SENECA — When veteran Seneca High School wrestling coach Todd Yegge started the season with 17 of his 23 rostered competitors listed as either sophomores or freshmen, he was still very encouraged because he knew the wealth of talent the two classes possessed.
Yegge couldn't have been more correct.
The young Fighting Irish contingent secured seven individual medals within the four awarded in each weight class, including one senior medallion along with three each from the Seneca sophomore and freshmen mat men here at the 28th annual Seneca Fighting Irish Invitational on Saturday.
The strong showing staked the Fighting Irish to a second-place finish with 170 points well behind the championship team effort of Clifton Central which ran away with the long-held event after posting a remarkable 295.5 tallies.
Marquette finished tied for 10th with Mendota registering 61 points and collecting two medals while Streator — which only brought a pair of wrestlers to the meet — placed 13th in the field of 15 teams after earning two medals as well.
But it was Seneca's day to shine with its youthful and extremely talented group of grapplers.
"It was a tremendous day for us obviously getting second place in a very competitive event where we haven't finished this well in awhile," Yegge said. "I've got five freshmen in the lineup this year and three of the five were medallists. Add to that three sophomores medalling and 11 of our 12 guys finished in the top six. You can’t beat that and it was an amazing team effort by this young squad. I'm so proud of them and this team has a chance to be very good and very special for awhile."
Seneca started off the final round on a good note when freshman Luke Sangston gutted out a tough 5-4 decision over Dominic Bima of St. Bede in order to capture third-place at 106 pounds.
Irish sophomore Ben Virgo then quickly followed earning Seneca's lone championship of the day at 113 pounds when he went head-to-head against Streator's Luis Lopez, who earlier in the day tied the meet record for quickest pin with an amazing seven second fall against Ryan Welgat of Kewanee. Even though Virgo fell behind 2-0 early to Lopez, he secured his second-straight championship at his home invite by scoring 10 unanswered points to earn a 10-2 major decision title triumph.
"It was nice to win again here for the second year in a row even though I'm just a sophomore," Virgo said. "He (Lopez) was tough on his feet early, but once I got on top I felt like I was in control of the match."
Sophomore Brett Yegge followed for the Irish garnering fourth place at 120 while freshman Zane Comrie did the same at 132.
Sophomore Michael Morse then lost a hard-fought 12-5 championship decision to Adrian Pace of Clifton Central at 160 before SHS senior Mason Dooley pinned Michael Silvaggio of Kewanee to capture third at 170. Freshman Gavin Robertson then ended the eye-popping Irish day with a third-place medal at 182 after he out-lasted Dorian Barlow of Amboy during a gut wrenching 11-10 decision.
For Streator after the Lopez second-place finish, senior Mike Dunkleberger earned a quick championship at 145 pounds after he pinned Jordan Emmons of Dwight at 49 seconds of the first period. It was his first win at Seneca.
"It was a really good tournament for me today and I've had a great season so far going 7-0 after this meet," Dunkleberger said. "It’s nice to get a win here in my senior year and hopefully I get to my goal of getting to state."
Marquette's best came from junior Hunter McAlpine who pinned John Karesh of Westmont at 49 second of the first period to grab the third-place medal at 220 pounds.
"I wanted to go out there and do the best for my team," McAlpine said. "I've just got to keep going and get my weight down moving ahead. I've got three medals here at Seneca and I'm proud that I was able to get my third one in three years."
The Crusaders also received a fourth place medal awarded to Logan Petre at 126 pounds.