Dakota qualifies 5 from Princeton Sectional

By Curt Herron

For the IWCOA

PRINCETON –  Dakota qualified five individuals while Harvard, Lena-Winslow/Stockton, Newman Central Catholic and Sandwich all had four qualifiers at the Class 1A Princeton Sectional, which was arguably the most challenging sectionals in the state.

Lena-Winslow/Stockton and Dakota both had three champions while Alleman, Newman Central Catholic and Richmond-Burton had two title winners apiece.

A total of 23 schools in the field qualified individuals for this weekend’s IHSA Class 1A championships, which will take place from Thursday through Saturday at the State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign.

Champions were Dakota’s Phoenix Blakely (126), TJ Silva (132) and Noah Wenzel (195), Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Garrett Luke (145), Marey Roby (160) and Griffin Luke (170), Alleman’s Dalton Nimrick (106) and Charlie Jagusah (285), Newman Central Catholic’s Brady Grennan (120) and Will Rude (138), Richmond-Burton’s Emmett Nelson (113) and Brock Wood (220), Morrison’s Kayden White (182) and Riverdale’s Collin Altensey (152).

Here’s a breakdown of all of the champions and qualifiers from the tournament, which ran on Friday and Saturday at Prouty Gym in Princeton.

106 – Dalton Nimrick, Alleman

Before the postseason began, Dalton Nimrock’s top accomplishments was a runner-up finish in the Western Big 6 Conference meet and a fourth-place finish at the Princeton Invitational. But in his return to that mats at Prouty Gym with much more at stake, the senior showed why he deserved to add another week to his career as a Pioneer.

Nimrick (33-6), ranked eighth in Rob Sherrill’s IWCOA rankings, followed up on his first title of the season in the Sherrard Regional with a much bigger prize as he followed a close victory in the quarterfinals with two first-period falls to not only claim his first state finals trip but he also captured top honors at 106 after recording a pin in 1:43 over Dixon’s Ayden Rowley in the title match . Nimrick edged Harvard’s Brian Hernandez 6-4 in the quarterfinals and then recorded a fall in 1:20 in the semifinals over Stillman Valley’s Mack Jones. He joined teammate Charlie Jagusah, who took first place at 285, to make Alleman one of seven teams to win a title and one of five to have more than one champion.

“It feels awesome,” Nimrick said. “I missed it the last few years, even though I was trying real hard. But I worked hard over the summer so it feels really good to get out there and finally go to state and it feels even better to win it. I wasn’t done, I just wanted to make it so I could keep wrestling. I put in a lot of work over the summer with my coaches, really just trying to focus. I want to end on a high note.” 

The other three qualifiers at 106 join Nimrick as first-time state qualifiers. Rowley (12-4), a sophomore who had placed sixth at the PIT and won his first tournament of the season at the rugged regional his school hosted, earned his spot in the title match after recording a 17-second fall in his opener and then winning 806 over Riverdale sophomore Tharren Jacobs, who was ranked ninth, in the semifinals. He was one of three qualifiers for the Dukes, who owned the top-spot in the team rankings during the latter of the season.

Hernandez (22-11), a senior, is one of four Hornets who are headed to state. After getting edged by the eventual champion in the quarterfinals, he won four-straight matches in the consolation bracket, with his third win in the sequence being a 6-4 triumph over Jacobs (34-11). He recorded a fall in 1:37 to take third place over Richmond-Burton freshman Clay Madula (27-15), who lost 8-4 to Jacobs in the quarterfinals but then recorded a pair of falls, including one over Jones (19-12) in 5:18 in the consolation semifinals.

113 – Emmett Nelson, Richmond-Burton

With four tournament titles to his credit coming into the weekend, Emmett Nelson came in as a slight favorite at a wide-open weight class that featured plenty of competitors who were all seeking their first state appearances.

