Lamar Bradley said he felt like people have been counting out the DeKalb wrestling team all year.
The team lost a lot of talent from last year, including four wrestlers who went off to NCAA Division I programs.
But on Friday the Barbs repeated as DuPage Valley Conference champions for the fourth time, edging Naperville Central behind eight individual champions, including Bradley at 220 pounds over Naperville Central’s Nicolas Besteiro as the teams were locked in a close battle for the crown.
“Yeah, we lost those seniors last year, but it didn’t hurt us,” Bradley said. “We always have guys ready and loaded. It was the fact everyone thought we were down and I knew we weren’t. It was fun shocking the world. No one believed in us, no one thought we would get this far, everyone thought We were dead. But we’re still here.”
Bradley suffered a takedown in the first period, but got a reverse on Besteiro immediately after then got the pin in 1:30. It was the last match to feature a Redhawk or a Barb, resulting in a 269-254.5 win for the Barbs.
Naperville North was the only other team over 100 points with 197 to take third, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley rounded out the team standings.
“Giving up that takedown, it was devastating,” Bradley said. “I didn’t want to give up anything. I wanted to come out and not be scored on. But I knew I had to get up. That’s one thing I’ve focused on a lot, standing up quick when they take me down .”
DeKalb coach Sam Hiatt said he was impressed Bradley didn’t give up and still got into his offense despite being on his back against a wrestler who pinned him in the first minute of a match last week.
“He came and wrestled with a good attitude,” Hiatt said. “He got to his offense even though he got taken down. He stayed in there, kept his composure, got to his offense and he’s good from that body lock position and got the pin. It was a great way to end the tournament.”
In addition to Bradley, Kaden Kalpprodt (106), Hudson Ikens (132), Mekhi Cave (138), Austin Martin (145), Jacob Luce (152), Nate Sauer (182) and David Stewart (195) won titles for DeKalb , which has won the league every year since joining four years ago.
Hiatt said he was particularly impressed with Sauer, who came back from down 2-0 after two periods to win 8-2 after not wrestling in almost a month due to an elbow injury.
Ty Martin (113), Vince Bern (120), Ethan Olson (126) and Gavin Bohan (160) won titles for the Redhawks.
The other champions were Neuqua Valley’s Silvano Spatafora at 170 and Metea Valley’s Jesus Rojas at 285.
Naperville Central coach Noah Fitzenreider said the main goal Friday was to get ready for the regional early next month, and he felt the team was successful at that.
“There’s always ups and downs through our tournaments but our guys stayed up for the most part,” Fitzenreider said. “We always want to win, but winning wasn’t the goal here. The goal is always keep getting better. Two weeks from now is the main goal.”
He said he was impressed with Bern, a freshman who beat Jalen Airhart, 13-9. He was down 6-2 in the third after Airhart got a two-point near fall, but stormed back for the title.
“He’s a freshman on varsity and DeKalb is a good team,” Fitzenreider said. “You beat anybody there you’re good.”
Bradley said the main goal is to go far in the state series this year, and Friday served as a good warmup.
“It’s the first step to becoming what the biggest goals are — regional champ, sectional champ and when the time comes a state champ,” Bradley said. “That kid beat me last week, pinned me in 45 seconds. I knew I had to come out and really work.”