Wrestling muscles up for Russ Erb tournament today

Ben Baker-Katz, Sports Editor

Despite wrestling’s sixth place finish in the Russ Erb Tournament last year, the team returns stronger and ready for a fight today.

     “It’s another level of competition, it’s a state caliber tournament,” coach Rudy Salinas said. “If you’re having a bad a bad day, chances are you’re going to struggle.”

  The Russ Erb Tournament is hosted by Glenbrook South each Dec., featuring some of the area’s best competition.

    The tournament features top teams in the state like Wheeling, Oswego and Libertyville. Two of them, Wheeling and Oswego, went on to finish in the top 18 teams at the State meets last Feb.

    “Russ Erb is the toughest tournament of the year, for sure,” senior Adrian Bytyqi said.

    Juniors Dylan Kull, Rafael Salinas, Ramen Abraham, along with senior Izzy Fox, all placed at Russ Erb last year. Salinas placed second in the 138 pound weight class, and Fox stood atop the podium in the 182 pound weight class.

  Coach Salinas realizes the level of competition, as well as this tournaments opportunity to reflect on the team’s talent level.

     “It lets you know if you’re on pace to do well, or if you’re lacking in a particular area,” Salinas said.

   Whether that area is on their feet, on the top or bottom, or just their intensity, the wrestlers will use this tournament to gauge their abilities.

The team has come out of the gate strong, going 18-0.   

     They won their first head-to-head match of the season on Dec. 1, rolling over Niles West 51-18.

    They followed up the Niles West victory with a decisive victory at the Elgin Quad Meet the next day. There they defeated Wauconda 47-19, Elgin 73-4 and Gary Comer 64-12.

     “We’ve been able to be the better team early on, but we aren’t at full strength,” coach Salinas said.

   The Kits also won the Vernon Hills Tournament, after finishing second in that tournament last year. Among the teams they defeated were Loyala, Vernon Hills and the defending tournament champion Willowbrook.

    “Our lineups are looking fuller than they’ve ever been before,” the younger Salinas said. “All of our guys are good at getting those extra points that we need on pins and ‘techs’, and things like that. That’s going to help us a lot.”

    As the team looks forward, they are cautiously optimistic about  their chances over the rest of the season.

    “We want to get to that level where we’re conference champions, regional champions,” Bytyqi said.

    The Kits will put their skills to the test in the Russ Erb Tournament, at GBS.