But the Richmond-Burton freshman, who came in ranked seventh with just three losses on the season, won his first two matches by technical fall before getting a takedown with 28 seconds left in overtime in the 113 title match to capture a 3-1 win in sudden victory over Marian Central Catholic junior Kaden Harman, who was ranked eighth. Nelson was one of two freshmen to advance for his team and one of two champions, with Brock Wood taking first at 220. Nelson, who captured his fifth-straight title, won by technical fall in the quarterfinals over another qualifier, Newman Central Catholic freshman Briar Ivey, and won again by tech fall in the semifinals over Princeton senior Steven Benavidez. 

“I’ve had a lot of wins but I think I’ve learned a lot from the losses that I’ve taken this year,” Nelson said. “And it’s fun when you have other kids winning, too. I think it’s good to get these tournaments done so it gets the pressure off of you for state. The sectional title will really help my seed and hopefully put me in a good place in the tournament. I’ve been watching the state tournament since I’ve been in second grade and I can’t wait to be there.”

Harman (33-10) won his only tournament title early in the season at Antioch, but he put himself in a great position to claim a much bigger title on Saturday after following up on a win by technical fall in his opener with a 7-0 quarterfinals victory over the other state qualifier at the weight, Erie/Prophetstown freshman Wyatt Goosens. He earned his spot in his third title match of the season when he claimed a 13-5 major decision over Oregon freshman Preston La Bay.

Goosens (30-6) bounced back from his quarterfinals defeat with a fall in 16 seconds followed by a win by technical and another fall, in 0:44 over Benavidez in the consolation semifinals to assure himself of a state trip. He closed with another fall, this one in 5:04 over Ivey for third place. Ivey (29-11), who placed third in his earlier visit to Princeton, also won his first three matches in the consolation bracket, following two falls with a 10-2 victory over LaBay to become the first of four individuals from his team to advance.

120 – Brady Grennan, Newman Central Catholic

As often happens in sectional tournaments, a matchup of the top-two individuals at the weight class might not happen in the finals, but it often occurs in the semifinals and

that’s just where top-ranked Brady Grennan and second-ranked Charlie Fitzgerald squared off to see who would get the opportunity to compete for the sectional title.

In a showdown of IWCOA placewinners who were also in the same weight class in that competition, the Newman Central Catholic sophomore captured a 4-3 victory over the Marian Central Catholic junior to earn his spot on the title mat, where he won by technical fall over Princeton freshman Ace Christiansen. Grennan (39-1), who won his fifth-straight tournament title, which included an earlier trip to Princeton for the PIT, kicked off the competition with a fall in 3:27 in the quarterfinals. He was one of four state qualifiers and two champions for his team, which is still alive in the dual team series. 

“The one loss really hurts, but I really think it’s really had a big impact on me,” Grennan said. “It lights a fire under me and it just makes me more motivated. We have a bunch of good practice partners in the room and I have Briar Ivey, Daniel Kelly and Carter Rude. All of us are so close and we;ve all been wrestling with each other since we were little kids.  I’m ready to go to Champaign. I’m ready to go down there and hopefully win a state championship.”

Fitzgerald (25-4), who was seeking his fourth tournament title of the season, opened with a win by technical fall in the quarterfinals over another qualifier at the weight, Harvest Christian sophomore Zeke Schroeder. After getting edged by Grennan in the semifinals, Fitzgerald recorded a fall in 5:05 over Wheship.aton Academy’s Will Hupke to assure him of a second-straight state appearance and then closed out the competition on a high note when he faced Schroeder for third place and captured another win by technical fall.

Christiansen (37-12), who was the lone member from the host school to qualify for state, definitely earned his way to the title mat as he claimed his fourth second-place finish of the season. After recording a fall in his opening match, he captured a 5-2 victory over Hupke (33-6) and he followed that win up with a 6-1 triumph over Orion’s Luke Moen in the semifinals. Schroeder (15-6), who was an IWCOA qualifier last year, captured a major decision and two decisions to qualify, beating Moen 6-2 to reach the third-place mat.

