Dakota captures third-straight Lyle King PIT title

Dakota Wrestling

By Curt Herron

For the IWCOA

PRINCETON – When a team has won the last two tournament titles and is the defending state champion that’s won five state titles in eight seasons, it’s difficult to overlook them.

But in last week’s IWCOA rankings in Class 1A, eighth-ranked Dakota was the fifth-best team in the field at the 58th-annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament behind top-ranked Dixon, No. 3 Coal City, No. 5 Vandalia and No. 6 Tremont.

None of that seemed to matter to coach Matt Jacobs’ Indians, however, as they steadily moved up in the standings of the 32-team PIT and led by 22 points after the semifinals and went on to win the championship by an 183.5-140 margin over Vandalia at Prouty Gym. 

Reed-Custer edged rival Coal City 136.5-136 for third place. Auburn, with only eight competitors, took fifth by a 134.5-128 margin over Dixon. Riverdale, with seven entrants, took seventh with 119 points while Newman Central Catholic edged the host Tigers 110-107.5 for eighth and Manteno beat out Rockridge (103.5-101) for tenth place.

Dakota, who finished 12th in the Dvorak and whose best tournament showing was a fourth at the Bobcat Duals in Iowa, had three champions, a second-place finisher, a third and a fourth at the same weight and three seventh-place finishes out of its 11 competitors.

Leading the way for Dakota were champions Phoenix Blakely (126), Maddux Blakely (138) and Noah Wenzel (195) while Tyler Simmer (145) took second. TJ Silva (132) placed third, Jason Bowers (132) was fourth and Case Rockey (152), Adrian Arellono (160) and Garrett Vincent (170) all placed seventh.

Maddux Blakely, who improved to 20-1, made history by capturing his third PIT title in three attempts. Top-ranked at 138, he won all four of his matches by fall, with the last coming in 3:02 in the title match against Reed-Custer’s Ryan Tribble (14-1), who was ranked third. Maddux Blakely won previous PIT titles at 106 in 2019 and at 113 in 2020.

Phoenix Blakely, who’s 18-3 and top-ranked at 126, also recorded four falls with the last being in 2:41 over Princeton’s Matthew Harris (16-1), who was ranked fifth. Wenzel, 19-2 and second-ranked at 195, got two pins and a win by default, wrapping up his title with a fall in 3:21 over PORTA’s Trace Shaub (19-3).

Matt Jacobs is in his first season as Dakota’s head coach after being a longtime assistant under Pete Alber, a 2015 IWCOA hall of famer who was head coach of the program for 25 years and won 396 dual meets. Jacobs was a two-time state champion for the Indians under Alber, who still assists the program, and Josh Alber, who won four state titles and never lost a high school match at Dakota, is also still coaching there.

“Luckily we were able to still pull off another win, even with some of the changes,” Jacobs said. “Our numbers are a little lower this year, but our top guys came through and performed really well. We got a lot of bonus points with pins and tech falls and that’s really what pulled us away. We’re known for that and that’s not going to change. We work hard to always try to get those bonus points.

“This tournament is something good to keep building off of. We had a good Dvorak, especially day two. Some of our top guys performed well, like at the Dvorak, but in our next group of guys, we had a lot of placers, and that’s what they needed to do. I wanted everyone that we entered to place, and we placed everyone but two.  We are very proud of Maddux for winning the tournament in such a dominant fashion. With the PIT being the toughest 1A in-season-tournament, it is quite an accomplishment that he won it every year he entered it.”

While Dakota naturally has big plans both individually and as a team in the state series, it faces a tough challenge right off the bat when four of the top-10 teams in the state meet in the Class 1A Dixon Regional, which also features No. 2 Lena-Winslow/Stockton and No. 10 Oregon.

“This is my first year as the head coach but most of the coaching staff is all the same,” Jacobs said. “Pete is still helping us out and is a great help and a leader for us. We love the tournaments since you get a lot of matches and see a lot of teams. And the cream rises to the top when you’re in the finals, you’re the best of 30-some kids in that weight class. We still have a lot of work to do and we need to be regional champions so it opens the door to the dual meet series, and our goal is to be state champions again.”

