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52 | January 25, 2018 | The tinley junction Sports tinleyjunction.com Wrestling Underclassmen expect shot at sectional SSC showing has TPHS coach thinking four sectional qualifiers Tim Carroll, Sports Editor Three Tinley Park wrestlers made it to at least the semifinal round of the consolation bracket in the South Suburban Conference meet Saturday, Jan. 20. All three were underclassmen. “The program’s in good shape,” said John Pfeffer, the Tinley Park coach. “We’re on solid ground.” All told, the Titans took 13th place out of the 14 SSC teams. Their 24.5 overall score was a half-point behind 12th-place Oak Lawn. The farthest to advance was junior Ronin Gilbert, at 152 pounds. After winning a 17-4 major decision over T.F. South’s Griffin Klausner to open the tournament, Gilbert was pinned by the eventual 152-pound champion, Lemont’s Ryan Dickson. But Gilbert’s day was not done. He was inserted into the consolation bracket with the chance to wrestle back for a third-place finish. Gilbert defeated Argo’s Greg Juarez in another 14-6 major decision before advancing to the third-place match, where he took an early lead. But he wound up taking what he later called an unnecessary risk and was pinned in the third period by Oak Lawn’s Chris Canvin. “Wrestling safer,” Gilbert said when asked what he hoped to work on between the conference tournament and regional. “... Not doing stuff I don’t need to do.” In general, Pfeffer said that was something he hoped the team would improve upon before the Oak Forest Regional Feb. 9 and 10. “Finish the match,” the coach said of what he wanted to see come time for regional competition. “You’ve got a good lead. Finish it, wrestle smart, don’t put yourself in jeopardy, don’t get caught in things that you know better. We made some mistakes that way today, [and] it cost us some matches.” “It was fun, but I need to finish, and it just didn’t end like I wanted it to,” Gilbert said. In addition to Gilbert, the Titans advanced sophomores Dominic Rivera (113 pounds) and Jeremy Kelly (120 pounds) to the semifinals of their weight classes’ consolation brackets. Rivera went the distance in his semifinal match, and at one point he held the lead. But Evergreen Park’s Edwin Opoku took the late lead and held on to beat Rivera in a 4-3 decision. “I was pretty level-headed,” Rivera said, noting that he expected not to underestimate any of his opponents in the future. “... Competition’s been tough. I’d say this is one of the best conferences in the state.” If Tinley Park can wrestle full bouts, Pfeffer said he realistically thinks some Titans can earn a spot at the sectional. “I think we’ve got a shot at getting three or four kids out to sectionals, I really do,” Pfeffer said. “It’s pretty much Dominic, I think Jeremy Kelly, our 120-pounder might have a shot, and Anthony [McMahon] and Ronin.” Pfeffer said McMahon, a Tinley Park’s Ronin Gilbert nearly earns an early pin in the third-place match at 152 pounds Saturday, Jan. 20, during the South Suburban Conference meet at Shepard. Photos by Tim Carroll/22nd Century Media 160-pounder, is one of the reasons that Gilbert made it to the third-place match, and Gilbert may be a reason that McMahon has the opportunity to advance to sectional. “They push each other each day,” Pfeffer said of the training partners. “Neither one of them takes a day off; they don’t go easy on each other. “That’s what we need from those guys, to set the tone in the room, so that the younger guys can see how hard some of the upperclassmen work.” McMahon earned a fall in his first match in the consolation bracket, but Bremen’s Dylan Thompson won a 6-4 decision in the quarterfinal round. Gilbert was the leading scorer for Tinley Park, putting up 12 points for the team in his matches. Mc- Mahon earned the Titans 6.5 points, while Rivera earned two points. At 132 pounds, senior Donovan Fairchild rounded out the Titans’ scoring with four points, earning a fall in his first bout before bowing out in Round 2 of the consolation bracket. The Titans are getting some much-needed postseason experience, and a lot of the young, successful wrestlers will be back next season. “These guys just need more mat time and experience,” Pfeffer said. “We’re just really young.” RIGHT: Titans sophomore Dominic Rivera prepares himself for his consolation bracket semifinal match.