126 – Phoenix Blakely, Dakota

Phoenix Blakely moved another step closer to capturing a third-straight state championship after only allowing two points in his first two matches and then getting a fall in the title match against three individuals who are all ranked in the top-seven in the class, to claim first place at 126 for his fourth tournament title of the season.

Blakely (32-3), top-ranked at the weight, captured the sectional championship with a fall in 3:42 over Polo junior Wyatt Doty, who’s ranked seventh. He kicked off his run with a 10-2 triumph in the quarterfinals over Rockridge freshman Jude Finch, who’s ranked sixth, and then followed that up with a 7-0 victory over Newman Central Catholic sophomore Carter Rude, who’s fifth-ranked, in the semifinals. He was one of five qualifiers for Dakota, which had the most of any team in the field with five. And shortly after he wrapped up his title, teammate freshman TJ Silva took top honors at 132 for Dakota’s second championship.

“I feel comfortable going into the state series,” Blakely said. “I’m feeling strong wrestling out there and I just want to put it all out there on the mat. I believe that we have one of the toughest 1A schedules out there. It’s going to be exciting because I love the crowd there. I believe that we are competing very well right now. Just a little more critiquing in the practice room and I think that we’ll all be there.”

Doty (27-5), who was an IWCOA qualifier a year ago, won a title at Kewanee and had seconds at Polo and the Dixon Regional, where he fell in the finals to Blakely. After opening with a first-period fall in his initial match, Doty won by technical fall in the quarterfinals over Sandwich’s Miles Corder and then earned his spot on the title match with a 9-2 victory in the semifinals over Princeton senior Matthew Harris (36-7), who came into the event ranked fifth.

After falling to Blakely in the semifinals, Rude (42-3) won by technical fall over Corder and then went on to capture a 10-0 victory over Finch in the third-place match. Rude, who was one of four individuals to advance, also competed in the IWCOA finals last year. Finch (37-11) responded to his quarterfinal loss to the eventual champion by winning three matches in the consolation bracket, which included a 4-3 decision over Harvard’s Marques Merida and then a 7-4 victory over Harris, who fell short of his third state trip.

132 -TJ Silva, Dakota

Heading into the Princeton Sectional, TJ Silva had one tournament title to his credit during his initial season, and that came a week ago in the competitive Dixon Regional.

But there’s a reason why the Dakota freshman was ranked third in the class and he demonstrated that by knocking off a pair of ranked individuals in both the semifinals and finals to capture the championship at 132 after prevailing in a wild 9-8 victory over Riverdale junior Brock Smith, who was top-ranked and unbeaten in 44 matches. Following a series of reversals in the final period, Silva (32-6) prevailed to join Phoenix Blakely as one of Dakota’s two champions and he’s one of five individuals from the team who are going to state. Silva earned his spot in the finals following two falls, including one in the semifinals in 4:35 over Marian Central Catholic’s Vance Williams, who was ranked fifth.

“At Dakota, we always find the best competition, whether it’s 1A, 2A or 3A,” Silva said. “And I can’t ask for any better partners than Phoenix and Maddux Blakely and Tyler Simmer, they just always push me. It’s like a dream come true because I just get tough competition every single day. I was just really confident and took it match by match. And I just wrestled everybody my hardest and just took every match like it was a state championship finals. I just wrestled how I did and it was a good outcome.”

Smith, who finished fifth in the IHSA in 2020 and had won five tournament titles this season, followed a 6-3 quarterfinals win over Marengo junior Ethan Struck, who was ranked seventh, with a win by technical in the semifinals over another one of the qualifiers in the weight class, Oregon junior Lane Halverson. Smith was one of three individuals from Riverdale who advanced to the title mat and this will be his second trip to Champaign. 

Williams, a freshman who is 36-10, opened the tournament with a fall before getting pinned by Silva. But in the consolation semifinals, he won 4-2 by sudden victory over Struck (32-6) to qualify for state and followed with a 10-2 victory over Halverson for third place. Halvorson (30-9) responded to his semifinal loss to Smith with another dramatic win in the consolation semifinals, prevailing 9-7 by sudden victory over Newman Central Catholic freshman Daniel Kelly (38-12), who was ranked eighth, to earn his first state trip.