Other top-ranked individuals at their weight classes who won titles and remained unbeaten were Auburn’s Anthony Ruzic (14-0) at 113, Riverdale’s Brock Smith (20-0) at 132 and Alleman’s Charlie Jagusah (22-0) at 285. 

Ruzic needed just 24 seconds to get a fall in the 113 finals over Clinton’s Teegan West (15-9). Smith had a tough finals match at 132, winning 9-6 over Auburn’s Dresden Grimm (26-1), who was ranked third. And Jagusah recorded a fall in 1:01 over Wilmington’s Blake Shirey (13-2) to wrap up a tournament where he had four falls in just over three minutes to earn OWA honors for the upper weights.

In top finals featuring ranked competitors, Illini Bluffs’ No. 4 Hunter Robbins (16-2) beat Litchfield’s No. 3 Alex Powell (20-3) 6-0 in the 106 finals, Newman Central Catholic’s No. 3 Brady Grennan (23-0) was a 12-2 winner over Mercer County’s No. 6 at 113 Ethan Monson (11-2) at 120 and Riverdale’s No. 4 Collin Altensey (17-0) won 7-4 over Coal City’s No. 2 Zach Finch (20-4) in the 152 finals.

In one of the bigger upsets on the day, Rockridge’s unranked Reese Finch (18-2) claimed a 6-2 decision over Dakota’s No.2 Tyler Simmer in the 145 finals, which resulted in him receiving the OWA for the lower weights.

Riverdale’s second-ranked Alex Watson (20-0) remained perfect when he recorded a fall in 4:44 over Vandalia’s Ryan Kaiser (23-4) in the 160 title match. Also remaining undefeated was Reed-Custer’s No. 3 Kody Marschner (18-0), who claimed a 6-3 decision over Morrison’s Nate Schaefer (18-3) in the 220 finals.

LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Tyson Brent (16-0) also stayed unbeaten after capturing a 6-4 decision over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Braylen Kean (8-2) in the 170 finals. And Manteno’s Colin Zeppi (15-3) prevailed in one of the closest title matches when he edged Coal City’s No. 10 Braiden Young (19-5) 4-3 at 182.

Riverdale joined Dakota as the only teams with three champions. Winning titles for coach Myron Keppy’s Rams were Smith (132), Altensey (152) and Watson (160).

Despite having just one finalist, coach Jason Clay’s runner-up Vandals had nine of its 12 individuals who placed seventh or better to finish in second place, their same finish in 2020. They were led by Kaiser, who took second at 160, Cutter Prater, who was third at 138 and Eric McKinney, who took fourth at 152.

No. 11 Reed-Custer, which was tied for 11th in the PIT in 2020 and placed 19th the year before, turned in one of its best showings in a major invitational in some time when it nipped Coal City for third place. Leading the way for coach Yale Davis’ Comets were Marschner who took first at 220, Tribble, who was second at 138 and Landon Markle, who finished fourth at 145.

The first-place matches were conducted in a different order with the schedule on the title mat as follows: 152, 195, 138, 182, 126, 220, 160, 145, 285, 120, 113, 170, 106 and 132. For consistency, our summary of champions and weight classes is in the usual fashion.

Here’s a summary of the tournament champions, as well as their weight classes, for the 58th-annual Lyle King PIT in Princeton:

106 – Hunter Robbins, Illini Bluffs

Hunter Robbins had a tough route to claim the 106 PIT title, which required him to beat ranked individuals in both the semifinals and finals but the Illini Bluffs’ sophomore, who’s ranked fourth, was up to the challenge and improved to 16-2 after claiming a 6-0 victory over Litchfield junior Alex Powell, who’s ranked third, in the 106 finals. 

After winning by technical fall in the quarterfinals, Robbins, an IWCOA qualifier who placed second at his own school’s tournament, earned his trip to the title mat with a 4-0 decision over Olympia freshman Dylan Eimer in the semifinals.

“I knew that these were some big names so I kind of got to see how I’d fare,” Robbins said. “It feels good to just knock out these big names, and I’m doing it one-by-one and I’m going to keep on doing it. My wrestling partners are Ian O’Connor, Jackson Carroll and Paul Ishikawa, and they all help me out a lot and I get really good work in with them. I like how bonded we are and we’re really close and hang out outside of wrestling, and not just in the wrestling room.”

