Villareal of Lyons slips through Shepard Sectional
Oak Park, 01/21/12--Lyons Township's Eric Rende, 170, wrestles Morton's Adrian Cardenas. Oak Park River Forest HS hosted a wrestling invitational meet Saturday. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:42PM
The Class 3A Shepard Sectional proved to be more heart-breaking than heart-lifting for members of the Lyons wrestling team.
Junior 152-pounder A.J. Villareal was the lone Lyons wrestler to advance to the state meet starting Thursday night in Champaign.
He will open the tournament against Oak Park-River Forest freshman Kamal Bey (26-4). The winner faces Lincoln-Way Central’s Tyler Schneider (43-7) or Lake Zurich’s Sean Lynch (21-3) in the quarterfinals.
Villareal (37-8) claimed a state qualifying berth by reaching the sectional semifinals. He finished third with a 10-4 victory over Richards senior Deion Carter (31-5).
Villareal has led Lyons in wins most of the season and coach Griffin Powell was confident Villareal would advance. For how long, Powell said: “From Day 1.”
Villareal climbed back through the wrestlebacks after losing to eventual sectional champion Mitch Cook (34-8) of Sandburg in the quarterfinals, 6-2. Villareal pinned his first opponent, Jake McInnis of Kenwood, at 1:12. Villareal reached the semifinals with a win over Hinsdale Central senior Ernest Battaglia.
“We believe A.J. is one of the top wrestlers in the state at 152 pounds,” Powell said. “He will have a chance to prove it this weekend. A.J. has trained extremely hard all year, and believes in his ability.”
Three other Lyons wrestlers came within one win of reaching the state meet: Jack Bates at 145; Eric Rende at 182; and Justin Fuller at 195.