138 – Will Rude, Newman Central Catholic

While some injuries kept Will Rude off of the mat for much of the season, based on how he performed at the Princeton Sectional, he should be ready to challenge for another state championship when competes at the IHSA finals in Champaign.

The Newman Central Catholic senior, who’s ranked second, has a perfect 19-0 record on the season after beating a pair of ranked individuals in the semifinals and finals to capture top honors at 138. In the championship match, he claimed a 3-1 victory over Sandwich’s Evan Reilly, who was ranked sixth. And in the semifinals, he prevailed in a wild 9-8 match against Dakota’s Maddux Blakely, who was top-ranked at the weight. He opened the tournament with a first-period fall in his quarterfinals match. Rude’s who’s making his third to state, was an IWCOA champion last year. He’s one of four Comets who advanced to state and joins Brady Grennan as one of their two sectional champions.

“I’ve been injured for most of the season,” Rude said. “This is the first year that we’ve actually had numbers in our room and it’s been really nice to see everyone. We’re really filling up the room and we’re getting better together. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Reilly (31-4), a senior who won four tournament titles this season, qualified for the IWCOA finals last year and will be making his second state appearance. After capturing a 3-1 quarterfinals win over Lena-Winslow/Stockton senior Zach White, he earned his spot on the title mat with a 5-2 semifinals victory over Oregon junior Seth Stevens. Reilly was one of four state qualifiers and three finalists for his program.

Blakely (37-2), who’ll make his fourth state appearance, looks to finish better than he has thus far,where he finished third in the IHSA in 2020 and also at the IWCOA . His only previous defeat was to Moline’s Kole Brower in the Dvorak semifinals. He got a fall in the quarterfinals before being edged by Rude. After getting a 9-1 victory over White (31-15), he captured a 9-2 victory over Stevens for third place. Stevens (37-8), who’s ranked tenth and took fifth at the IWCOA, earned his second state trip after recording a fall in 5:59 in the consolation semifinals over Sherrard senior Austin Fratzke (42-7), who hoped to return to state for the first time since 2019.

145 – Garrett Luke, Lena-Winslow/Stockton

Garrett Luke only allowed two points during his final two matches in the Princeton Sectional, which is quite an accomplishment. But when you do that against two individuals who are ranked in the top-10, including one who was top-ranked, then you see that he has a great opportunity to improve upon his previous two state appearances.

What the third-ranked Lena-Winslow/Stockton junior did was beat Marian Central Catholic senior Nik Jimenez, who was top-ranked, 4-2 in the semifinals and then win 7-0 in the 145  finals over Harvard senior Ivan Rosas, who was ranked sixth. Luke (43-3) got his first win of the event by technical fall in the quarterfinals over Riverdale junior Eli Hinde, who was ranked tenth. While Luke looks to improve on his second-place finish at the IWCOA and third in the IHSA in 2020, Jimenez (29-6) failed to advance to state for the fourth time. A champion at the IWCOA and an IHSA runner-up in 2020, he lost 8-2 in the consolation semifinals to Erie/Prophetstown junior Jase Grunder, who was ranked ninth.

Rosas (32-7), who took sixth in the IWCOA last year, is state-bound for the second time. After claiming a 6-0 quarterfinal win over Sandwich’s Nolan Bobee, he captured a 5-3 victory in the semifinals over Dakota senior Tyler Simmer, who was ranked fifth. Rosas is one of the four qualifiers for Harvard, who tied Lena-Winslow/Stockton, Newman Central Catholic and Sandwich for the second-most number of qualifiers behind only Dakota.

Simmer (31-9), who edged Grunder 1-0 in the quarterfinals, bounced back from his semifinals loss to Rosas with a 7-4 victory over Hinde in the consolation semifinals and then went on to claim third-place with a 5-0 victory over Grunder. It’s the second state trip for Simmer, who took second at the IWCOA. Grunder (26-7), who will be one of three qualifiers for his co-op program, also competed at state in 2020. After falling in the quarterfinals, he recorded a fall and won a major decision to set up his match with Jimenez.

