LA GRANGE – For all of the success of the young wrestlers on Lyons Township this season, A.J. Villarreal still showed well he’s the team’s veteran leader.
Villarreal has been LT’s best wrestler this season, although the Lions have plenty of talent on the team. The senior was one of three individual champions and helped LT to win the team title at its own regional on Saturday.
Villarreal pinned his first two opponents at 152 pounds and won by injury default in the final. He now has his sights set on qualifying for state at this weekend’s Hinsdale Central sectional.
“All depending on how the bracket works out, I expect to go in there, make it to the finals and make it out to go down state,” he said. “I just look at it as another opportunity to make myself better and improve myself.”
It was his first regional title and his younger brother, Zach, also was a winner at 113 pounds. Zach, a freshman, won by fall 13 seconds into overtime against Hinsdale Central’s Matt Price in the final.
Fellow freshmen Elias Garcia (106 pounds), Tyler Zeman (126) and Johnny Mologousis (145) also got through. Garcia and Zeman were second place finishers while Mologousis pinned his opponent in the third place match to advance.
LT’s other champion was 182-pound sophomore Ezra Avery. Avery, a sophomore, pinned two opponents and picked up a major decision in the final.
“I’m just happy because there’s a tradition at LT that if you win a tournament you get your name up on the board,” Avery said. “That’s kind of what I wanted to do, leave a legacy.”
Senior Matt Maldonado (138) and Nick Spacek (170) also advanced to give the Lions’ eight wrestlers at the sectional.
LT won the regional by more than 30 points over second place Downers Grove South.
“We weren’t really expecting much this year,” Avery said. “We had a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, and to win this was pretty big.”
Clearly, the expectations changed during the season as the younger wrestlers showed their ability.
“We haven’t won [a regional] since my freshman year, so it’s huge,” A.J. Villarreal said. “As a team, I didn’t think we could win something like this. As the year progressed, I saw it so I’m more than satisfied.”