BLOOMINGTON — With seven bouts remaining, Coach Dave Baeten knew his Normal Community High School wrestling team had to have a substantial lead over Bloomington Tuesday night.
As it turned out, a 25-6 advantage wasn't enough as BHS rallied for a 41-28 triumph to clinch its 13th consecutive Intercity Tournament title.
"We were a little overmatched at 189, 215 and heavyweight," conceded Baeten, who was nevertheless pleased his team could make the Purple Raiders sweat.
"I can't tell you how happy I am with these kids. We gave Bloomington a good match, the best they've had in a while from us."
BHS also downed Normal West, 46-22, and University High, 72-6, to improve to 9-2 and give Coach Mark Gardner his 250th career victory in 14 seasons.
"As always, Dave had his kids ready to wrestle," Gardner said. "He made a couple key moves early in the match, won a couple flips to put our kids out first and really made every move that I would have made.
"I was hoping he wasn't going to make those moves, but he's been around a long time. He puts a very good team on the mat every time we wrestle them."
Baeten picked up the 150th win in his 11-year career with a first-round triumph over U High, 61-15. The Ironmen (7-3) followed with a 50-22 victory over Normal West (6-2).
The Wildcats took third with a 51-21 win over U High (2-13).
Sophomore Jacob Lehr (7-1 at 145) ignited Bloomington's rally with a pin and No. 2-state ranked senior Justin Hale (14-0 at 152) followed with a technical fall to pull BHS within 25-17.
A pin by BHS senior Nick Alvis (9-0 at 160) cut the gap to 25-23 before NCHS got one last win by decision from sophomore Austin Kull (6-0 at 189) to make it 28-23.
Kull went 3-0 in the tournament without the benefit of any forfeits as did teammates Kyle Garretson (9-3 at 140), Casey Vercruysse (9-2 at 135), Corey Esparza (12-3 at 119), freshman Tony Troemel (125) and Tyler Winland (10-2 at 103).
BHS junior Matt Musick pinned Brian Meiners in 5:22 at 189 pounds to put the Raiders ahead to stay at 29-28.
BHS also got pins from senior Brian Temple (13-1 at 215) and sophomore Marcus Carter (1-0 at 275).
"They probably outwrestled us to the point where maybe they deserved to not finish second here tonight," Gardner said, "but we've got about six strong seniors who came through.
"We don't have many older kids, but the ones we have are very good and they showed a lot of leadership and won big matches and scored big team points when they had to."
Alvis posted three pins for BHS, which had four freshmen in its lineup against NCHS.
Hale, who also went 3-0 Tuesday, dominated U High sophomore star Joe Waropay, 17-8, only allowing escape points.
"I would have liked to have done a little better," said Hale summarizing his day.
Waropay went home 12-2.
"What (Hale) did so well is he took Joe out of his position," said U High coach Mike Troll. "When Hale brought his chest up, he was able to get in on his doubles. He did an awesome job. He was very technical.
"Joe got in on a single leg, but was slow to change off. Against a good wrestler, you've got to immediately change off. He just didn't do that."
Normal West coach Jim Eaton wanted more from his Wildcats.
"I would have liked to have been a little bit more competitive against Bloomington and Normal," he said. "I thought we were better than what we showed tonight. Hopefully the kids use tonight as an opportunity to learn and get better so we can be successful toward the end of the season when it really matters."
Wildcat star Danny Hafley (11-0 at 275) only got to wrestle once, posting a pin to go with two forfeit wins.