Coal City relies on depth to win Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament

By Curt Herron – For the IWCOA

One week after falling 32-31 to Marian Central Catholic in the championship dual meet at ABE’s Rumble, Coal City was determined not to leave anything to chance when it again met many of the state’s top Class 1A teams in the 60th-annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament.

Coach Mark Masters’ Coalers put themselves in a good position following the opening day of competition and faced little drama on day two as they had 12 individuals who placed seventh or better, including four who advanced to the tile mat, to help them collect 229.5 points, which was 70 more than runner-up Roxana (159.5) finished with.

Vandalia (150.5) claimed third place, Olympia (142) finished fourth, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/ Fisher (138) took fifth place and the host Tigers (137) placed sixth. Newman Central Catholic (131.5), Riverdale (131), Dakota (107.5) and PORTA (99.5) rounded out the top 10. 

Dixon (98), Clifton Central (96), LeRoy/Tri-Valley (89), Clinton (87), Orion (81), Rockridge (80), Monticello (78), Reed-Custer (78), Byron (76) and Warrensburg-Latham (75) filled out the top 20 in the 33-team competition.

The Coalers, the defending IHSA Class 1A champions as well as last year’s PIT title winners, graduated 10 individuals from last year’s 43-2 squad that edged Yorkville Christian to claim the program’s first state title. That may have posed a problem for some programs, but thanks to a quality group that returns as well as several promising newcomers, Coal City enters the new year ranked second in Class 1A behind Marian Central Catholic by Illinois Matmen.

Masters, a 2022 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee, entered his 21st season with 432 dual meet wins has led six teams to finishes of third or better at the Dual Team Finals since 2015, is always quick to thank the many people throughout the Coal City community who are helping to assure that the program consistently ranks among the best in the state. 

As a sign of the depth that the team has, the Coalers had no champions yet still captured the top honors by 70 points. Leading the way were second-place finishers Cooper Morris (113), Brody Widlowski (126), Brant Widlowski (150) and Landin Benson (165).

Finishing in fourth place for Coal City were Owen Petersen (106), Luke Munsterman (120) and John Keigher (157) while Noah Houston (132), Mason Garner (138) and Brock Finch (144) placed fifth, Culan Lindemuth (120) took sixth and Cade Poyner (190) was seventh.  And although they didn’t place, Aidan Kenney (132), Evan Greggain (138), Trace Wilson (144), James Keigher (175), Emmett Easton (215) and Payton Vigna (215) contributed to the cause.

“We have a lot of depth,” Masters said. “We didn’t have the best final round but we had several placers. Bonus points are at a premium and I don’t know how many pins we had, and when we had the opportunity to put people away, we did and it started at 106 and then all the way on up. We have three freshmen and seven sophomores in the lineup, that’s a lot of youth. They’re maturing and we are getting better. There’s always some growing pains, but just like any other program, you go through that. Our guys are just ready and they’re doing a great job of just getting better. And it’s the commitment in the practice room, and it’s tough.

“A lot of the credit goes to our kids club since those guys came in ready and we’re fine-tuning things. Those guys wrestling in the IESA and the wrestling club on Sunday, shows that we have a lot of super committed parents, and that’s what it takes. We have a great fan base and great parent support and that’s the main reason why our kids are where they’re at. They get support at home, at school and a lot of support from the community.”

Coach Rob Milazzo’s Roxana Shells continued to show that must be taken seriously after following up on a third-place finish at ABE’s Rumble with a second-place effort at the PIT.

The highlight for the Shells came when Lyndon Thies (157) and James Herring (285) won consecutive titles with falls. Other top performers for Roxana were third-place finishers Brandon Green, Jr. (132) and Robert Watt (190) while Logan Riggs (126) finished fourth.

“We were without a couple of kids so we really didn’t think that we’d be able to compete but we came in second place,” Milazzo said. “So to get second with what we had was excellent. I’m very proud of our two champs and all of our kids really wrestled well. They’re all coming together and it’s a lot of fun and I think they’re starting to believe now. It is special. It doesn’t come along very often and we’re very fortunate  and we don’t take that for granted.”

Coach Jason Clay’s Vandalia Vandals turned in another strong tournament showing with their third-place finish. Top performers for the Vandals were champion Dillon Hinton (138) and third-place finisher Max Philpot (106).

