Schaer, Carmel step up twice at St. Viator

It appears Carmel Catholic wrestling team has stepped up its efforts in advance of what it hopes will be a successful postseason — individually and collectively. The Corsairs (8-6-0) got past high-flying Maine West and then host St. Viator on Friday night at the Cahill Gymnasium in Arlington Heights. Anthony Schaer and his teammates were in control during until the late stages of a 36-33 victory over Maine West (10-2-0) before ending the evening with an impressive 46-30 win over the Lions. “We’re a young team right now, so the next two years I really believe Carmel wrestling will be among the best in the area,” Schaer said. “But right now we maybe have five or six guys who can get downstate and have a chance of getting a medal.”

One of the few seniors in the Corsairs starting lineup, Schaer was a state qualifier a year ago before meeting eventual state champion Dack Punke (Washington) in his opening match. “Not the best guy to go against for your first trip downstate, but the entire experience in Champaign really opens your eyes to the level of competition,” said Schaer, who won 30 times last season. “And it helped motivate me to work harder, and to change a few things with my wrestling style.” Schaer and his teammates built a 15-0 advantage against Maine West with a forfeit and three consecutive decisions. One came from another 2017 state qualifier, Christian Valadez (120), and the other by Schaer, who shut out Ilia Tomov 5-0. Arsalan Afshar (20-2 at 132) along with Jayton Hall (17-2 at 145) helped the Warriors cut the Corsairs lead in half (30-15) with a fall and 6-0 decision. Those efforts inspired a valiant comeback from the Warriors, who closed to within 30-27 before a forfeit at 220 ended their bid to overtake Carmel Catholic.

“We, like every other team right now, are fighting nagging injuries and sickness, said Maine West coach Chris Brassell. “So tonight we had to tweak our lineup and take a couple of forfeits here and there, which is better to go through at this time instead of four weeks from now at regionals.” Junior Jacob Bellizzi (18-2) continues to dominate his opponents. Last week at the Ed Ewoldt Invite at Wheaton Warrenville South, he won his second major of the season. On Friday he had a pair of falls, the first in just 11 seconds and his last against Jake Wolf, St. Viator’s state ranked 195-pounder.
“I’m not getting ahead of myself,” said Bellizzi, who began the week No. 9 in the most recent state poll. “It’s just one match at a time and nothing else. Our team continues to work hard each and every day, with the focus for all of us being a regional championship in February.” After dropping their opener against Carmel Catholic, the Warriors bounced back in style. They surged ahead of the Lions 32-3 before conceding the next 14 points in a 47-17 victory.

The story of the evening for Viator was the successful 2017-2018 debut of junior Elijah Black, who after missing the entire first half of the year with an upper body injury, cruised to a pair of easy victories, all the while looking in peak form. “We’re thrilled to have him back in our lineup to give us some much needed power,” said Lions coach Jason Churak. “He’s still not 100 percent but he looked explosive and confident in each of his matches tonight that ended with pins. And I can honestly say if he continues this way, he’ll get himself downstate where he can challenge for a medal.” Two years ago in his rookie season, Black was one win away from advancing to the state tournament, going 25-6 overall. “We’re close to getting our entire lineup back for the stretch run,” Churak said. “And with our upper weights still the strongest part of our lineup (Black, Wolf and Ryan McGuire), we can be challenge and be dangerous when regionals come around.” The Lions will travel to Round Lake today for a quad while Maine West goes on the road to Batavia before taking on CSL rival Highland Park in one week. Carmel Catholic, which rolled up a 46-0 lead against St. Viator before the Lions’ big men drew them closer to make things respectable in its 16-point defeat, will host its own mega-dual one week from today. Then they return to Arlington Heights on Jan. 15 for the ESCC super-duals.