Brian Stranz’s big pin turns tide for Niles West

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The energy had been sucked out of Niles West’s wrestling gymnasium.

A 14-0 lead for the home team had turned into a 32-23 advantage for Glenbrook South. At 170 pounds, the Titans’ Sanchir Avirmed repeatedly forced the Wolves’ Cameron Greenstein onto the mat en route to a 12-4 victory. Then, at 182 pounds, Shouki Shunnarah put Zaia Mando in a near stranglehold for a first-round pin. The Skokie faithful had fallen silent in their first home varsity meet of the season Friday.

Fortunately, the Wolves had their “big play” machine on the mat at 195 pounds in senior Brian Stranz.

“I started off and got a takedown,” Stranz said. “First takedowns are really big. I tried cradling him, didn’t run it correctly. I got reversed. I was unhappy with that. I wanted to come back and get big points for our team because we were down.”

He picked up a perfect six points for the Wolves as one quick flip of Ali Shegarfi led to a first-round pin that electrified the gym.

“I just hit a move that was there. I took advantage of his bad position and got some points for us,” Stranz said. “He was coming into me too hard. I had him locked up already. It was just a matter of hipping through.”

Coach Anthony Genovesi has seen it before from Stranz.

“We expect that from Brian,” Genovesi said. “He’s a kid that can get some pins when you need them. … His style of wrestling leads to pins.”

The red-clad Wolves fans weren’t the only ones inspired by Stranz’s big plays.

“As soon as I saw that, I kind of got pumped up,” senior Denis Gargovic said. “I was screaming.”

It showed as Gargovic polished off Denatra Moshi 5-1 at 285 pounds minutes later for a 35-32 Wolves victory. Niles West won the last three bouts of the evening by a combined margin of 12-0. Glenbrook South managed only an escape in those three bouts.

It all started with Stranz.

“It was huge,” Gargovic said. “As soon as he got that, I was going crazy and everyone’s mentality went up.”

Stranz, who said that he placed second on the team in pins last year, said that he is shooting for the team lead this season.

“I like pinning,” Stranz said. “Nothing worse than wrestling a 6-minute match. Got to get in there and get it done as fast as possible.”

Four of his first five wins have come via pins. His fifth came courtesy of a technical fall.

Pins like Friday night’s are especially sweet.

“It’s just the best feeling,” Stranz said. “Wrestling is so tough. Doing it, you just feel tired. Then, as soon as that match is over, you’ve won. And especially with big points like that, it’s the best feeling in the world.” He picked up a perfect six points for the Wolves as one quick flip of Ali Shegarfi led to a first-round pin that electrified the gym.

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