And coach Josh Collins’ Olympia Spartans continue to impress as they claimed fourth place. They were led by runners-up Dylan Eimer (120) and Nolen Yeary (215) as well as third-place finisher Bentley Wise (150).

Top performers for coach Cody Moody’s fifth-place Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher Falcons included runner-up Aiden Sancken (190) and fourth-place finishers Shawn Schlickman (132), Carson Maxey (150) and Cohen Kean (215). 

And there was happiness from the huge crowd at Prouty Gym since IWCOA Hall of Famer Steve Amy and his Tigers finished sixth in their historic tournament. Top PIT performers for Princeton included second-place finishers Augustus Swanson (106) and Cade Odell (285) and fourth-place medalists Ace Christiansen (138) and Casey Etheridge (165). And although he lost in his title match, Odell did a fine job singing the national anthem before the start of the finals.

Amy is proud to host one of the state’s oldest and most respected tournaments, and it has certainly been the top competition for Class 1A competitors in recent years. The Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament, commonly just referred to as PIT, is named in honor of Lyle King, who started the wrestling program and the PIT as well as served as the Tigers football coach.

“We’re definitely with how we competed overall,” Amy said. “We were a little disappointed going 0-5 in the medal round but we wrestled well in those matches. And the big thing is that we’re learning from it so the team will develop and get better. This (PIT) wouldn’t be without all of the help and they do such a great job, and you can’t say enough. It’s my wrestling family from here that has developed and that’s great.”

Repeating as PIT champions were Auburn’s Joey Ruzic (126) and Riverdale’s Dean Wainwright (120), Ruzic, a two-time defending IHSA champion, has now won the PIT three times while Wainwright won a state title as a freshman last season. Not surprising, Ruzic received the Outstanding Wrestler Award for the lower weights.

Dakota’s Noah Wenzel (215), another two-two defending IHSA champ, also is a two-time PIT winner, taking first in 2022 and second last year. Vandalia’s Dillon Hinton (138) was a runner-up at the PIT last year, but a champion this time.

Beside Wenzel, two other PIT champions from 2022 were able to back to the top of the awards stand, Illini Bluffs Hunter Robbins (113) and Newman Central Catholic’s Brady Grennan (132).

Other PIT champions were LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Brady Mouser (106), Newman Central Catholic’s Carter Rude (144), Riverdale’s Blake Smith (150), Tremont’s Bowden Delaney (165), Manteno’s Carter Watkins (175) and Orion’s Maddux Anderson (190).

Blake Smith followed in his brother Brock’s shoes as a PIT champion. Brock, who’s on the team at Central Michigan University, won the event in 2023 and 2022 and will be happy to know that his brother received the Outstanding Wrestler Award for the upper weights for his performance.

Three individuals who took second at the PIT in previous years, just fell short of  taking first this weekend. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Aiden Sancken (190) and Rockridge’s Jude Finch (132), who both were second a year ago, and Mercer County’s Ethan Monson (138), who was a runner-up in 2022.

Others who claimed second-place PIT finishes were Illini Bluffs’ Jackson Carroll (144), Newman Central Catholic’s Daniel Kelly (157) and Reed-Custer’s Rex Pfeifer (175).

Ruzic and Wenzel both scored 33 team points to lead in that category. There was a four-way tie for third with 32 points that included Delaney, Greenan, Rude and Wainwright. Herring was next with 31.5 points and Thies scored 31 points. Anderson, Hinton, Mouser, Robbins and Smith all tied with 30 team points.

PORTA’s Justin Zimmerman and Princeton’s Ace Christiansen tied for the most match points with 54 while Newman Central Catholic’s Briar Ivey had 53. Eight individuals recorded four falls but Morrison’s Levi Milder did it the quickest, in 5:11 while Olympia’s Carter Knobloch pulled off that feat in 5:21. And Coal City’s Luke Munsterman had the largest seed to place differential, getting seeded 26th and finishing fourth.

Champion Coal City recorded the most falls with 26 while Vandalia was second with 22 and Olympia and PORTA tied for third with 18. The Vandals edged the Coalers 303-301 for most total match points while Olympia was third with 257 points.

