Dixon captures Plano Reaper Classic

By Chris Walker for the IWCOA

Dixon only had a single individual champion during the 40th annual Reaper Classic at Plano, but that’s all the Dukes needed to win the team title on Saturday.

That’s because the Dukes were busy at the award stand all day long. While 215-pounder Will Howell was the team’s lone champion, he was just one of the 10 Dukes who were called up to the podium.

“We only had one champ so it shows you how much these other guys contributed to coming out with a win,” Dixon coach Micah Hey said. “It’s an individual sport but it adds to the team score and we had third place matches and fifth place matches and we even had beginning wrestlers that got wins (Dylan Bopes, 285) and another who got two wins (Konner Koehler, 157). And it came down to the very end, too.”

Dixon’s Ayden Rowley (113), Jayden Weidman (144) and Steven Kitzman (175) each advanced to the finals and placed second, while Jack Ragan (106) and Jacob Renkes (126) each prevailed in their respective third-place matches for the Dukes.

Riley Paredes (120) and Cade Hey (150) each placed fourth for the Dukes while Jayce Kastner (165) and Zack Clevenger (190) were fifth.

“I was proud of everybody,” Micah Hey said. “They’ve been working real hard and it feels like we’ve had some tough times getting to the top of some of these tournaments so it was nice to come out on top.”

There certainly was a great deal of parity among the teams this year with 11 of the 20 teams seeing one of its own wrestlers place first.

Since the Dukes had 10 wrestlers on the award stand they were able to edge Yorkville Christian, 204 to 192 for the team title. Last season, the Dukes finished in ninth place without producing a single champion although Owen Brooks took second at 182. Dixon had not recently appeared in the Reaper Classic prior to last year.

Gibson City-Melvin Sibley was third with 187, Chicago DeLaSalle was fourth with 167 and St. Rita was fifth with 151.5. 

The host Reapers were sixth with 132.5.

“It’s been a good season for us so far,” Plano coach Dwayne Love said. “Last year we were ninth and this year we’re sixth so we’re climbing that ladder, and we brought in some different teams this year.”

Caidan Ronning won at 150 for the Reapers while Prince Amakiri took second at 190, Trevion Gilford placed third at 144, his brother, Antoine Gilford, was fourth at 138 and Luis Ballesteros also was fourth at 157.

“The Gilford twins both wrestled well and Luis (Ballesteros) wrestled well at 157,” Love said. “(Amakiri) placed second and had a good tournament. Just a few little tweaks with him and he’s going to fare out very well for us. He’s so athletic.”

Other teams included Princeton (131.5), Hoopeston (106), Amboy (80.5), Oregon (62), Metea Valley (54), Sandwich (51), East Aurora (50), St. Francis (50), Marmion (46), Proviso East (31), Mendota (23), St Viator (22), Marian Catholic (21.5) and St. Edward (14).

Yorkville Christian and Hoopeston were the only schools to produce more than one champion. Aiden Larsen (113), Ty Edwards (132) and Robby Nelson (157) were champions for Yorkville Christian while Talen Grady-Nelson (126) and Angel Zamora (175) won for Hoopeston.

Yorkville Christian was shooting for its third straight Reaper Classic title, but fell just short. The Mustangs didn’t have representation at 106 and 126 and pushed Tyler Gleason up to 165.

“It’s disappointing, especially for the seniors who are leaving, and we wanted them to leave with a team trophy since we had won it back-to-back,” Mustangs coach Mike Vester said. “This is going to sting a little bit to them, but I hope it helps in the long run.”

Amboy, Dixon, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Oregon, Plano, Princeton, Sandwich, St. Francis and St. Rita each had one champion. Princeton’s Casey Etheridge had the most pins in the least time, sticking five opponents in 4:46, while Amboy’s Lucas Blanton’s 2 tech falls in 7:17 were tops in the tournament for most tech falls in the least time. Blanton’s 55 total match points were also the most in the tournament by any wrestler.

Yorkville Christian’s Robby Nelson had the most team points scored with 31, and East Aurora’s Joaquin Ramierez had the most single match points in the tournament with 22.

The wrestler who finished with the largest seed-place difference was St. Francis’ Jaylen Torres, who won the title at 285 after being seeded 13th.

“Plano puts on an awesome tournament,” Hey said. “It ran real well and I was happy with the outcome. A lot of tough competition.”

Reaper Classic championship match breakdowns:

106 – Augustus Swanson, Princeton

Swanson remained undefeated, completing his championship weekend with a 14-2 major decision over Chicago DeLaSalle’s Jeremiah Lawrence at 106.

Dixon’s Jack Ragan, who was one of six Dukes to finish in third place or better, won by fall over Hoopeston’s Charlie Flores for third place and Amboy’s Ty Florschuetz also won by fall, defeating East Aurora’s Xavier Sebastian for fifth place.

