcomes at stake.
For the Hononegah Indians, the onus is on several wrestlers to advance from their IHSA regional meet in DeKalb. In Wisconsin, Beloit Memorial and Beloit Turner look to fare well in their respective conference meets.
The Hononegah Indians already had their conference meet, and dominated the proceedings Saturday. Hononegah not only won as a team, but collected seven individual titles.
Headlining all, of course, is heavyweight Tony Cassioppi, who is considered a runaway favorite to capture another IHSA state title.
But Cassioppi is far from the Indians' only hope to advance to sectionals. The six NIC-10 winners, along with Cassioppi, all harbor legitimate chances to advance, with the top three wrestlers in each class moving on.
Dominic Ballano, who didn't wrestle last year after a terrific sophomore campaign, said he's ready to make a run at 160 pounds.
"I've got a really tough bracket," Ballano said. "The third-ranked kid in state is in there, but hopefully I'm on the other side from him. I'm going to go out there and give absolutely everything I have."
Giovanni Cassioppi won the NIC-10 at 152, but will wrestle at his customary 138, where he is ranked sixth in Illinois.
Other Indian conference champs include Josh Rydberg (126), Mason Schewe (138), Casey Sauter (145), and James Bowers (195).
• BELOIT TURNER: The Trojans have had a year unlike any that co-coach Matt Ries has seen. And no, that's not a good thing.
"The injuries that we've suffered have not only been numerous, they've been serious," Ries said. "And they've been to most of our best guys. So we went from having the expectation of competing for a conference title to now trying to compete to get in the top three or four. That's where we're at right now."
Stars like Drew Ries, Trey Bivens and Cody Krueger are all out. Devon Harbison is banged up. And Emiliano Reyes is just now back in the fold for Ries' walking wounded.
That's not to say the Trojans are without title contenders, however.
"Jack Sagaitis (126) is in the conversation for a conference title," Jacobson said. "Gavin Campbell at 132 is in a really tough weight class, but he could medal. Having Reyes back at 182 will be interesting. He's the two seed, but the one ahead of him is a young man from Whitewater who has been to state twice. He beat Nano 9-3 earlier this year. Trey Griinke is a kid who has stepped up because of the injuries and done really well. It'll be him or Phil Brown at 195. And Dante Colorado has been a real surprise at heavyweight. He came out of nowhere and has a great year."
Ries said there are some positives to having so many injuries.
"The one thing it does is give young kids a chance to make a name for themselves," Ries said. "And we've had some kids do just that. And I'm proud of the depth we've built. Even with all of our injuries, we were still able to go West Salem last weekend and put a full team on the mat. Besides 160, we'll be able to do that again this week. We've had kids step up and compete, and they'll need to do that again Saturday in Jefferson."
• BELOIT MEMORIAL: The Purple Knights finished fourth in the extremely competitive Big Eight conference in dual meet season, and coach Stephen Jacobson said that should be about where the team aims for Saturday at the conference meet at Madison La Follette.
"Historically, that's what you see," Jacobson said. "You've got Sun Prairie and Middleton that will probably duke it out for the top spot. Janesville Craig will be up there. I'm excited to see what we can go up there and do."
Jacobson said there are several individuals that have an opportunity to have a great showing.
"Daren Taber is someone who I'm really excited about," Jacobson said. "He's finally got his weight down to 113. He's been wrestling all year at 120, and he's just now gotten over an illness and been able to stabilize his weight. He should have a lot of success there."
Bobby Johnson (126) was a sectional qualifier last year, but was recently declared ineligible. Jacobson said there is a capable replacement behind him.
"Juan Orejel qualified to JV state and has really done well," Jacobson said. "He's been in a tough position this year because we have been moving him between 126 and 132, and he struggled a bit at 132. So he should do well at 126. Fernando Badillo(152) is the hardest worker in our room, and he's made himself the best wrestler he could possibly be.
"Tyler Sireci (182) is undefeated in conference, so he should get a really good seed. Linzell Burks (190) should be a one seed, and Matt Lindley (155) should be a two or three seed."
Jacobson said heavyweight Ryan Caudle has been a pleasant surprise this year.
"We really lucked out with him," Jacobson said. "We had a real logjam at 195, so he got pushed up and it seemed like every team had a heavyweight that was about 230 pounds. He's been outstanding, and so fun to watch. The guy just turns it on when he's out there. His only loss in the conference has been to Middleton, so he's got a chance to do really well, too."