Here’s a look at the champions and their weight classes at the 60th annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament (the weight classes are in order that they were contested):

126 – Joey Ruzic, Auburn

As he gets ready to start his quest to become a three-state IHSA champion and four-time state medal winner, Joey Ruzic is definitely pleased about how well he’s been performing after capturing his third-straight Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament title when he claimed top honors at 126, which was the first championship match. The Auburn senior improved to 27-0 after recording a fall in 2:43 over Coal City’s Brody Widlowski in the finals. Ruzic, who received the Outstanding Wrestler Award for the lower weights, opened with two first-period falls before claiming a 19-7 major decision over Warrensburg-Latham’s Kaden Roberts in the semifinals.

“Things have been going good and I’m undefeated,” Ruzic said. “That was a pretty tough kid, a sophomore who placed at state last year, so it was a pretty decent win to pick up. This is pretty much the last challenge until regionals, sectional and state. Until then, you just keep practicing hard and staying sharp. I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid, so it’s nothing new. I’m looking forward to it and I want to go out there and get the third and then get ready for college.”

Widlowski (11-2), who took fourth at state last season for the Class 1A champion Coalers, earned his spot on the 126 title mat by getting a pin in 2:57 over Roxana’s Logan Riggs (24-5). Warrensburg-Latham’s Roberts (24-3) won a 3-1 decision over Roxana’s Riggs (24-5) to claim third place. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Hudson Babb (22-7) took fifth with a fall in 1:24 over Princeton’s Kaydin Gibson (16-7). And for seventh place, Rockridge’s Thomas Soward (21-4) got a pin in 0:54 over Morrison’s Kamden White (14-9). 

190 – Maddux Anderson, Orion

Maddux Anderson was very happy to win 40 matches and get through the rugged Oregon Sectional to qualify for the IHSA Finals in 2023. Now the Orion junior would like to join the long list of individuals from his school who have been IHSA medalists. Anderson improved to 25-1 when he got a reversal midway through the final period to win a 2-1 decision over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Aiden Sancken in the 190 title match. After claiming a 5-3 decision over Vandalia’s Kaden Tidwell in the quarterfinals, he won by fall in 3:11 over Roxana’s Robert Watt.

“I’m really excited,” Anderson said. “I came in here thinking that I was going to do pretty well. Last year was a pretty good year for me, too, as a sophomore qualifying for state. I got fourth at sectionals in Oregon and that was exciting as a sophomore wrestling a class above. That made me work harder realizing that I can go farther so it made me push myself more in the room. I came in here knowing that there were going to be some really tough kids and the bracket was stacked. Last year I wrestled Sancken in the quarterfinals, and that’s who I wrestled in the finals today, so I was really excited to beat him. I probably have one of the best coaching staffs in the state of Illinois. They push me hard at practice, they know what they’re talking about and most of them have been to state. I think that I’m wrestling  a lot smarter than I did last year. I know my positions more and tend to get out of bad positions a lot faster.”

Sancken (19-2), a senior who placed fifth last year at the IHSA Finals, reached the 190 title mat with a fall in 1:39 over Wilmington’s Logan VanDuyne. Roxana’s Watt (27-5) recorded a fall in 0:49 over Wilmington’s VanDuyne (23-4) to finish third. In the fifth place match, Pittsfield’s Tucker Cook (22-7) won an 11-3 major decision over Vandalia’s Tidwell (18-6) . And Coal City’s Cade Poyner (28-6) claimed seventh with a pin in 0:21 over Riverdale’s Iyezaha Hill (14-13). 

175 – Carter Watkins, Manteno

Carter Watkins fell one win shy of a medal at last year’s Class 1A Finals. While the Manteno senior would obviously like to take the next step and become just the sixth individual from his school to win a state medal, Watkins is more focused on how well he’s performing and if he’s putting on a good show for his family. His efforts in winning the 175 title at the PIT met that standard as he improved to 16-1 by capturing a 6-2 decision over Reed-Custer’s Rex Pfeifer in the finals after claiming a 4-2 decision over Mercer County’s Bodie Salmon in the semifinals.

