Crystal Lake Central wrestling coach Justen Lehr believes there’s a lot to learn about a wrestler between sophomore and junior year.
“We say it as educators all the time: Make or break is that summer between sophomore and junior year as the kids mature,” Lehr said.
Lehr has watched 160-pound Crystal Lake Central junior Caden Ernd mature as a wrestler this season. Ernd is on “a different level,” Lehr said.
“You can just see when he gets in tough spots, he’s got a different attitude,” Lehr said. “It’s all mat time. We talk about it with our kids all the time, if you want to be good, you’ve got to put in the mat time, and he does.”
Ernd improved to 22-2 on the season after a win against Huntley’s Jason Coleman in a dual Thursday. It was one of only two wins for the Tigers in a tough night at Huntley.
Ernd is ranked fourth in Class 2A at 160 in the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association rankings. His only two losses came against Class 3A opponents at Harlem’s Al Dvorak Invitational. Both were two-point losses, and Ernd took fourth at the Dvorak.
Ernd was a Class 2A state qualifier as a freshman and a sophomore. He said he feels good at 160 and is focusing on the little things.
“Finishing matches, keeping my pace up,” Ernd said. “If I keep my pace up, nobody can handle my pace for a whole six minutes.”
Central has had a wrestling state medalist each of the past 12 seasons, according to records at IHSA.org. Last season, Brock Montford finished as a state runner-up at 182 in 2A.
“It just shows how work in the offseason can really translate into the season,” Ernd said. “Also, Central’s history for wrestling is pretty big. Coach Lehr hasn’t had a state champ in a bit. I’m trying to be the next one.”
Two of the best: In what is likely the biggest regular-season matchup in McHenry County wrestling this season, Huntley and Marian Central will square off at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Huntley.
It’s a big-time matchup a few years in the making. Huntley and Marian have been the area’s best teams over the past 2 1/2 seasons.
Huntley brought home a team trophy in fourth place at the Class 3A state finals in 2018. Last season, Marian made its second consecutive trip to dual team state and earned a third-place trophy in Class 2A. Once again, these two look like the top teams in the area.
For the first time during that span, they will go head-to-head.
There’s likely to be some fun matchups. Depending on what lineup maneuvering goes on, Huntley’s Sam Spencer (126/132) could go up against experienced junior Scott Burke at 126 or unbeaten Daniel Valeria at 132. At 138, Marian’s Bryce Shelton, also unbeaten, could see a state qualifier in either Huntley's Andrew Lira or Jeremy Jakowitsch.
Marian’s Dylan Connell and Huntley’s David Ferrante – both defending state champions committed to Big Ten schools – could square off at 170, although it’s possible one could move up a weight class for a more favorable matchup. The two have not wrestled each other in IHSA competition. Outside of the high school season, Ferrante defeated Connell in a match at the Illinois Freestyle State Championships in May. Both are unbeaten this season.
NORTHWEST HERALD POWER RANKINGS
1. Huntley: The Red Raiders (14-4, 6-0 FVC) are one step closer to another FVC title.
2. Marian Central: The Hurricanes (17-0) will put their unbeaten record to the test against Huntley.
3. Jacobs: Jacobs (6-6, 5-1 FVC) capped its week with a third-place finish at Leyden’s Randy Conrad Invite over the weekend.
4. Harvard: The Hornets (20-3) escaped with a 33-32 win against Marengo last week. Marengo was docked a point for unsportsmanlike conduct.
5. Crystal Lake Central: Central (8-6, 4-2 FVC) was short a couple of starters in last week’s lopsided loss to Huntley.
WHAT TO WATCH
Marian Central at Huntley, 5:30 p.m. Friday: The Hurricanes visit the Red Raiders in a matchup of the area's top two teams in the Northwest Herald rankings.