113 – Aiden Larsen, Yorkville Christian

Larsen, a two-time state medalist, needed just 19 seconds to earn his first win after opening with a bye. A forfeit sent him into the finals where he pinned Dixon’s Ayden Rowley in 1:21 to improve to 13-0 on the season.

St. Rita sophomore Jack Hogan won by fall over Oregon’s Nelson Benesh for third place at 113, and Chicago De La Salle senior Darren Oman took fifth place after Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley sophomore Gage Martin forfeited.

120 – Landon Blanton, Amboy

Blanton hasn’t slowed down after his breakthrough debut a season ago where he became the first Amboy freshman to advance to state. He was also the program’s first state qualifier since 2018. After his fantastic 43-11 debut, Blanton has opened the 2023-2024 campaign at 14-0 after a tech fall win before back-to-back pins. Blanton won by fall over Chicago De La Salle’s Anthony Trendle in the 120-pound title match.

Yorkville Christian sophomore Eli Foster earned a 9-4 sudden victory against Dixon’s Riley Paredes for third place at 120, and St. Rita’s Luke Pappalas prevailed by decision over Marian Catholic’s Chase Tankson for fifth place.

126 – Talan Grady-Nelson, Hoopeston

Grady-Nelson acknowledged that he was simply hoping to place again on Saturday after taking fourth in last year’s Reaper Classic.

He found himself situated in the top spot, pushing his undefeated mark to 8-0 after a win by fall over St. Rita’s Liam Quigley.

The title bout was a high-scoring battle before Grady-Nelson locked it down with a pin.

“I had a takedown in the first period and then I got into bad positioning and he got a reversal and back points off that,” Grady-Nelson explained. “And then in the second period he got another reversal and got back points again and then by that point it was 10-8 and there was a lot of scoring, and then I got a reversal. I was getting back (points) and then I held him back and pinned him.”

While Grady-Nelson believes he’s improved a lot even from last year, he’s looking to do much more.

“I didn’t really expect to come out here and win it,” he said. “I was hoping to place because I got fourth last year so I was trying to get better than I did last year. I think I’ve improved a lot. I like where I’m at but still feel like I’ve got a lot to improve on. I’ll stay in the wrestling room and keep improving.”

Jacob Renkes helped Dixon win the team title, picking up points in his win by decision over Princeton’s Kaydin Gibson for third, while Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Gabe Ward won by fall over Amboy’s Chase Montavon for fifth.

132 – Ty Edwards, Yorkville Christian

Edwards was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler after winning by fall over Marian Catholic’s Jeremiah Bolar, Chicago DeLaSalle’s Mario Perez and then St. Rita’s Nino Protti in the championship match at 132.

“I think the first day was good,” Edwards said. “I came out with heavy hands that’s what I was kind of focusing on, and been focusing on the past few weeks, and just getting to my offense. Today, the same thing and getting heavily physical. A few times the ref called me on it in the finals, but other than that it was a good tournament overall.”

Despite being named Most Outstanding Wrestler, Edwards showed humility, taking the time to point out a teammate’s success rather than continuing to talk about his own dominance.

Edwards offered praise for Eli Foster, who rallied for a sudden victory to win the 120 third place match against Dixon’s Riley Parades, who had won by a 9-2 decision over Foster in the quarterfinals.

“He went from losing to the Dixon kid to coming back the next time he wrestled him and beating him,” he said. 

Edwards improved to 14-0.

“I think now I’m a lot more physical than I was last year,” he said. “I was a little more lackadaisical with my hands. Now I’m just focusing on getting better.”

Chicago De La Salle’s Mario Perez defeated Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Hudson Babb by fall for third place at 132. In the fifth place match, Hoopeston’s Aiden Bell won by fall over St. Viator’s Caleb Jendras.

138 – Enzo Canali, St. Rita

After a hard fought 12-7 decision agains Princeton’s Ace Christiansen in the 138 semifinals, Canali earned a 5-0 decision over Yorkville Christian’s Grason Johnson to provide St. Rita with its lone title of the tournament. The Mustangs were one of 11 teams to at least produce a single champion in this year’s tournament.

Christiansen bounced back to defeat Plano’s Antoine Gilford by major decision in the third place match at 138 while Metea Valley’s Juan Arroyo took care of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Shawn Schlickman by fall in 17 seconds for fifth place.

144 – Miles Corder, Sandwich

Corder understands that injuries are a part of sports, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with, even when you’re on the other end of them and mentally distraught.

The Sandwich senior said he was pretty sure that Dixon junior Jayden Weidman dislocated his shoulder during the 144-pound title match, eerily taking him back to a similar situation several years ago that coincidentally occurred against Yorkville Christian’s Robby Nelson. who would end up being this year’s 157 champion.