“It’s not really about winning for me in this sport, it’s just about getting on the mat and having fun,” Watkins said. “I’ve been wrestling for so long that eventually you just get used to the losses, so you learn to not care about the wins as much as you care about your performance. My grandpa came here, and as long as I wrestle good enough to give him a show and entertain him a little bit, I’m good. It’s really a legacy for me. My family is built on wrestling. My grandpa, all of my uncles placed at state, when they were at a school in Michigan, Durand. I’ve been working hard. It’s not the going to practice that makes you better, it’s what you do outside of practice. I do boxing outside of practice, and I do jump rope and I ran cross country before this.”

Pfeifer (23-3) also is a senior who came up one victory shy of an IHSA medal last season. He advanced to the 175 title match with a fall in 5:43 over Clinton’s Kristian Hibbard. Riverdale’s Zac Bradley (32-3) won by fall in 1:55 over Monticello’s Hunter Romano (26-12) to take third place. Clinton’s Hibbard (21-3) captured fifth place by recording a fall in 1:22 over Mercer County’s Salmon (27-8) And for seventh place, Dixon’s Steven Kitzman (19-6) won by medical forfeit over Newman Central Catholic’s Caleb Donna (20-10).

150 – Blake Smith, Riverdale

After competing last season with senior teammates like his brother Brock and Collin Altensey, both IHSA champions and three-time medalists, as well as two-time medalist Alex Watson and also Eli Hinde as Riverdale enjoyed a special season for retiring coach Myron Keppy, Blake Smith believes that some of what made them successful rubbed off on him. It was a winning formula at the PIT since Smith, a junior who is 29-1, not only won the 150 title with a 3-0 decision over Coal City’s Brant Widlowski, he also received the OWA for the upper weights. He got to the finals with a 9-1 victory over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Carson Maxey.

“All of those guys, Brock, Collin, Alex and Eli helped me,” Smith said. “I kind of took a little piece from all of their wrestling styles and put it into mine, and obviously, it’s working. Coach Keppy helped me out a lot over the first two years that I was there, it was so sad that he passed, he was a great guy, he helped all of us out. I missed out on going to state last year. It’s just working hard throughout the whole year. I wrestle year-around, I wrestle with Young Guns and going to Fargo and all of that stuff. You learn so much the more that you wrestle.”

In the semifinals, Widlowski (30-2), a senior who was a state qualifier in 2023, won 8-6 by sudden victory over Olympia’s Bentley Wise, (35-6), who bounced back from that loss with a 5-3 win by sudden victory over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Maxey for third place. Morrison’s Karder White (25-3) took fifth with a 6-3 decision over PORTA’s Justin Zimmerman (22-11). And for seventh place, Dixon’s Cade Hey (23-6) won 9-2 over Wilmington’s Matt Swisher (18-9).

113 – Hunter Robbins, Illini Bluffs

After finishing in second place in the last two IHSA Class 1A Finals, it wouldn’t be that surprising that Hunter Robbins felt like he has a lot of pressure on him to finally capture a state title this season. But after recently committing to continue his career and education at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, the Illini Bluffs senior has few worries as he has improved his abilities and feels that he can be an IHSA champ, just as former teammate Paul Ishikawa was in 2023. Robbins improved to 32-0 after he followed a 6-2 decision over Litchfield’s Vincent Moore in the semifinals with an 8-2 triumph over Coal City’s Cooper Morris in the 113 championship match.

“I committed to a college a couple of months ago, St. Cloud State in Minnesota,” Robbins said. “So I think that it took a little bit of pressure off of my shoulders to impress the coaches. I like the people there and I like the coaches and it felt like home to me. They have great academics there and everything all the way around is good and I’m looking forward to it. It’s been great to be around the people that I’m around and the people who supported me and me supporting them, it just makes everybody better. Being surrounded by those kind of people and being in the finals with all of them was a good feeling and it made me push myself harder and hope for the best for them as well. This year the pressure is off, so I’ve kind of opened up a lot more this year, which is really helping me out because I’m scoring big and winning the matches I want to.”

Morris (28-5), a freshman, advanced to the 113 title match after edging Ottawa Township’s Ivan Munoz 3-2 in the semifinals. Munoz (22-2) responded to that setback with a 13-4 major decision over Litchfield’s Moore (21-5) to claim third place. Olympia’s Carter Knobloch (25-11) took fifth place after winning by fall in 1:50 over Dixon’s Ayden Rowley (17-8). And for seventh place, Vandalia’s Elijah Mabry (22-8) won with a pin in 1:46 over Dakota’s Brix Woker (10-8).

