First-time qualifiers bound for Champaign : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|First-time qualifiers bound for Champaign |
|Oswego's Larsen wins Moline Sectional |
|by Kristin Sharp|
The Oswego and Oswego East wrestling programs are establishing nice traditions at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
For the third straight season, the Panthers will be represented in the state tournament, while the Wolves will return for a second straight year as the finals get underway today, Thursday, as part of a three-day event.
Oswego senior Max Larsen emerged as a sectional champion last Saturday in Moline, winning the 160-pound bracket to improve to 31-3 on the season. Sophomore teammate Andrew McFall placed third at 106 to join Larsen downstate, while Oswego East sophomore Zach Prinz battled his way to a runner-up finish at 170 to improve to 33-4 and reach the state mat.
"We went a lot of years without one down there, and it's nice to have another one especially when you see how difficult it is when Minooka only gets two (state qualifiers) and schools like West Aurora didn't get anybody. Makes you appreciate it even more," Oswego East head coach Mike Jezioro said. "It's nice to be back there."
All three wrestlers are first-time state qualifiers after emerging from the Moline Sectional, and the Class 3A preliminary bouts begin Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with wrestling resuming on Friday at 8:30 a.m. The Grand March takes place on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. to cap off the weekend.
"We're not going down there for fun. It's a business trip when you go down there," Oswego head coach Andrew Cook said. "We're not going down there to wrestle a match and hang out for the rest of the trip. We're going down expecting to bring some medals home."
Last Saturday in Moline, Larsen opened his bracket with a 1-0 decision over Collinsville's Dylan Johnson, and clinched a 6-5 decision over Belleville East's Matt Striegel in the semifinals to secure his place in the state finals.
"He wrestled good enough in the first two matches to get into the finals," Cook said. "He did what he needed to. The goal is to advance; whatever it takes, you get your hand raised at the end of the match. He powered through some things and fought, kicking and screaming."
He reached the sectional finals and won a 3-2 decision over Lincoln-Way Central's Matt Schneider (40-7) for the championship and his third straight one-point win.
"You're talking about matches that make your heart beat. He was in control of his matches," Cook said. "He opened up in the finals and wrestled a real tough kid from Lincoln-Way Central. That kid was tough. He had a nice takedown on the kid and did what he needed to do to be a sectional champ, which is never an easy feat."
Larsen will open the state prelims against St. Charles East's Brad Kearbey (32-11).
McFall opened his bracket with a 3-1 decision over Minooka's returning state qualifier, KJ Minor, before winning a 4-2 decision over Edwardsville's Tanner Ambry.
"That first match against Minooka, that kid was a state qualifier last year and he had to start out the tournament right away with a tough draw and he did an excellent job answering that challenge," Cook said. "That was a tight match and got a takedown to win 3-1."
In the semifinals, McFall lost a 9-2 decision to Homewood-Flossmoor's Mike Burke, who went on to finish second to Plainfield South's Miguel Silve (38-0). McFall battled back in the wrestleback semifinals, winning a 2-0 decision over Plainfield East's Zach Krause to secure his place downstate. In the third-place match, he won a 2-0 decision over Joliet West's Darvell Flag to improve to 33-7 on the season.
"He ran into a tough kid from Homewood-Flossmoor. We knew we had to wrestle real well to get there," Cook said. "When you lose that semifinal match, it's always tough to come back. You're so close there, it's hard to respond and Andrew did an excellent job."
McFall will make his state debut in the preliminaries against Glenbard East's Carlos Fuentez (16-3).
For Prinz, his sectional bracket opened against Crete-Monee's Kyle Tilley and Prinz won by pin at the 5:54 mark. In the semifinals, he clinched a 2-1 decision over Quincy's Dakota Downs (39-2), who went on to place third.
"Going in, we knew it was a tough bracket, but Zach is a tough wrestler," Jezioro said. "At this time of year, you get to this level and they're all tough matches. He had some close ones and even the kid he pinned from Crete-Monee was a close match until he pinned him at the end. We knew it was going to be close, but somehow we had to find two wins before we lost two and that's what Zach did."
In the finals, Prinz met Lincoln-Way Central's Bryce Gorman (34-4), and Prinz lost a 10-3 decision to finish second.
"The No. 1 thing he learned is you can't take any time off. You can't take breaks during the matches," Jezioro said. "At this point in the year, you're one of the top 16 guys in the state and they're all good. You can't take one match lighter than the next. That's one thing he learned from his finals match. Just because you're in the finals, they're not going easy."
Prinz will open the 170-pound state prelims against St. Rita's Jack Sears (25-9) on Thursday.
Oswego East was represented by three other wrestlers at the sectional. Senior Andrew Chastain ended his season with a 32-9 record at 152, going 1-2 at sectionals. He rebounded from an early loss to Providence's Michael Stepuszek with a win by fall in the wrestlebacks, but lost by decision to Alton to end his day.
Senior Justin Garza finished his season with 18 wins at 126 and senior Tim Iannantone ended with 17 wins at 160.
"All the seniors are upset when they lose, but the one thing we tell them is to be upset with the loss, but don't be upset with what you've done for the program. Chastain finishes at Oswego East with 99 career wins. He's done some great things for this program over his four years," Jezioro said.
"Justin and Tim have hopefully learned enough from us that they can go on and be nice young men as they head to the next point in their life. They're upset and disappointed, but most of that will go away and you'll be left with good memories moving forward."
Oswego was represented by four other wrestlers, including seniors Bo Pradel and Max Hively, who are co-captains with Larsen.
Bo Pradel finished with 18 wins at 152, going 1-2 in sectionals, while Hively on 23 matches at 195 after going 1-2 at sectionals.
"Bo and Max, being senior captains, they did a nice job getting to a sectional meet," Cook said. "Bo has had a hard four years with different things and I was excited to see him wrestle in a sectional his senior year. He kept positive and he kept working. You could tell he wanted to be there. He had a lot of drive and determination. Hively had a tough kid from Lockport right off the bat and he wrestled tough. He won his first wrestleback with a nice pin to meet the kid from Granite City. That was probably one of the best matches he's wrestled all year. He was moving and working, just couldn't score enough points. It was a tough way to end the season. I hope those two don't have regrets; they worked their butts off."
Sophomore Jack Pradel finished 1-2 at 120 to post 26 wins on the season, while junior Nick Aguirre went 2-2 at 138 to finish with 26 wins this year. Aguirre won his opening bout by major decision before falling to Belleville West's Mech Spraggins (45-1) in the quarterfinals. He rebounded with a win by decision over Andrew in the wrestlebacks, but lost a 4-2 decision to Lockport's Dominick Naso, who went on to qualify for state with a fourth-place finish.
"Jack got into match with a real tough kid from O'Fallon and there was a lot of scrambling going on. He lost his wrestle back match to a kid from Quincy in a real tight match," Cook said. "It was close, but he got down early and couldn't come back. Nick won his first one, lost his second one to the Spraggins kid and he's legit. He was positive after that loss and came back. He won his wrestle back and had a tough kid from Lockport. He's in the game; he's right there. He's definitely in the hunt to be wrestling down there next year."