Vernon Hills enjoys big day at huge invite
Vernon Hills' Jeremy Sullivan takes control of South Elgin's William Alleman during 160-pound action at the Leyden Invitational. He took fourth place overall. | Jon Langham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 12, 2012 1:16AM
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.
On the schedule: The Cougars visit Wauconda on Friday and compete in a quad at Glenbard South on Saturday. On the schedule: The Cougars visit Wauconda on Friday and compete in a quad at Glenbard South on Saturday.