152- Collin Altensey, Riverdale

When you’ve accomplished something that only five others in the state have achieved at this point, it’s definitely time to take notice. And when it comes to winning consecutive matches this season, few have done it any better than Collin Altensey.

The Riverdale junior is one of six individuals that has 40 or more victories without any defeats. But as he saw at the sectional when teammate Brock Smith suffered his first loss after winning 44 matches in a row, when you have a streak like that, everyone wants to spoil your perfect season. The second-ranked individual at 152 brings a 43-0 record to state and hopes to perform like he did in the sectional where he had two wins by technical fall, with one in the semifinals over Johnsburg’s Logan Kirk, and then won the title in a tight match, by a 4-2 score, over Stillman Valley’s Jack Seacrest and now hopes to add four more wins in his second state trip, with the other in 2020, when he placed fifth.

“I came into it pretty confident and I knew that I was going to have a tough finals,” Altensey said. “I kind of knew how he wrestles and I know that he likes to throw, so I just kind of tied up his wrists and went for the low shots and it worked out. I went my freshman year and it was a super good experience and I took fifth. I’m just going to keep working harder and harder this week and hopefully I come out on top. It’s good to have so many good kids around my weight, because we just make everyone better at practice. I just work on what I like to do and just keep better and better at those things. I work on my strengths and my weaknesses.”

After hanging tough with Altensey, fourth-ranked Seacrist, a junior who is making his first state trip, hopes that his strong sectional showing where he followed a quick fall in the quarterfinals to record a win by fall in 7:18 in the semifinals over Sandwich senior Aidan Linden, who was ranked fifth, makes him ready for whatever he’ll see in Champaign.

Linden (43-5) hopes to go out with a bang in his initial state appearance. He earned the chance to join three of his teammates at the State Farm Center after opening with a win by technical and then bouncing back from the tough semifinal loss to Seacrist by winning 12-3 in the consolation wrestleback over Lena-Winslow/Stockton Jared Dvorak (38-11) and then he capped his tournament with a fall in 0:55 over Kirk (28-6), who’s ranked 10th and also is a senior who’s making his first state trip. The lone qualifier for Johnsburg, Kirk won a major decision in the quarterfinals and responded to his semifinal loss to Altensey with a 7-3 win over Marian Central Catholic sophomore Max Astacio (21-8).

160 – Marey Roby, Lena-Winslow/Stockton

After seeing teammate Garrett Luke get an impressive title win at 145 and anticipating that Griffin Luke might follow him with another championship effort at 170, Marey Roby had plenty of motivation to go out and turn in an inspired performance in the interim, and that’s just what the senior did in a clash of two of the state’s top-three at 160 pounds.

Third-ranked Roby improved to 32-6 when he prevailed in a 5-4 nailbiter against Riverdale junior Alex Watson, who was ranked second and had lost just one of his 44 matches. 

Roby, who placed fourth in his debut at state in 2020, assured himself of another trip to Champaign after opening with a 6-0 quarterfinal victory over Sherrard senior Dylan Russell and then he clinched his state ticket by recording a fall in 3:28 in the semifinals over Sandwich junior Bryce Decker to set up the dramatic matchup with Watson.

“There’s a lot of good competition in the wrestling room,” Roby said. “I’m just getting better on my feet and takedowns. I’m always the quickest guy when I’m wrestling, so I know that if I can get to my shots, it’s easy pickings from there. It’s my senior year, so it’s just a dream come true to be able to go back to state. The job’s not finished, I want to be on top of the podium on Saturday night. So I just have to keep working.”