215 – Noah Wenzel, Dakota

The season may not have started the way that Noah Wenzel would have liked, but it’s safe to say that after claiming championships at both the Dvorak Invitational and now at the Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament in his limited time back in action that it hasn’t slowed him down very much in his pursuit of a third-straight IHSA Class 1A championship. The Dakota senior moved to 15-0 on the season after capturing an 8-0 major decision over Olympia’s Nolen Yeary in the 215 finals to capture his second PIT title, with the other one in 2022. He advanced to the title mat with a pin in 1:31 over Dixon’s Will Howell in the semifinals.

“I got off to a bit of a late start but the past few weeks I came back right before the Dvorak and I was able to win that,” Wenzel said. “I’m glad that I could compete at such a high level after taking such a long time off. One thing about Dakota is that they have a really strong community, especially with wrestling, and that’s one thing that I’ve been lucky to be a part of.”

Yeary (29-3), a senior, earned his spot in the finals after winning a 17-9 major decision over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Cohen Kean in the semifinals. Dixon’s Howell (22-3) recorded a fall in 1:36 over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Kean (19-6) for third place. Clifton Central’s Brody O’Connor (30-4) captured fifth place by prevailing in a 15-14 decision over Vandalia’s Dominic Swyers (23-8). And in the seventh-place match, Orion’s Aiden Fisher (19-6) won with a pin in 2:40 over Roxana’s Donald Battles (19-10).

138 – Dillon Hinton, Vandalia

Dillon Hinton has always liked showing younger teammates how they can improve their skills. The Vandalia sophomore made an impressive high school debut last season when he won 46 matches and took fifth place in the IHSA Class 1A Finals, so any tips that he can provide to some of his former junior high teammates are appreciated. Hinton’s off to a great start as he improved to 27-2 after claiming a 3-0 decision over Mercer County’s Ethan Monson in the PIT 138 title match. He reached the finals after getting a fall in 2:52 over Coal City’s Mason Garner in the semifinals. After taking third at the PIT, Vandalia won its 1000th dual meet on Thursday.

“A lot of these young guys I grew up with in the junior club, so it’s really fun and I think we’re going to see a lot more success,” Hinton said. “My junior high coach (Michael Mabry) always called me uncle Dill because I would practice with these guys and I loved wrestling with them since every single one of them has got the heart. I think that the fight in them is the main part. I like to think that I’ve helped a lot of them with moves. Sometimes we may not know everything but we’ll try our hardest. I think we’re going to come back stronger this year (at the regional).”

Monson (29-3), a senior who took fourth at the IHSA Class 1A Finals in 2022, advanced to the 138 title mat after claiming a 7-3 decision over Illini Bluffs’ Ian O’Connor in the semifinals. Newman Central Catholic’s Briar Ivey (23-2) claimed a 10-5 decision over Princeton’s Ace Christiansen (20-3) in the third-place match. Coal City’s Garner (28-2) secured fifth place with a 7-5 decision over Illini Bluffs’ O’Connor (29-4). And for seventh place, Tremont’s Mason Mark (19-5) won by medical forfeit over Clinton’s Cayden Poole (14-3).

106 – Brady Mouser, LeRoy/Tri-Valley

Brady Mouser prides him and his LeRoy/Tri-Valley teammates as having some of the best conditioning anywhere. That certainly came in handy when the Panthers junior had his hands full in the 106 PIT championship match against one of the host Tigers’ very own, Augustus Swanson. After the two competitors were tied 4-4 through regulation, Mouser got a takedown and nearfall midway through the overtime period to claim an 8-4 win by sudden victory to hand Swanson his first defeat. Mouser (32-1), who fell one win shy of a medal at last year’s IHSA Class 1A Finals, reached the title mat with a 7-2 decision over Vandalia’s Max Philpot. 

