A regular-season conference title hasn't been enough for the DeKalb wrestling team all season.
Since losing the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament last year, the Barbs have had one goal – reclaim the tourney title, which they won in 2016.
They get the chance on Saturday, as the current NIB 12 East regular-season champs head to Geneseo to try to win the conference tournament title, which would be their first under second-year head coach Sam Hiatt.
Kaneland and Sycamore will be at the tournament as well, using it as a tuneup for the postseason, which start with regionals on February 3rd for all classes.
The Barbs have an immediate goal – one they've had since falling to Yorkville in the conference tourney a year ago.
"I think it's been a big goal to win them both," Hiatt said. "It's a big test and way to get ready for regionals, too. The guys are wrestling well and working hard."
Hiatt said the Barbs came out of Wednesday's seeding meeting with 12 wrestlers seeded in the top four – they are not sending a wrestler at 113, and only heavyweight is unseeded.
Fabian Lopez (126), Christian Komitas (152), Cobe Schmerbach (170) and Blah Dahnweih (195) earned No. 1 seeds for the Barbs.
Hiatt said Lopez will have a big challenge in the tournament, facing Ottawa's Ethan Harsted – who is undefeated this year and ranked second in the state in Class 2A by Illinois Matmen. Lopez is second in 3A.
While many of the teams in the tournament enter on a week or more off, Sycamore and Morris wrestled each other Thursday, a make-up of a weather cancellation.
Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said that's probably a good thing for the Spartans.
"It's not bad to get on the mat and get back at it again Saturday," Nelson said. "But other than that I think the kids are working hard in the room and trying to shore up the little things before this little run here in February with regionals, sectionals and hopefully state."
Nelson said he was expecting big days from Justin Montani (113), Trevor Boryla (106), Matthew Hunter (220) and Joey Beaudoin (heavyweight). Beaudoin is ranked sixth in the state, while Geneseo heavyweight Billy Blaser is No. 1 with just one loss on the year. Yorkville's Keenan Ness in an honorable mention selection in 3A, and lost in overtime to Beaudoin earlier.
Nelson said with Sterling, Ottawa, Kaneland, Rochelle and Geneseo all in the sectional – hosted by the Spartans Feb. 10 – it's a good time to get familiar with the competition.
Kaneland will be bringing no more than three wrestlers – Nathan Orosco at 120, Calvin McDonald at 220, and Noah Dutzman at 170, if he's cleared from concussion-like symptoms suffered earlier this week.
"Nathan's looking pretty good as far as making it to the finals," coach Joe Orosco said. "He's been working real hard. Calvin has had a couple tight losses to a couple of kids, from Sycamore and Yorkville. He has to get over those to make it the finals or take first. He just has to continue to wrestle his offensive game. We need him to open up and start using his other tools. He has a habit of using his muscles."