Watson (43-2) had won four tournament titles and his lone loss came in the finals at the Geneseo Invite against Geneseo’s Anthony Montez, who’s second-ranked in 2A at 160. Watson recorded a fall in 5:44 in the quarterfinals over Oregon junior Gabe Eckerd (32-10), who was ranked seventh, and then claimed an 8-0 victory in the semifinals over Stillman Valley junior Aiden Livingston (25-3), who was sixth-ranked, to earn his trip to the title match against Roby.

Harvard senior Bailey Livdahl (36-9) had to take the hard route to claim third place. After falling 11-2 to Livingston in the quarterfinals, Livdahl recorded two falls, with the last one over Eckerd before he beat Becker 8-1 in the consolation semifinals to earn his initial trip to state as well as a spot in the third-place match.Livdahl recorded a fall in 4:56 over Livingston, who followed his semifinals setback to Watson by getting a pin in 3:18 over Plano senior Vincent Herbig (20-12) to earn his second state trip, with the other in 2020.

170 – Griffin Luke, Lena-Winslow/Stockton

When you’re in a program that is not only top-ranked in your class but also has won two of the last four dual team titles, it’s easy to get on a roll and that’s just what Griffin Luke and Lena-Winslow/Stockton did during a stretch that began lof title matches midway through the final round at the Princeton Sectional.

After Garrett Luke took top honors at 145 and Marey Roby added another title at 160, it was Griffin Luke’s time to shine in the 170 title match and the PatherHawks junior didn’t disappoint as he recorded a fall in 5:29 over Sandwich senior Samuel Dale in the finals at 170 to give his team a tie with Dakota for the most sectional titles won with three. Luke (44-3), who’s ranked third and took fourth in the IWCOA in his initial state appearance, earned his spot on the title match after needing just 32 seconds to record a fall in the quarterfinals and then followed that up with another pin in 3:28 in the semifinals match against Sherrard senior Ryder Roelf.

“All of our guys are kind of similar in weight, so we just push each other to work harder and do the best that we possibly can,” Luke said. “We’re not like big schools. Stockton with 150 kids and Lena with 150 kids so two schools with 300 kids combined. There’s all around support. Getting the chance to wrestle for such a great dream is a dream of mine. And coming out here and winning big tournaments like this and being able to go to state is a giant opportunity that you get to have when you’re on this team.”

Dale (25-11) is headed to the state finals for the first time and will be joined there by three others from his team after he earned his spot in the 170 finals by winning 7-2 over Dakota junior Garrett Vincent in the quarterfinals and following that with a 7-4 victory over Fulton junior Zane Pannell in the semifinals.

Panell (38-8) recorded a pair of falls, including one over Johnsburg senior Haden Lucas in the quarterfinals to earn his spot in the semifinals against Dale. In order to advance to state for the first time, Pannell needed to beat Newman Central Catholic junior Hunter Luyando in the consolation semifinals  and he did that with a fall in 2:44 to advance to the third-place match. That’s where he met Roelf (38-7), who recorded a fall in 3:44 over Lucas (25-11) to assure himself of a first state trip, and Pannell took third with a 10-4 win.

182 – Kayden White, Morrison

Like many others, Kayden White got a taste of state tournament competition last year when he competed in the IWCOA tournament, which was held since the IHSA was not going to have a postseason tournament. And although he didn’t place there, just getting the chance to take part in the event figured to benefit those who took part this season.

After defeating the state’s top-ranked individual at 182, Sandwich senior Alex Alfaro, by an 11-2 score in the sectional championship match, the Morrison senior, who’s ranked fifth, can go into his second state appearance feeling pretty good about his opportunity to not only make it to the awards stand in Champaign but also to place as high as possible.  White, who had won titles in all four of the tournaments that he’s competed in, opened his sectional trip with a fall in 4:56 in the quarterfinals over Wheaton Academy senior Hunter Kazmierczak and earned his spot on the title mat after capturing a 3-2 semifinals victory over Winnebago senior Mannix Faworski, who was ranked third.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to be winning these tournaments,” White said. “But I definitely want to perform at the big show and get the big-time IHSA bracket, that’s been what I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little kid. This is only part of the journey. Sectional champ is nice to hear, but I want to be a  state champ, that’s the end goal. I approached this year as I knew it was my last year so I was going to give it my all. I just want to put in as much work as possible and achieve the best that I can.”