“There’s been lots of early mornings, working out on my own or working out with the team,” Mouser said. “I really do believe that LeRoy is one of the best conditioned teams in the state. So all credit to the coaches for pushing us that extra mile for those moments. That’s why they do it, so you don’t think you can any more, but you’ve just got to keep pushing. All credit to him (Augustus Swanson), he’s a tough kid and he was going the distance, too. That’s a state finals match. My mentality is it’s just any other tournament. Everybody knows that it’s the big, bad PIT, but you just have to treat it like any other tournament and work your way through it. You know there’s going to be tough kids and you’ll see them later in the year, so it’s good to see that competition early. I’m working with different partners in the room, not just the littlest guys. If you want to be at the top, you have to put in the work when nobody else wants to.”

Swanson (20-1), who was an IHSA Class 1A qualifier last season, won an 11-2 major decision over Coal City’s Owen Petersen in the semifinals. Vandalia’s Philpot (29-2) captured a 9-6 decision over Coal City’s Petersen (31-2) for third place. Dakota’s Brandon White (19-6) wrapped up fifth place by recording a fall in 1:21 over Monticello’s Ezekiel Young (29-4). And in the seventh place match, Dixon’s Jack Ragan (23-3) received a win by injury default at 3:53 over Clinton’s Briley Carter (20-4).

157 – Lyndon Thies, Roxana

There’s not going to be very many opportunities for Lyndon Thies and James Herring to compete in consecutive matches in the final round of a tournament. But Roxana’s Thies and Herring not only were in back-to-back title matches at the Lyle King PIT, they turned in consecutive falls, and that one-two punch helped push the Shells past Vandalia for second place in the team standings. Thies (27-2) recorded his fall in the 157 title match in 1:21 over Newman Central Catholic’s Daniel Kelly. The Shells’ sophomore earned his spot on the 157 title mat after claiming a 13-7 decision over LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Connor Lyons in the semifinals.

“We’ve just been really hitting practice hard and just doing the best that we can,” Thies said. “We had not our best moment at ABE’s but then we came back and got third. Once we heard that we were going to be back-to-back, we were ready for it and we just wanted to go out there and get it. We’ve always been two of our leaders and we want to get the team going. I’ve always been the one to hit big moves and hype everyone up. And he’s always been the one to just deal with the heavier kids. Four years ago, it was a battle between us and Coal City as to who was going to win junior high state, but COVID cancelled that. We’ve been together for five or six years and we’ve all been battling with each other and using what we know to help each other.”

Kelly (25-2), a junior who was one of three finalists for Newman Central Catholic, reached the 157 title match after capturing an 8-7 decision over Byron’s Carsen Behn in the semifinals. LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Lyons (27-6) won a 7-0 decision over Coal City’s John Keigher (23-9) to capture third place. Byron’s Behn (16-4) claimed fifth place due to a medical forfeit by Clifton Central’s Chris Andrade (25-6). And in the seventh-place match, PORTA’s Cale Cotner (29-6) recorded a fall in 2:59 over Princeton’s Preston Arkels (16-9).

285 – James Herring, Roxana

James Herring definitely liked the fact that he and teammate Lyndon Thies got the chance to compete in back-to-back title matches at the PIT. It was another significant moment for a Roxana team that was coming off a third-place showing at ABE’s Rumble and was trying to claim a second-place finish in the quality field of top Class 1A teams in Princeton. Following Thies’ quick pin at 157, senior Herring (27-1) clinched second place for the Shells when he got a fall in 2:19 over Princeton’s Cade Odell in the 285 finals. To reach the title match, Herring, an IHSA qualifier last year, claimed a 3-1 win by sudden victory over Clinton’s Dawson Thayer.

“It was pretty fun, especially with the pins in the finals,” Herring said. “We were more worried about the team than the individuals. Pinning that kid put us in second place and we beat Vandalia for second. In our eighth grade year, we brought 14 kids and were projected to win the state tournament as a team and have multiple state champions and placewinners, but COVID happened. So having the original group back kind of sparked the flame. Roxana will always be home no matter what. Every time I see a Shell gas station, it reminds me of home.”

Odell (16-1), a junior who suffered his first loss after turning in a fine rendition of the national anthem to kick off the finals, reached the 285 title match with a fall in 2:37 over LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Tate Sigler (25-5), who bounced back with a fall in 3:16 over PORTA’s Isaac Guinan (27-5) to claim third place. Dakota’s Randy McPeek (20-8)  took fifth after capturing a 5-2 decision over Clinton’s Thayer (17-4). And for seventh place, Monticello’s Brandon Peters (24-13) recorded a pin in 0:26 over Ottawa Township’s Stephon Patrick.

