HARVARD– After graduating 10 starters from his lineup, Harvard wrestling coach Tim Haak expected a few growing pains early.
But two weeks out from regionals and the dual team tournament, Haak likes where his team stands.
The Hornets defeated Crystal Lake Central 43-23 and Marian Central 73-4, with six Harvard wrestlers going 2-0 on the day.
"You can tell we're starting to do the little things in the matches," Haak said. "That's what's making the difference."
Anthony Luis (106), Irvin Pena (120), Chance Shelton (126), Johnny Peterson (132), Travis Heck (152) and Christian Popoca (220) all had two wins for the Hornets.
Haak has been especially pleased with the recent progress of Pena, a senior, and Peterson, a freshman.
Peterson escaped from bottom early in the third against (Central's 132-pounder) to gain a one-point lead. With 11 seconds left in the match, (Central wrestler) hit a single leg that brought Peterson to the mat, but Peterson used a counter move to cause a stalemate to close the match. Peterson's second match was a 1 minute, 52-second pin.
Peterson said he's much more comfortable on the mat than the beginning of the season, and is learning to deal with his inexperience against older wrestlers.
"The strength difference is pretty big," Peterson said. "You have to out-wrestle everybody. You just can't go out there and out-muscle everyone."
Tied heading into the final quarter, Pena escaped from bottom on Central's Ian Zietler and got a stalling call for a 2-0 win. Pena's second win was a 11-3 major decision, with Pena cutting Marian's Jack McGuire twice in the final period to get two takedowns to earn the extra team point.
Pena has found confidence since placing seventh at the Princeton Invitational Tournament the first weekend of January.
"I've been working hard in the wrestling room," Pena said. "My teammates are the ones that help me out."
The Hornets won the first six matches against the Tigers.
"Our lower weights didn't come to wrestle today," Central coach Justen Lehr said.
Back-to-back pins from Andrew Marsden (170) and Brent Pfaff (182) cut Harvard's lead to five, but the Hornets were able to hold on.
Darwin Stone (220) was leading 12-8 in the third period for the Tigers before being disqualified, giving the win to Popoca.
"I guess that [the ref] thought he bowed his back or something," Lehr said.
Luis had two pins for the Hornets, both under 30 seconds. Shelton had a fall in 1:52 against Marian and won a 9-3 decision against Central.
Heck won a 10-0 major decision against Central and got a pin in 1:31 with a head scissor for his second win. Popoca got a reversal and three near-fall points in the final quarter to earn a 7-2 decision against the Hurricanes.
Nick Remke (138) won the lone match for the Hurricanes against Harvard. Remke was up 13-1 heading into the final match and was looking for the pin, but came away with a 15-1 major decision.