Alfaro (41-2), who had won five-straight tournament titles since taking third place in Barrington’s Moore-Prettyman Tournament at the start of the season, where he suffered his only other loss in the quarterfinals  against Marmion Academy’s Jack Lesher, who’s ranked third in 3A. After recording a fall in 0:31 in Friday’s quarterfinals, the Sandwich senior assured himself of his first state finals appearance when he captured a 6-3 semifinals victory over Stillman Valley junior Andrew Forcier. He is one of four qualifiers on his team.

Faworski (35-2), who took fourth in the IWCOA meet, had only lost once before his tough semifinal setback to White. That happened early this season when he dropped a 1-0 decision to St. Charles North’s Drew Surges in the title match of Rockford East’s Giardini Invite. In order to get back to state, he needed to beat Harvard junior Gabe Sanchez (29-12), who was seeking his first state trip, but Faworski claimed a 7-0 win. After Forcier (31-11) fell in the semifinals to Alfaro, he needed a victory over Polo senior Wyatt Queckboerner (27-12), in a matchup of individuals seeking a first state trip, and Forcier captured an 8-1 decision to advance. Faworski defeated Forcier 7-4 for third place.

195 – Noah Wenzel, Dakota

When two of your losses are by one point and an ultimate tiebreaker, you want to win the close matches when they count, and that’s just Noah Wenzel did in the 195 sectional title match when he squared off with Lena-Winslow/Stockton senior Drew Mensendike, who also entered the finals match with three losses, including two to Wenzel.

But the third time didn’t prove to be the charm for Mensendike as Wenzel prevailed 4-2 to capture the sectional title and give his team their third title, which was the same amount that Lena-Winslow/Stockton finished with. Wenzel (37-3), who was ranked third advanced to his title matchup with fifth-ranked Mensendike after recording falls in his first two matches. After needing 3:18 to pin Marengo junior Eddie Solis in the quarterfinals, he got a fall in 1:37 over Genoa-Kingston junior Julian Torres in the semifinals. It was the third tournament title and fourth finals of the season for Wenzel, who placed fourth at last year’ IWCOA finals.

“You just have to focus on winning your next match and then winning the next,” Wenzel said. “It’s been alright, but I certainly wish that we had a lot more kids, especially in sectionals because there’s so much potential. Last year I placed fourth at the IWCOA because it was important to keep on wrestling.”

Mensendike (42-4), who had three tournament titles and four finals appearances entering the sectional, recorded a pair of falls in the same time, 1:40, in both his first-round and again in the quarterfinals against Plano junior Carnell Walls. Then in the semifinals, he captured a 3-1 victory over Harvard senior Nathan Rosas to assure his first state trip.

Rosas (39-4), who was ranked fourth, bounced back from his tough semifinals loss to record a fall in 5:08 over Erie/Prophetstown’s Andrew Bomleny (41-7) in the consolation semifinals to qualify for state for the third time and give him an opportunity to improve upon the fifth-place finishes that he’s had the past two seasons. Dixon senior Mitchell White (20-7), who was ranked sixth, responded to a 6-1 loss to Rosas in the quarterfinals and then got a pin, a 6-5 win over Walls and then a 9-0 triumph over Torres (30-13) to earn his first state appearance. Rosas claimed third place when he recorded a fall in 4:53 over White.

220 – Brock Wood, Richmond-Burton

After winning an IWCOA championship last year, more big things were expected from Brock Wood during his senior season. While limited by a hand injury that he suffered during the football season, he hasn’t been able to compete that much, but he still entered the Princeton Sectional as the top-ranked individual in the state at 220.