“You don’t really move on,” Corder said after Weidman sustained his injury not even a minute into the action. “I don’t really move on. A similar thing happened in seventh or sixth grade year for regionals. Robby (Nelson), one of my friends from Yorkville Christian, dislocated his knee in the finals match. It’s happened quite a few times in my life to my opponents and I never want to hurt anyone in wrestling. It’s sports. My brother (freshman Cooper Corder) is out until the 27th (of December) because his knee is pretty jacked up.”

Injuries and illness limited the Indians from a participation standpoint this weekend as they only brought five wrestlers to Plano.

“Most of the team is out due to concussions and illnesses so we only brought five guys and three of us made it to the second day,” Corder said. “I think we’ve done pretty well so far this season.”

Plano’s Trevion Gilford won by major decision against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Corbin Ragle for third place and St. Francis freshman Chase Siguenza won by decision against Yorkville Christian’s Tiras Lombardo for fifth place.

150 – Caidan Ronning, Plano

If you’re looking for an example of a kid who works hard and also is committed to being a great teammate, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who excels like Ronning.

Ronning won by decision against St. Rita’s Nolan Keenan to become the first Plano wrestler to become a Reaper Classic champion in seven years. Nico Nunez was the last Reaper to win a title in the Reaper Classic, taking the top spot at 120 in 2016.

“I was having a conversation with him and he said he broke the curse, because we hadn’t had a (Plano) champion in a while,” Reapers coach Dwayne Love said. “He’s put in the work. He did a lot of summer work. He wrestled with us and he’s gone to a lot of tournaments too, so it’s paying off. And he’s a kid that it’s just awesome to see him achieve like this. He’s a team captain. He leads the kids and they all rally behind him.”

He’s a really good wrestler who has become a great leader as well.

“He’s done a good job of maturing into that role,” Love said. “He’s a good student and just keeps achieving, and he’s good to have around he’s good for the program. I don’t know what else to say about him.”

Ronning recorded three pins before earning a 12-5 win over St. Rita’s Nolan Keenan in the 150-pound championship.

“I’ve been working all off-season, I put all my time into getting ready for this,” Ronning said. “I think I just wanted it more than he did. Coming into that he looked tired and was hanging his head right off the bat. He knew what he was doing. He’s a good kid, but I think he was too tired from the long day. A two-day tournament is long for everyone.”

Yorkville Christian’s John ‘Isaac’ Grady won by fall over Dixon’s Cade Hey for third place at 150 while Chicago De La Salle’s Patrick Young won by fall over Metea Valley’s Austin Wadas-Luis.

157 – Robby Nelson, Yorkville Christian

Nelson was a busy kid, wrestling four matches to earn his championship. After opening his competition with a major decision win, Nelson won by fall in his final three matches, including over Chicago DeLaSalle’s Nicholas Arvetis in the 157 final.

Nelson improved to 12-1.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Carson Maxey won by major decision against Plano’s Luis Ballesteros for third place at 157, and Princeton senior Preston Arkels took fifth place after Sandwich senior Sy Smith succumbed to an injury and couldn’t compete.

165 – Anthony Bauer, Oregon

Bauer hasn’t forgotten about what happened at the Reaper Classic a year ago.

Wrestling at 160, Bauer found himself on the wrong end of a 15-1 major decision to Yorkville Christian’s Tyler Martinez who went on to take third place in Class 1A last February.

“I came in here expecting to win,” Bauer said. “Last year I was in the finals and got pretty messed up by Tyler Martinez (now wrestling at NIU). So that kind of pushed me to get the plaque.”

Bauer opened the tournament the same way he finished it – with a pin.

After beating Mendota’s Reyli Sandoval in his opening bout, Bauer won by major decision over Princeton’s Casey Etheridge before edging Hoopeston’s Ayden Larkin to get to the finals where he won by fall over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Cooper Miller.

“I like to use my losses as lessons to push me to strive to do better and to work on different types of positions,” he said. “I may have won a match but been weak in that position so I try to work on little things to get better.”

He’s certainly grown emotionally.

“I’ve grown the most in controlling how I wrestle,” he said. “I’ve been angry and have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder but now I’m able to control it. Last year I’d let my emotions get out  of hand, but this year I’m a lot better.”

Princeton sophomore Casey Etheridge won by fall against Hoopeston’s Ayden Larkin for third at 165 while Dixon’s Jayce Kastner also won by fall to secure fifth place, defeating Marmion’s Anthony Haddad.

175 – Angel Zamora, Hoopeston

Zamora took home the title at 175 after Dixon’s Steven Kitzman suffered an injury and could not compete.

Chicago DeLaSalle’s Josue Hernandez earned a hard fought 3-2 win over Amboy’s Lucas Blanton for third place at 175 while Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Lincoln Eastin beat Sandwich’s Kaden Clevenger by major decision on the fifth-place mat.

