Wrestlers were doing all they could do during Saturday’s Class 1A Byron Sectional to advance to the IHSA State Meet Feb. 14-16 at the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus.
Three of the 12 area grapplers who qualified to compete in Byron were able to make it to the biggest meet of the season.
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Blood was shed, tears were drawn and hopes and dreams were either made or crushed during Day 2 of the two-day sectional.
Harris, Hill, Tatum advance, Ebner is an alternate
All three of the area state qualifiers were from Princeton as freshman Matt Harris was the 113-pound runner up, senior Dallas Hill was third at 195 and senior Chase Tatum was the 220 runner up.
Hill lost in the semifinals but bounced back to earn a 3-0 decision victory over Dakota’s Martin Snyder in a wrestle back semifinal and pinned Avery Shaw from Amboy in 1:56 during the third-place match.
“I knew when I lost in the semifinals, it wasn’t going to be tough,” Hill said. “I wrestled both of the guys I faced in the wrestle back semifinal and in the third-place match earlier in the season, and beat them by pretty big scores. I wasn’t worried about it at all. I came in confident.
“It’s my first time going to state in high school. I’m excited because I worked really hard all year. I did offseason stuff and a lot of training. It feels good. I wish I could have placed higher but next week I’ll come and get them.”
In the week before state, Hill plans to work on defending opponent’s shots and on taking his own as Hill and PHS coach Steve Amy feel his shots cost him the semifinal.
Harris made a grand debut in his first sectional as he was one win away from becoming a sectional champion.
The Tiger freshman defeated Illinois Matmen’s No. 2-ranked Jacob Milliman from Oregon in the semifinal before being pinned in 1:20 by Dakota’s Connor Elmer in the championship.
“It’s a really great feeling to be able to come out here and wrestle with upperclassmen and show what you can do,” Harris said. “I just kept learning and working on my moves to get them better and better. I wanted to be able to execute them skillfully.
“Usually, you can tell that most of them are a lot stronger. They know how to get in your head better. I just try to stay calm and keep wrestling.”
Tatum, who finished third at last year’s state meet, was one-point away from winning a sectional championship as he fell by a 2-1 decision to Fulton’s Eli Pannell in the final.
The Tigers brought four wrestlers to Byron as 152-pounder Jakob Ebner is a state alternate after losing by a 5-3 decision in a wrestle back semifinal to Stillman Valley’s Mason Engelkens, who went on to finish third.
“I’m super proud of these guys and how they competed,” said Amy, who is bringing the most guys to state in a single year since he became the PHS coach in the 2008-09 season. “They wrestled really well. We talked about going out there and scoring points and they did that in all of their matches. They knew what was on the line and they did a great job.”
MHS’ Hanaman makes 113-pound wrestle backs
Mendota brought two guys to the sectional in 113-pound freshman Ethan Hanaman and 152-pounder Sam Lawrence.
Hanaman, who won the Class 1A Aurora Christian Regional, received a first-round bye, lost in the quarterfinals and won his first wrestle back to make it to the semifinals.
Although the freshman was pinned in 3:08 by Milliman, Hanaman was happy to come one match away from going to state.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming here because high school is a little different than grade school and middle school,” Hanaman said. “I was just really happy to make it to sectionals. I just wanted to do the best I could.
“Getting my first win here helped me a lot because after taking a loss in the first round, the win really made me think, ‘I can do it. I can make it to the third-place match.’”
Lawrence lost his two matches.
Although his two wrestlers didn’t advance to state, Trojans coach Dale Meyers was more than impressed with how they competed at a tough sectional.
“It was fantastic getting them both here, especially with having a first-place guy out of our regional,” Meyers said. “Sam is a first-year sophomore and he fought very well. I’m very proud of both of them.
“It’s a long, drawn out time frame. You have a long time to stop and think about it. Sectionals are more mental. You have to have your ability but it’s also a lot of mental. You have to stay focused the entire time. You have to be ready to fight. You have to be ready to go each time.”
Bruins win two matches
St. Bede had a tough go in Byron and it started before the wrestlers took to the mat.
152-pound sophomore James Sanchez was ruled out by officials at skin checks.
“James Sanchez did not get past skin checks. He had a red mark that could have been from anything,” SBA interim coach Gavin Kurtz said. “In my 20-plus years in this sport, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a ridiculous skin-check call. I don’t want to question officials or the trainer, but I’ve never seen someone with such a little red mark be told he can’t wrestle. He showed up and he was good on weight and he was eligible. It was just the skin check.
“That deflated us from the get go. We were so flat. When Sanchez was told he couldn’t wrestle, it just felt like depression. The whole team was moving slow — warming up slow. You could just feel it.”
Seniors Charles Korey (132) and Hunter Monterastelli (220) each won a match on Friday but were not able to get back into the winning column on Saturday.
Korey finishes his SBA career with 115 wins, which is five shy of John Barnes, who had 120 wins during his career which included a 285-third place finish as a junior and a state championship as a senior in 2016.
Dominic Bima (113), Noah Setser (138), Nick Lough (170) and Peter Sampson (285) didn’t earn a win during the sectional but gained valuable experience for next season.
“I told all of them on Saturday after we were all done and officially eliminated, ‘If you guys truly want this, training starts (Sunday). You have to be committed to this. You have to be in the weight room. You have to be working on your feet and your hands. It’s not just thinking about wrestling or watching videos, it’s everything,’” Kurtz said. “We improved this year and we had three months to see that.
“Unfortunately, we just had one really bad weekend. It looks like that one weekend defines you, but it doesn’t define our season. It’s one of those things that are bitter and it sucks. But the St. Bede team that was there Saturday, that’s not who we are.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.