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Jack McCliesch came within inches of scoring a fall in the final match of the night against New Trier Friday.
But close didn’t count for McCliesch — or for Evanston’s wrestlers, either.
Oh-so-close to their first division wrestling championship since 2004, the Wildkits saw their comeback bid fall short in a 35-34 loss to the Trevians that likely spoiled their chances for a team title.
Evanston’s first loss in Central Suburban League South division action still leaves coach Rudy Salinas’ squad with a chance to at least tie for the crown if New Trier loses to either Waukegan or Glenbrook South next week. Evanston slipped to 23-3 overall in dual meet competition.
A disconsolate Salinas isn’t counting on any help for the Kits next week.
“We let it slip through our fingers against New Trier for the second year in a row,” the coach pointed out. “We are very disappointed. We didn’t put our best foot forward tonight, and this one will stay with me for a long time.
“We started the match (at 120 pounds) where New Trier’s strength is, and maybe it would have been different if we didn’t have to keep coming back. We spent too much time on our backs tonight. We had a six-point swing where one of our captains, Jaalen Banner, got pinned (at 195) or we would have been in control at that point.
“And there were several opportunities where they could have called it a fall in Jack’s match — but the referee’s interpretation was that there wasn’t a fall.”
McCliesch put New Trier’s Andrew Moy on his back in the first 30 seconds of their 113-pound bout, but couldn’t finish the deal. He did rally for an 11-9 victory after falling behind 7-6, but the decision still left the host team one point short.
McCliesch’s win climaxed a late Evanston surge that featured two pins and a forfeit win in the last four matches after Banner suffered a second period fall to the Trevians’ Joe Modica.
For ETHS, Brandon Bias pinned Jimmy McDermend in 2 minutes, 29 seconds at 220; heavyweight Lamont Davenport won via forfeit; and Chris Rivera nailed Mac Lamason in 28 seconds at 106 to set the stage for a dramatic finish.
Evanston’s other winners were David Rivera-Kohr, who extended his unbeaten record to 24-0 by scoring a major decision by a 15-5 margin over Jack Tangen at 126; Mattias Amezquita-Fox, by a fall in 3:00 over Bayne Kiser at 145; and Van Rutter, 7-4 over Russell Sanchez at 170.
ETHS sophomore Izzy Fox was ruled a loser by injury default at the end of the first period of his 160-pound match versus William Kupets. He endured a leg cramp as time ran out and couldn’t continue — at least according to the officials — and that put six crucial points in New Trier’s column.
“He (Kupets) wouldn’t even have had a takedown except for the cramp,” Fox claimed. “After the trainer worked on it I told the referee I could keep wrestling — but he didn’t let me.”