Powell (20-3), a two-time state qualifier who took second at PORTA, followed a major decision with a fall in 3:34 in the semifinals over Alleman senior Dalton Nimrick (21-4). Powell and Nimrick both also placed in the 2020 PIT. In the third-place match, Eimer (18-3), who won a title at Illini Bluffs, captured a 4-3 decision over Nimrick. 

Ottawa’s Ivan Munoz (4-2) recorded a fall in 3:32 over Dixon sophomore Ayden Rowley (3-3) in the fifth-place match. And Riverdale sophomore Tharen Jacobs (14-4), who was ranked ninth, got a pin in 1:02 over Mercer County freshman Kale Stirn (7-4) to claim seventh place.

113 – Anthony Ruzic, Auburn

Anthony Ruzic rolled to the PIT championship at 113 with three first-period falls, and the Auburn sophomore who’s top-ranked at his weight improved to 14-0 after recording his quickest fall in the title match in 0:24 over Clinton freshman Teegan West.

Ruzic, who won the USA Wrestling 16U Greco-Roman national championship at 106 in Fargo and was third in the IWCOA in 2021, added to a title at PORTA after recording falls in 1:35 in his opener  and in 1:32 in the semifinals against Newman Central Catholic freshman Briar Ivey.

“I felt good out there,” Ruzic said. “It’s been a pretty easy year so far and I’ve just been preparing for state, it’s what we’ve been looking forward to all year really. Winning nationals over the summer has given me all of the confidence that I’ve needed. Really just in the practice room is pretty much all that I can do to prepare.”

West (15-9) recorded three falls to advance to the finals, including one in 2:22 over Byron senior Gunnar Bay (5-2) in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Ivey (13-5) got the win over Bay by way of forfeit.

Rock Falls junior Aaron Meenen (13-2) recorded a fall in 0:57 over Illini Bluffs freshman Wyatt Knowles (11-5) in the fifth-place match and Vandalia freshman Sophie Bowers (22-6) claimed seventh place with a fall in 0:32 over Monticello freshman Isaiah Ducker.

120 – Brady Grennan, Newman Central Catholic

Brady Grennan improved to 23-0 after winning 12-2 by major decision over Mercer County sophomore Ethan Monson in the 120 championship match. Grennan, a sophomore who’s ranked third and placed third in the IWCOA, won his third invitational title of the season, adding to firsts at Sterling and Erie/Prophetstown.

Grennan won his first three matches with first-period falls with the fastest of those coming in the semifinals, where he pinned Princeton freshman Ace Christiansen in 0:28. 

“I think yesterday and in the first couple of matches today that it was pretty sluggish, but the last match really kind of sped everything up,” Grennan said. “I’m pretty excited about the state series. What I’m most excited about is that I think that I can actually potentially win the state tournament this year and I want to do better than I did last year, when it was third place.”

Monson (11-2), who’s sixth at 113 and placed fourth in the IWCOA with a runner-up finish at Riverdale, won two major decisions before capturing a 9-3 victory over Coal City sophomore Brant Widlowski (22-5) in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Widlowski, who was sixth in the IWCOA, won by technical fall over Christiansen (13-6), who took second at Plano and Stillman Valley.

Auburn senior Gage Lopez (13-7), a state qualifier in 2019 who placed in the PIT in 2020, claimed fifth place with a fall in 1:19 over Vandalia junior Pierson Wilkerson. In the seventh-place match, Illini Bluffs junior Avery Speck (17-5), a 2021 IWCOA qualifier with seconds at Illini Bluffs and Erie/Prophetstown, won by injury default over Clifton Central sophomore Kayden Cody (22-8), who won a title at Clinton.

126 – Phoenix Blakely, Dakota

Phoenix Blakely improved to 18-3 after recording four falls and defeating a pair of ranked individuals in the process to capture top honors at 126 with a fall in 2:41 over Princeton senior Matthew Harris in the title match.

The Dakota junior, a two-time state champion who is top-ranked, pinned Dixon senior Chris Sitter, ranked fifth at 120, in 0:35 in the semifinals. Harris, a two-time state qualifier who was fourth in the IWCOA and ranked fifth this season, suffered his first loss in 17 matches and was unable to add to his titles at Plano and Stillman Valley. Blakely and Harris also placed in the PIT in 2020.