144 – Carter Rude, Newman Central Catholic

After moving up from a sixth-place finish in 2022 to a runner-up showing in last year’s IHSA Class 1A Finals. Carter Rude is hoping that the third time’s the charm in his attempt to add his name to the long list of champions at Newman Central Catholic. The Comets senior improved to 26-0 after winning the 144 championship at the PIT with an 8-3 decision over Illini Bluffs’ Jackson Carroll. Rude, who was one of three finalists for his team, earned his spot on the title mat after recording a fall in 2:47 over Clifton Central’s Gianni Panozzo in the semifinals.

Carroll (27-2), a junior who won 47 matches and fell one shy of a medal at the IHSA Class 1A Finals last season, reached the 144 finals after winning a 7-3 decision over Dakota’s Jason Bowers. Clifton Central’s Panozzo (31-3) won a 3-0 decision over Dakota’s Bowers (9-5) in the third-place match. Coal City’s Brock Finch (25-7) claimed fifth place with a 9-2 decision over Reed-Custer’s Jeremy Eggleston (23-5). And in the seventh-place match, Litchfield’s Braxton Kieffer (24-8) won by fall in 1:44 over Morrison’s Levi Milder (18-11).

120 – Dean Wainwright, Riverdale

Dean Wainwright admitted that he wasn’t feeling very good when he competed in the Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament. But those who saw the Riverdale sophomore making his run through the 120 bracket wouldn’t have suspected that anything was wrong with Wainwright, who won an IHSA Class 1A championship, as well as a PIT title, in a 50-1 debut season. Wainwright joined Blake Smith as champions for Riverdale after he captured a 6-0 decision over Olympia’s Dylan Eimer in the title match. Wainwright, who improved to 29-1, recorded falls in his other three matches, including a pin in 0:58 over Coal City’s Culan Lindemuth in the semifinals.

“I feel pretty good,” Wainwright said. “I was a little sick coming into this, but overall, my wrestling feels the same. I have a whole list of notes on my phone (about improvements) and I think that the biggest one is just complete offense. In the room, take them down, cut them, take them down, cut them. Myron Keppy was a legendary coach at Riverdale and it was fun to have one year with him and unfortunately he passed away. Aron (Kindelsperger) stepped up and took the head coaching job and we’ve had a pretty good year so far. The thing I like most about my team is that we like to have fun in the room, playing games before practice. I’m thankful for all of my coaches at my club and at my school. It’s the final run so I’ve got to really start focusing now.”

Eimer (22-2), a junior who took fourth in the IHSA Class 1A Final in 2022, reached the 120 title mat with a 6-3 decision over Warrensburg-Latham’s Logan Roberts (28-2), who bounced back from that loss to capture a 5-0 decision over Coal City’s Luke Munsterman (10-4) for third place. Wilmington’s Landon Dooley (22-5) took fifth place after prevailing 6-5 over Coal City’s Lindemuth (21-11). And Orion’s Kaleb Sovey received a medical forfeit from Roxana’s Lleyton Cobine (23-7) for seventh place.

165 – Bowden Delaney, Tremont

After qualifying for the IHSA Finals in each of his first two seasons, Bowden Delaney is determined not only to make a third state appearance but this time to finish on the awards stand, something that has been accomplished by 10 other individuals from Tremont. But the Turks junior thinks that because of his hard work and the guidance of his coach, 2006 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee TJ Williams, that this will be the year that he finally breaks through. Delaney improved to 25-0 after capturing a 4-0 decision over Coal City’s Landin Benson in the 165 title match. He earned his spot in the finals with a fall in 1:14 over Rockridge’s Ryan Lower.

Benson (10-1), an IHSA 1A qualifier last season, earned his spot in the 165 finals when he won a 12-4 major decision over Princeton’s Casey Etheridge in the semifinals. Rockridge’s Lower (25-2) won a 9-2 decision over Etheridge (19-5) in the third-place match. Orion’s Nolan Loete (22-6) claimed fifth place after recording a fall in 2:30 over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Cooper Miller (21-6). And Pittsfield’s Waylon White (22-6) won with a pin in 3:33 over PORTA’s Gaitlin Service (17-14) to place seventh.