Competing in just his second tournament of the season, with the Harvard Regional being the other, the senior strung together three decisions to give him the sectional and advance him to state for the third-straight season. In the championship match at 220, Wood (14-0) captured a 7-3 victory over Sherrard junior Walker Anderson. Wood won 5-1 in the quarterfinals over Plano junior Andrew Harrelson and then earned his spot in the finals with an 8-5 semifinals victory over Dixon senior Justin Dallas. Richmond-Burton finished with three qualifiers, with freshman Emmett Nelson taking first at 113 to include the Rockets with four other teams that had two or more champions.

“In my sophomore year, I was a state qualifier and got hurt there,” Wood said. “And then to be ranked very high in the IWCOA tournament, it really taught me what big matches feel like. That helped me so much, being under the spotlight and getting my name out there. The IWCOA tournament was huge for me, just to be able to see for myself how I’ve grown in one year, which is incredible. I had surgery and that sidelined me for two months. It took a little bit to get my conditioning back, but I feel like now it’s pretty much all the way and I’m ready to make a push for the state title again.”

Anderson (37-4), who was unranked and had one tournament title, which came in the tough regional that Sherrard hosted, kicked off his strong sectional showing with a 7-0 quarterfinals victory over Lena-Winslow/Stockton junior Henry Engel before assuring his first trip to state after pulling out a dramatic 4-3 semifinals victory over Wheaton Academy senior Peter Johnnik (32-7). He was the top-finisher for his team and one of its two state qualifiers.

After falling to Wood in the semifinals, Dallas (22-5) earned his initial state appearance when he captured a 10-1 victory over Engel (41-7), who also was hoping to make his first state trip. On the other side of the consolation bracket, Morrison senior Nate Schaefer overcame a pin against Dallas in the quarterfinals by winning three-straight matches, which included a fall in 4:49 over Harrelson and then a 3-0 victory over Johanik (32-7), who was seeking his trip to state. Dixon got a fall over Schaefer in 1:47 to take third.

285 – Charlie Jagusah, Alleman

The Princeton Sectional finals started well for Alleman with senior Dalton Nimrick claiming a title at 106 to kick things off and it also ended well for the Pioneers as Charlie Jagusah continued to roll along as the top-ranked junior improved to 37-0 by claiming top honors at 285.

After recording a fall in 3:36 in the quarterfinals over Plano’s Alex Diaz and then needing just one second more to get a pin over Marengo senior Michael Macias in the semifinals, Jagusah drew an unlikely opponent in the finals, Mooseheart senior Joshua Gaye, who assured himself of being the school’s second state individual qualifier in its history. But the Alleman standout made sure that there would be no surprising story from the title mat as he recorded a fall in 2:50 to claim his fourth title of the season. After finishing fourth as a freshman in 2020, Jagusah didn’t compete in the IWCOA finals so he hopes that his second state trip lands him on top of the awards stand in Champaign.

“This was a tough sectional through every weight class, and nobody had it easy, at all,” Jagusah said. “IIn 1A wrestling, we’ll show up and we’ll compete with anybody, it doesn’t matter who it is. This year we have a young team with a lot of inexperienced guys, so with some of the good teams in our city, like Moline and Rocky and Geneseo, we just go out and try to find good competition. There’s kind of been ups and downs. I’m still winning every match, which is nice, but not everything has been perfect, especially in the last couple of weeks, where it’s just trying to refigure things out and i felt like everything today went pretty well,”

Gaye (7-1) entered the sectional with a 5-0 after winning the Sandwich Regional title. He was one of three individuals from his school who qualified for the sectional but the other two didn’t win any matches. Gaye won a 17-5 major decision over Rockridge senior Sam Buser in the quarterfinals and then assured himself of a trip to the state finals when he recorded a fall in 4:31 in the semifinals over Polo senior Daniel Engel.

Engel (23-3) responded to the semifinals loss by beating Plano junior Alex Diaz (25-7) in the consolation semifinals while Erie/Prophetstown senior Elijah Friedrichsen (44-6) overcame a fall to Engel in the quarterfinals by getting two falls and then assured his state trip with a 5-4 victory over Macias (37-6). Engel went to claim a 6-1 win for third.

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