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Grappling under the sun: Sandburg tops Andrew in outdoor dual

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Wrestling being moved to the IHSA’s new summer season and shortened, with no state series, has certainly not been ideal.

However, wrestling in June as opposed to in the middle of winter allows for some creative opportunities, and Sandburg and Andrew took advantage of that to create a memorable night on June 3.

The Eagles hosted the Thunderbolts outdoors at Mike Navarro Stadium, with mats placed on the football field turf. Sandburg rolled to a 53-13 win behind pins from seven wrestlers.

“It’s not something I really wanted,” Sandburg coach Clinton Polz said of the unique setting. “Our athletic director (Steve Schanz) suggested it, and when I talked to some of the kids it seemed to mean a lot to them.

“With this year that’s been hard, with our season being pushed back, it was hard to say ‘no’ after talking to them. Our maintenance crew did a great job putting this together. I don’t know if we could have pulled this off without them. It worked out.”

It was a particularly special night for Sandburg’s seniors, including 126-pounder Matt Parker.

Parker rallied from a late 3-1 deficit to beat Andrew’s Joey Chirillo 5-3 in overtime. Parker tied it with a takedown in the final minute of regulation and won it with another takedown 23 seconds into overtime.

“I just kind of went with my experience,” Parker said. “It’s my final year, so I just want to make the most out of every situation.

“I saw that my opponent was tired, so I kind of upped the pace and I put it on him. I went with a move that I knew I could finish. I wasn’t finishing early in the match, and I learned from my mistakes.”

Parker was thrilled to win in front of the big crowd at the stadium.

“This was pretty special,” he said. “I don’t think this has ever happened before in the program’s history. It was special for our whole team to get a win out here. I’ll remember this day for a while.”

Northwestern recruit Sammie Hayes improved to 10-0 at 120 pounds, pinning Keeghan O’Reilly in 1:07.

“It was really nice to do this,” Hayes said. “I really enjoyed it. It was a great atmosphere. I loved seeing all the fans. We were super grateful to be able to have this opportunity. The coaches gave us the chance to pick if we wanted to do it or not, and we obviously picked to do it outside. It was a nice night, so it was lucky.”

Andrew led 10-9 early before Sandburg won eight of the last nine matches, six of them by pin.

Elliot Cook had a pin at 145 for the Eagles, who then closed the dual with five straight pins from Moe Alamawi (170), Zach Bateman (182), Hamza Hassan (195), Mike Rydell (220) and Yazen Arefeh (285).

Brant Kriby picked up a technical fall at 152, while Tyler Milani won a 5-2 decision at 138 for the Eagles.

“It’s the culmination for these guys,” Polz said. “Usually, we have three to four months to watch these guys progress. This year it’s been a month where they’ve had to get better, get in better shape, grow technically, and a lot of them have done it. Some of them have grown as much as they would in a full season.”

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