“I’m excited because so far any 1A kid that I’ve wrestled, I don’t think it has made it past the second period,” Phoenix Blakely said. “This is pretty big for us since there’s a couple of teams that are ranked above us, so this might help out. Our goal this year is to win it. We just work super hard in the practice room and we don’t give up much. And we have to remind them of what Dakota is all about.”

Harris advanced to the title mat with a win by technical fall and two falls, including one in 1:25 over Rockridge freshman Jude Finch (19-4), who’s ranked 10th, in the semifinals. Newman Central Catholic sophomore Carter Rude (29-1), who’s ranked sixth and was an IWCOA qualifier with titles at Sterling and Erie/Prophetstown, pinned Finch in 3:09 to claim third place and avenged his initial loss, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.

In the fifth-place match, Coal City junior Jacob Piatak (18-5) captured a 12-6 decision over Sitter (9-6) in a matchup of IWCOA qualifiers while Reed-Custer sophomore Sam Begler (14-3) took seventh after claiming a 10-4 victory over Clinton freshman Cayden Poole (22-4).

132 – Brock Smith, Riverdale

Brock Smith improved to 20-0 and added to a tournament title at his own school when he claimed a 9-6 decision over Auburn junior Dresden Grimm in a clash of highly-ranked and unbeaten competitors who were also 2020 PIT placewinners in the 132 finals.

The Riverdale junior, top-ranked and a fifth-place IHSA finisher in 2020, recorded first-period falls in his first two matches before capturing a 10-2 major decision in the semifinals over Dakota sophomore Jason Bowers. Grimm (26-1), a two-time qualifier who was sixth in the IWCOA, is ranked third and had a title at PORTA to his credit. 

“I personally thought I was pretty sloppy and I definitely should have done a lot better,” Smith said. “It’s just another match to me. This bracket and medal is going to go home and be put up somewhere and I’m back to work tomorrow. I have bigger things to focus on than this, I have to focus on being the best wrestler that I can be. I’ve been working really hard for most of the season. Our team has been through some stuff and shut down, but we’ve all just been working to get each other better and to bring each other up.”

Grimm, who was also a runner-up in the PIT in 2020, advanced to the title mat with a fall and a win by technical fall before recording another pin in the semifinals in 1:47 over Dakota freshman TJ Silva. In the only place matchup between teammates, Silva (15-4) claimed third place over Bowers (8-3) due to an injury default.

In the fifth-place match, Illini Bluffs sophomore Ian O’Connor (26-4), an IWCOA qualifier who won titles at Illini Bluffs and Erie/Prophetstown, got a fall in 3:58 over Newman Central Catholic freshman Daniel Kelly (25-7). Vandalia junior Owen Miller (22-6), a two-time state qualifier and 2020 PIT placer who was ranked 10th, got a fall in 2:42 over LeRoy/Tri-Valley sophomore Connor Lyons (9-7) for seventh.

138 – Maddux Blakely, Dakota

Maddux Blakely made history when he became one of the few individuals to win three PIT titles in just three visits to the tournament.

After taking first at 106 as a freshman and first at 113 in 2020, the Dakota senior completed the trifecta by recording a fall in 3:02 in the 138 title match over Reed-Custer senior Ryan Tribble to improve to 20-1.

Blakely, a three-time qualifier and two-time third-place finisher at state who is top-ranked, recorded three first-period falls, including one in 1:04 over Monticello senior Jaxon Trent in the semifinals. Tribble (14-1), a two-time state qualifier and 2020 PIT placer who’s ranked third, had a win by technical fall and a major decision before edging Vandalia senior Cutter Prater 2-0 in the semifinals.

“It feels great,” Maddux Blakely said. “We only brought like 10 kids, but we all got bonus points and that helped us out a lot. We’re good on top, so we get a lot of pins. We have a lot of young guys and they all step up and show up and get pins and extra points, so I’m excited just for our team to do well later on this season.”

Prater (26-2), a two-time state qualifier and 2020 PIT placer who’s ranked ninth with a title at Civic Memorial to his credit, captured third place by recording a fall in 2:19 over Trent (22-7).

