Very few wrestling fans exited their seats early during Saturday’s 36th annual Leyden Invitational.
“One guy who left even came back to see it,” said Vernon Hills High School coach Jerry Miceli.
Miceli was referring to the much-anticipated showdown at the 285-pound weight class between Cougars senior Jeremy Brazil (H.M. @ HWT) and De La Salle’s James Buss. The two undefeated wrestlers were on a collision course all day, and sure enough they met in the championship match.
Buss prevailed 7-2, but it was still quite a performance for Brazil and Vernon Hills. In fact, the Cougars finished fourth with 139.50 points, edging fifth-place Stevenson (138) in the 14-team invite. Conant (182.5) enjoyed an almost 10-point cushion over its closest competitor, second-place Leyden (173.50).
Buss ran his record to 22-0 while Brazil took his first loss and fell to 24-1.
“Both kids were looking forward to that final match,” Miceli said. “It was two warriors going at it.”
The entire six minutes was not typical of what you normally see when two heavyweights square off.
“It was all action; there was no stalling going on,” Miceli said.
Added Brazil: “It was a good match. I made a couple of mistakes and he capitalized on them, as he should. He wrestled really well and showed me what I need to work on for the state tournament.”
Collective success: It was the best finish for the Cougars ever in the prestigious invitational. Vernon Hills took particular pride in finishing ahead of Stevenson. The Patriots defeated the Cougars on Dec. 9.
“Our goal going in was to beat Stevenson,” Brazil said.
Depth helped the Cougars finish fourth.
“We had two kids in the finals last year ,and this year we had three,” Miceli said. “Some of our younger kids stepped up.”
In addition to Brazil, David Pierce (145) and Dan Klema (152) reached the finals.