Wrestling: Libertyville’s Gunther uses special takedown move to rise to the top
Libertyville’s Joey Gunther wins a match at the recent national tournament. He took runner-up honors. | SPECIAL TO SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: October 8, 2012 1:55AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Joey Gunther was primarily a JV wrestler as a Libertyville High School freshman last winter.
Last month, at a meet in Fargo, N.D., Gunther fell one win short of becoming a national champion.
Strides don’t get much bigger than that — in any sport.
Gunther, an unranked competitor in the 138-pound Greco-Roman Cadet division, finished runner-up to Joseph Nelson of Wisconsin at the Asics/Vaughn Greco-Roman and Freestyle summer national championships on July 17. Gunther won eight straight matches to land a berth in the final, including a 2-0, 1-1, 2-0 victory over defending champion Jon Chavez of California.
The Wildcat also beat Dayton Racer of Minnesota 2-0, 2-0 in a quarterfinal. Racer captured a state championship at the end of his high school season last winter.
“What Joey did was a culmination of a fantastic offseason of training,” said Libertyville varsity coach Dale Eggert, who watched Gunther compete in Fargo online. “Taking second like he did exceeded my expectations, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had returned with a top-eight finish.”
The top eight finishers in each division earned All-America honors.
Gunther went 13-2 at the JV level and took second at 145 pounds at the JV NSC meet in the 2011-12 season. He also went 8-0 for the freshman team and won four of five varsity bouts.
“Joey’s consistency and composure impressed me (at Asics/Vaughn nationals),” added Eggert. “He never got rattled, and he had a plan for every match. What he also did was demonstrate an ability to win close matches. Once he got a lead, he didn’t give it up.”
Gunther took several opponents down by using a gut-wrench move. Few saw the suplex maneuver coming, and fewer knew what to do to counter it.
“It’s my go-to move (in Greco-Roman),” said Gunther, whose go-to takedown move in freestyle is a sweep single. “It’s pretty much what I use every single match. I learned the move when I was in the sixth grade.”
It wasn’t just the move that demoralized Gunther’s foes, Egger noted. It also was how Gunther executed it.
“He’s highly proficient when he uses it, very precise,” the coach said. “Guys in his age group don’t expect that kind of proficiency. It certainly helped him because it’s hard to score in Greco-Roman, and it’s hard to score on Joey.”
Gunther also battled in the freestyle segment at nationals in North Dakota last month, splitting four bouts against heavier (145 pound) foes.
A week before heading to Fargo, Gunther trained with the rest of Team Illinois at the University of Illinois. The school’s Assembly Hall happens to the site of the IHSA state championships each winter, a venue Gunther wouldn’t mind competing in at the end of his next three prep seasons.
His confidence as a wrestler is at an all-time high after capturing silver in Fargo. But he’s looking forward to a little downtime in August.
“I’ll hang with friends, swim with friends,” Gunther said. “I won’t wrestler seriously again until September, but I will lift and run before then.”
More cheers: Libertyville wrestlers Chris McDermand and Tim Grote also earned All-America honors last month at the Asics/Vaughn summer nationals. McDermand (Greco-Roman Cadet division, 285 pounds) won five of seven matches and took fifth, while Grote finished sixth at 182 (G-R Cadet).
Libertyville’s Nick Andrews placed 16th in a field of 56 at 145 (G-R Cadet), and Libertyville’s Sal Ayala went 1-2 at 160 (junior freestyle).