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher sophomore Carson Maxey (15-8) claimed fifth place by injury default over Orion sophomore Mason Anderson (13-4) and in the seventh-place match, Olympia sophomore Bentley Wise (16-7) recorded a fall in 0:53 over Wilmington junior Jacob Prescott (11-6), who was an IWCOA qualifier.

145 – Reese Finch, Rockridge

Reese Finch used a pair of wins by technical fall as well as two decisions to not only win the championship at 145 by a 6-2 score over Dakota senior Tyler Simmer and improve to 18-2 but also received the PIT’s Outstanding Wrestler Award for the lower weights.

The Rockridge junior who is unranked, was an IWCOA qualifier and took second at Erie/Prophetstown. He beat Reed-Custer junior Landon Markle by technical fall in the semifinals. Simmer (17-4), an IWCOA runner-up and 2020 PIT placer who’s ranked second, got a pin and a win by technical fall to advance to the semifinals, where he won 8-2 over Riverdale junior Eli Hinde.

“It really feels good to come out on top in a really good bracket, too,” Finch said. “Dakota is always tough and I know that they’re always going to have quality wrestlers. I wrestled hard all day and I’m thankful to come out on top of the podium. I just hope that at the state tournament, that I can be at the top of the podium. I just want to keep wrestling hard and doing my thing and I feel that if I do that, then I can beat anybody. There’s a lot of good guys in the room, and they’ve really been pushing me and helping me to achieve my goals.”

Princeton junior Augie Christiansen (18-2), who won a title at Plano and was a 2020 PIT placer, avenged a 10-7 quarterfinals defeat to Markle (15-5) by pinning him in 1:23 in the third-place match.

Hinde (17-4), who’s ranked tenth and was second at his own schoo’s invite, claimed fifth-place with a 7-0 decision over Coal City junior Jack Poyner (15-6). And in the seventh-placed match, Vandalia junior Logan Nance (19-7), who’s ranked ninth and was an IWCOA qualifier, won a 5-0 decision over Coal City junior Mataeo Blessing (18-8), who was a state qualifier in 2020.

152 – Collin Altensey, Riverdale

Collin Altensey remained unbeaten at 17-0 after prevailing 7-4 over Coal City senior Zach Finch in the 152 championship in a matchup of two of the state’s highest-ranked individuals at that weight.

The Riverdale junior, who’s ranked fourth and placed fifth in the IHSA in 2020, followed a pin and a win by technical fall with an 8-5 win in the semifinals over Newman Central Catholic senior Mason Glaudel. Finch (20-4), a 2020 IHSA qualifier who’s ranked second, also had a pin and a win by technical fall before winning 4-2 in the semifinals over Vandalia junior Eric McKinney. Altensey and Finch were 2020 PIT placewinners.

“I just knew that if I came out hitting my shots that it would do good things, so that’s what I did and I got a big move right away,” Altensey said. “I have big goals this year and I’m just working toward them and I’m excited for the postseason. We have a good team this year even though we have five kids out. We all just battle really hard in the room and it just makes all of us better at wrestling and better people.”

Manteno sophomore Carter Watkins (16-3) avenged an 8-6 quarterfinals loss to McKinney (24-5), an IWCOA qualifier who was ranked eighth, by claiming a 1-0 decision in the third-place match.

In the fifth-place match, Glaudel (25-4) won a 12-4 major decision over Clinton senior Trevor Willis (20-6). And for seventh place, Dakota junior Case Rockey (11-8) recorded a fall in 1:50 over Rockridge senior Cole McCabe (11-5).

160 – Alex Watson, Riverdale 

Alex Watson improved to 20-0 and the Riverdale junior, who’s ranked second, added to the title win at his own tournament when he recorded a fall in 4:44 in the 160 finals against Vandalia senior Ryan Kaiser.

Watson followed up on a fall and major decision with a win by technical fall in the semifinals over Clifton Central junior Damian Bailey. Kaiser (23-4), a two-time state qualifier who also placed second at Civic Memorial, opened with a win by technical fall before getting two falls, with one in the semifinals in 2:57 over Rockridge junior Peyton Locke.

