Libertyville wrestling focused on state run

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Anyone who passed by the Libertyville football field this summer might have seen wrestling team members channeling their inner track athlete.

Sometimes, as many as 15 Libertyville wrestlers would be on the field to run sets of 10 100-yard sprints. Depending on the day, this was either before or after they hit the weight room, working hard for the task ahead.

“We have the potential to be one of the better Libertyville teams,” senior Austin Koziol said. “We’ve worked hard because we want to end our high school careers with something great.”

The senior class has pointed toward this season for some time.

“We’ve been talking about this all the way back to eighth grade,” senior Chris McDermand said. “We definitely have a state-caliber team.”

The Wildcats return five seniors who qualified for last year’s state meet: Koziol (182 pounds), McDermand (285), Steve Polakowski (120), Kayne MacCallum (170) and Kevin Barbian (220).

“We have a very experienced team,” said coach Dale Eggert, who is approaching his 500th career victory. “I would expect us to be competitive in the big tournaments.”

The Wildcats were just that in Barrington’s season-opening Moore-Prettyman tournament. Libertyville (233 points) led for much of the meet before finishing second to perennial power Marmion (241.5).

MacCallum won all four of his matches in dominating fashion.

“His shots were working and he’s always looking to score points,” Eggert said.

Polakowski placed second and exhibited his trademark energy throughout each match.

“Steve sets the pace and very few people are able to stay with it,” Eggert said. “He’s got really good moves. He comes out shooting and never stops.”

Koziol also finished second and was in fine form early in the season.

“He’s doing everything better this year,” Eggert said.

Koziol was limited as a sophomore because of a shoulder injury. As a junior, he wrestled at 100 percent and he made the most of it with his first trip to the state tournament.

He said wrestling at state was a motivating experience.

“It was awesome being down at Assembly Hall [in Champaign] and performing in such a crazy atmosphere,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. That was why I pushed myself so hard to come back from my injury. That [experience] motivated me to hopefully be on the podium this year.”

Junior Joey Gunther (152) is coming off a 26-5 season that ended prematurely when illness prevented him from competing in the state series. He had a tremendous summer, highlighted by a second-place finish at the USA Cadet Greco Nationals.

As a sophomore, he wrestled at 138 pounds.

“He’s bigger and stronger and maybe a little more offensive this year,” Eggert said.

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