132 – Brady Grennan, Newman Central Catholic

It was definitely now or never time for Brady Grennan as the clock clicked down in regulation of his 132 title match with  Jude Finch, who used a third-period takedown to grab a 2-1 lead. But the Newman Central Catholic senior went to a move that he had recently worked on and got a reversal and nearfall with 14 seconds left to claim a 6-2 decision. Grennan, who placed fifth last season in the IHSA Class 1A Finals and third at state in 2022, when he also won a PIT title. He was one of three finalists and two champions for coach Brian Bahrs’ Comets. He earned his trip to the 132 finals with a fall in 0:16 over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Shawn Schlickman.

“It’s called the Granby roll and we actually just went over that in practice,” Grennan said. “It’s a big move with high risks and high rewards. This is my last year wrestling so I obviously want to make it my most special and best year. I didn’t get to do that last year because of injuries and what not, so I’m looking to make a run for that state title. It’s been a lot more fun this year especially since we have a really good team. We’ve got the numbers this year. I need to get more in shape. Just running and doing more exercises and doing the extra stuff.”

Finch (23-4), who placed third at last year’s IHSA Class 1A Finals, advanced to the finals after winning a 10-1 major decision over Roxana’s Brandon Green, Jr. (25-2), who responded to that loss with a win by fall in 1:38 over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Schlickman (18-6) for third place, Coal City’s Noah Houston (21-9) took fifth place after pulling out a 10-8 decision over Clifton Central’s Kayden Cody (18-7). And for seventh, Warrensburg-Latham’s Charlie Wittmer (22-8) won a 19-7 major decision over Dixon’s Gavin Kramer (14-9).

Title matches at the 60th annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament

106 – Brady Mouser (LeRoy/Tri-Valley) SV 8-4 Augustus Swanson (Princeton)

113 – Hunter Robbins (Illini Bluffs) D 8-2 Cooper Morris (Coal City)

120 – Dean Wainwright (Riverdale) D 6-0 Dylan Eimer (Olympia)

126 – Joey Ruzic (Auburn) F 2:43 Brody Widlowski (Coal City)

132 – Brady Grennan (Newman Central Catholic) D 6-2 Jude Finch (Rockridge)

138 – Dillon Hinton (Vandalia) D 3-0 Ethan Monson (Mercer County)

144 – Carter Rude (Newman Central Catholic) D 8-3 Jackson Carroll (Illini Bluffs)

150 – Blake Smith (Riverdale) D 3-0 Brant Widlowski (Coal City)

157 – Lyndon Thies (Roxana) F 1:21 Daniel Kelly (Newman Central Catholic)

165 – Bowden Delaney (Tremont) D 4-0 Landin Benson (Coal City)

175 – Carter Watkins (Manteno) D 6-2 Rex Pfeifer (Reed-Custer)

190 – Maddux Anderson (Orion) D 2-1 Aiden Sancken (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher)

215 – Noah Wenzel (Dakota) MD 8-0 Nolen Yeary (Olympia)

285 – James Herring (Roxana) F 2:19 Cade Odell (Princeton)

Team scores for the 60th annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament

1. Coal City 229.5, 2. Roxana 159.5, 3. Vandalia 150.5, 4. Olympia 142, 5. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher 138, 6. Princeton 137, 7. Newman Central Catholic 131.5, 8. Riverdale 131, 9. Dakota 107.5, 10. PORTA 99.5, 11. Dixon 98, 12. Clifton Central 96, 13. LeRoy/Tri-Valley 89, 14. Clinton 87, 15. Orion 81, 16. Rockridge 80, 17. Monticello 78, 17. Reed-Custer 78, 19. Byron 76, 20. Warrensburg-Latham 75, 21. Illini Bluffs 72, 22. Morrison 71, 23. Wilmington 69, 24. Ottawa Township 55, 25. Tremont 53, 26. Pittsfield 52, 27. Litchfield,  48.5, 28. Auburn 47, 29. Mercer County 38.5, 30. Maneno 36, 31. Rock Falls 34.5, 32. Alleman 17, 33. Illinois Valley Central 15.

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