“This is the toughest tournament of the year other than state, so I’m pretty excited,” Watson said. “I’ve definitely worked on my feet a lot more and just finishing my takedowns and getting up from the bottom, just the little things. We’re really close and we wrestle a lot in practice and push each other pretty hard. Our coaching and our whole team, we’re just super close and we just push each other all of the time. I think we’ll do well this year.”

Coal City freshman Landin Benson (14-1) avenged his first defeat, a 3-2 quarterfinals loss to Locke (11-4), by pinning the same opponent in 4:51 in the third-place match.

Bailey (23-7), who was an IWCOA qualifier, captured fifth place with a 9-3 victory over Reed-Custer senior Brenden Tribe (14-6). In the seventh-place match, Dakota junior Adrian Arellono (8-8), ranked ninth at 152, won by injury default over Warrensburg-Latham senior Luke Hall (18-6).

170 – Tyson Brent, LeRoy/Tri-Valley

Tyson Brent added to the title that he won at Metamora when the LeRoy/Tri-Valley junior captured a 6-4 victory over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher senior Braylen Kean in the 170 finals.

Brent, who’s 16-0 and was an IWCOA qualifier, recorded falls in his first two matches before claiming a 4-1 semifinals win over Pittsfield senior Mason Davis. Kean (8-2) advanced to the title mat following a decision, then by injury default over Tremont senior Lucas Wendling (26-3), who’s ranked second and was fifth in the IWCOA. In the semifinals, Kean claimed a 6-4 decision over Reed-Custer sophomore Rex Pfeifer.

“This is a very good feeling,” Brent said. “I’m just happy to come out and do my best in every match. I’m very happy to be here since there were a couple of guys here that beat me last year, so to come back and get some revenge on those matches. I’ve won every single match this year, but I haven’t really had anything to my name until this tournament. Last year was a struggle, but I did the most as I could with it and got better every day last year and I’m continuing to do that this year.”

Dixon sophomore Steven Kitzman (10-7), who took second at Wheaton Warrenville South, bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to Brent to claim third place with a 5-2 victory over Manteno senior Wyatt Young (15-5). 

Davis (16-4), an IWCOA qualifier who was a 2020 PIT placer, claimed fifth place after recording a fall in 5:05 over Pfeifer (14-5). And Dakota junior Garrett Vincent (11-10) captured seventh place when he won a 12-4 major decision over Coal City junior Joey Brenenman (9-7).

182 – Colin Zeppi, Manteno

Colin Zeppi captured one of the closest championship matches and ended a long PIT title drought for Manteno when the senior prevailed 4-3 over Coal City junior Braiden Young to claim top honors at 182.

Zeppi (15-3), who was an IWCOA qualifier, followed a fall and a decision with a pin in 2:47 in the semifinals over Olympia senior Austin Swan. Young (19-5) , an IWCOA qualifier who was ranked tenth, opened with a fall and then won two major decisions, with the second being in the semifinals by a 10-1 score over Dixon senior Brody Potter.

“It feels good,” Zeppi said. “I wasn’t expecting to win since I’m going to be honest, I felt like garbage. But I just wrestled through and after my match in the semifinals I started feeling pretty good. My opponent in the finals, Braiden, that was the fourth time that we’ve wrestled. Last season we wrestled twice and this year we had a dual in Coal City and I lost by six points. So going into it, there was a little apprehension. I feel a lot better about the state series and placing at state after this.”

In the third-place match, Potter (10-3) recorded a fall in 0:57 over Swan (22-7) while Auburn junior Skylar Fay (23-6) claimed fifth place as a result of injury default by Ottawa’s Charles Medrow (6-4).

And for seventh-place, Vandalia freshman Wyatt Dothager (18-11) recorded a fall in 1:24 over Reed-Custer junior Brandon Moorman (13-8).

195 – Noah Wenzel, Dakota

Noah Wenzel capped a day on which Dakota won its third-straight PIT title as the sophomore became the Indians’ third champion following a fall in 3:21 over PORTA junior Trace Shaub in the 195 finals.

Wenzel (19-2), who placed fourth at the IWCOA finals and is ranked second, won his first match by fall and won in the semifinals by injury default over Dixon senior Mitchell White. Shaub (19-3) advanced to the finals with a pair of falls, with one coming in 3:04 in the semifinals over Warrensburg-Latham junior Walker Allen.

