PALOS HEIGHTS| Six matches into the finals at Saturday's Class 3A Shepard wrestling regional, Homewood-Flossmoor's Connor Bandy was already tired of seeing Marist wrestlers get their hands raised.
The RedHawks won the first five title matches until Bandy's 3-1 decision over Marist's Alex Lynch put an end to the streak.
Bandy was the headliner of a group of six Vikings wrestlers that qualified for the sectional, the most among area schools at the regional, but it was Marist that ran away with the team title, tallying 282.5 points, ahead of the 145 posted by second-place Shepard.
"It was starting to bother me a little bit," the H-F freshman said of watching Marist win every match before his. "Especially because I knew I was going up against them in my own match, I wanted to end the streak."
Bandy was one of two H-F underclassmen to earn the regional champion title. Sophomore Donnie Bell topped Stagg's Steve Monaco 3-1 in the title bout at 215 pounds.
The Vikings' John Beale (second place, 160 pounds), Mike Burke (third place, 103 pounds) and Cody Cooper (third place, 189 pounds) will join Bandy and Bell at Saturday's Granite City Sectional.
Homewood-Flossmoor finished third with a team score of 137, while Thornwood took fourth win a 104.
The Thunderbirds had no wrestlers on the championship mat, but instead excelled on the adjacent mat, winning four of seven third-place contests to send four wrestlers to regional.
Felipe Ambrosio (125 pounds), Michael Anderson (135), Michael Willis (140) and Brandon Loyd (145) each triumphed in their win-or-go-home matches, while Aaron Richmond (fourth place, 152 pounds) came within one point of joining them.
"I think the break we had from the snow kind of affected us this week," Loyd said. "We tried to push through it though. Me and a couple teammates actually went out running in the snow to stay in shape."
T.F. South finished in fifth place, scoring 97 points and qualifying three wrestlers for sectionals.
At 112 pounds, Rebel sophomore Blake Tisza lost a hard-fought championship match to Marist's Mark Duda, one of the top-ranked 112-pounders in the state.
Senior Dion Crowder took his second straight regional crown with a 5-2 win over H-F's Beale at 160 pounds.
After the match Crowder said that he and Beale are very familiar opponents.
"Oh man, I've wrestled him a lot," Crowder said. "During the offseason we actually went to practice with them, so I got to see him a lot."
With Crowder's record now a gaudy 32-4, it's no secret that the Rebels' star has his eyes on making noise at the state tournament. But Crowder said that when it comes to the postseason, it's important to take things one step at a time.
"I'm just trying to take it slow and do what I have to do to get there," Crowder said. "I can't get caught rushing or thinking ahead."