“My brother, Andrew, who recently went to the Air Force Academy, has occasionally watched my matches and I’m just trying to make him proud out there,” Wenzel said. “You just have to get focused for regionals and try to move on to sectionals and then get down to state. One thing I’d just like to say about my team is that we obviously have a lot of hammers, and most of us placed. But for the people who didn’t place, it was just small mistakes that we have to work on in the room.”

Two individuals who lost in the quarterfinals wrestled back to reach the third-place match, where Manteno senior Gabe Johnson (15-5) won by technical fall over Mercer County sophomore Ian Willits (6-2).

In the fifth-place match, Allen (22-8) won by injury default over Dixon’s White (6-5) , who was ranked seventh and won a title at Sterling. Clifton Central senior Gabe Alvarez (17-11) claimed seventh place in the same fashion against Olympia sophomore Nolen Yeary (12-12).

220 – Kody Marschner, Reed-Custer

Kody Marschner improved to 18-0 and captured his first title of the year while helping the Comets to a third-place finish after capturing a 6-3 victory over Morrison senior Nate Schaefer in the 220 finals.

Marschner, a junior who’s a two-time state qualifier and 2021 IWCOA runner-up, placed at the PIT for the second time and reached the title mat following two falls and a 4-3 decision over Dixon senior Justin Dallas in the semifinals. Schaefer (18-3) recorded three-straight falls, including one in the semifinals in 1:36 over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher sophomore Gavin Johnson, who advanced to that round by injury default over Tremont senior John Rathbun (16-4), who took sixth in the IWCOA and was ranked fifth.

“In my freshman year, the last time we were here, I don’t remember us placing high at all,” Marschner said. “But we’ve been working hard in the offseason, like in my garage and other places. It’s a big thing that we’re doing good this year. We have a new head coach, Yale Davis, and his dad, and our main technician coach is Trent Lyons, who was a state champ. He’s been doing really good with us, especially with me in particular. Last year, I was just like a bull and I’d go right through them but now I’m actually starting to use my finesse.”

Dallas (12-3), who was second at Sterling and Wheaton Warrenville South, captured third-place when he recorded a fall in 5:22 over LeRoy/Tri-Valley senior Andrew Moore (13-6).

In the fifth-place match, Princeton junior Jesse Wright (11-8) won by fall in 1:27 over Johnson (4-3) while Vandalia senior Eric Barenfanger (22-8) claimed seventh-place with a fall in 1:08 over Clifton Central sophomore Hunter Hull (20-8).

285 – Charlie Jagusah, Alleman

Charlie Jagusah wasn’t able to wrestle a year ago due to a football injury but you wouldn’t know that based on how the Alleman junior dominated with four first-period falls to not only win the 285 title but also the PIT’s Outstanding Wrestler Award for the upper weights.

Jagusah, who’s top-ranked and took fourth in the IHSA in 2020 when he also placed in the PIT, improved to 22-0 after recording a fall in 1:02 in the semifinals over Auburn junior Cole Edie. In the finals, he needed 1:01 to get a fall over Wilmington senior Blake Shirey (13-2), who also won his first three matches by fall, recording his semifinals pin in 2:48 over Gibson-City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher senior Markus Miguel.

“It’s been an interesting year because the first couple of matches I was a little rusty since I didn’t get to wrestle last year because of an injury,” Jagusah said. “In my freshman year when I came here and got third and I think that four of the top five here medalled. It’s one of the tougher tournaments in the state and it really helps to prepare me. So I’m excited to win because I didn’t get to get that my freshman year. I know what I can do and know that I need to wrestle well in every match, especially at heavyweight, where anything can happen.”

Edie (22-4), who’s ranked sixth and was an IWCOA qualifier, got a fall in 0:29 over Miguel (8-5) to claim third place. 

Clifton Central senior Giacomo Panozzo (26-6) also recorded four falls, including one in 1:15 for fifth place over PORTA sophomore Issac Espnchied (19-7). And Manteno junior Damian Alsup (13-5), an IWCOA qualifier, took seventh after getting a fall in 4:58 over Princeton senior Justin Wicaryus.

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