190 – Aiden Sancken, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley

Sancken pulled away late from Plano’s Prince Amakiri to earn a 14-8 decision to win at 190.

Leading 9-8, Sancken finished the bout scoring five straight points to improve to 8-0.

“I feel like it all starts in the practice room,” Sancken said. “Our coach always says it doesn’t matter if you’re down, getting pinned, your 0 to 14, it doesn’t matter, keep wrestling. I try to learn something from every match and I feel like that kind of pulled me through in the end. I kept thinking ‘keep wrestling, something is going to happen, one move could change it all’ and that’s what ended up happening.”

Going against a Plano kid who was wrestling in the comfy, familiar environs of his own gym helped fuel Sancken onward to victory.

“I feel like it fired me up that this is his home gym,” Sancken said. “He was going to have an edge but that’s nothing that matters to me. It’s just another wrestling match. I’m really happy with how I’ve wrestled. I haven’t had that many matches coming in here and winning this is big.”

Marmion freshman Luke Boersma won by fall over Chicago De La Salle junior Terrelle Jackson to claim third place while Dixon’s Zach Clevenger won bv decision against Yorkville Christian freshman Hayden Wheeler on the fifth-place mat.

215 – Will Howell, Dixon

Where there’s a will there’s a way and Dixon found a way to win the team title despite only having Will Howell crowned as a champion this year.

“We’re all super excited because we haven’t done it forever,” he said. “That was big. And this was big for us. We’re all super excited because we haven’t won this in forever. I think last year we placed tenth or maybe eighth or somewhere around there.”

Throwing proved to be key for Howell who won by decision over East Aurora’s Arnold Walker at 215.

“Most of my competition is usually a lot bigger than me because I’m a smaller 215,” Howell said. “I’m like 198 pounds so it’s pretty tough. So my goal was to get some throws in and just to try to stay on point and not get thrown myself.”

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Gavin Johnson won by fall against Princeton’s Ian Morris to win the third place match at 215. For fifth place, Proviso East’s Edward Love won by fall over Amboy’s Evan Flanagan.

285 – Jaylen Torres, St. Francis

Torres has been preoccupied with football, helping the Spartans to a lengthy post-season run in the Class 5A playoffs that ended in the state semifinals.

“This was my first time wrestling since football so I’m just getting back into it,” he said. “It’s been difficult the first couple matches but I feel like I’m getting back into it now. This is my 12th year wrestling so I’ve been doing this since I’ve been young.”

Still just a sophomore, Torres is now a two-time Reaper Classic champion. He won by fall over Yorkville Christian’s Garrett Tunnell after edging Chicago DeLaSalle’s David McCarthy on a tie breaker in the semifinals.

“I’ve just been doing what I’ve been practicing the whole week,” Torres said. “I’m going to take more shots this year. Last year I really didn’t take any shots.”

Torres, who beat Plano’s Alex Diaz, in last year’s final, joins Swanson, Blanton and Edwards as wrestlers who won titles last season who duplicated the feat again this year.

Swanson repeated at 106 while Blanton won at 113 last year and 120 this year while Edwards was the 132 champ after winning at 120 last December.

McCarthy won by fall for third place over Mendota’s Angil Serrano and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley’s Cohen Kean won by fall for fifth against Metea Valley’s Brady Jones.

Championship matches for the 40th annual Reaper Classic

106 – Augustus Swanson (Princeton) MD 14-2 Jeremiah Lawrence Chicago DeLaSalle)

113 – Aiden Larsen (Yorkville Christian) F 1:21 Ayden Rowley (Dixon)

120 – Landon Blanton (Amboy) F 3:21 Anthony Trendle (Chicago DeLaSalle)

126 – Talan Grady-Nelson (Hoopeston) F 3:58 Liam Quigley (St. Rita)

132 – Ty Edwards (Yorkville Christian) F 3:12 Nino Protti (St. Rita)

138 – Enzo Canali (St. Rita) D 5-0 Grason Johnson (Yorkville Christian)

144 – Miles Corder (Sandwich) Inj. 0:54 Jayden Weidman (Dixon)

150 – Caidan Ronning (Plano) D 12-5 Nolan Keenan (St. Rita)

157 – Robby Nelson (Yorkville Christian) F 3:30 Nicholas Arvetis (Chicago DeLaSalle)

165 – Anthony Bauer (Oregon) F 1:52 Cooper Miller (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley)

175 – Angel Zamora (Hoopeston) Inj 0:00 Steven Kitzman (Dixon)

190 – Aiden Sancken (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) D 14-8 Prince Amakiri (Plano)

215 – Will Howell (Dixon) D 15-8 Arnold Walker (East Aurora)

285 – Jaylen Torres (St. Francis) F 2:00 Garrett Tunnell (Yorkville Christian)

Final scores: 1. Dixon (204) 2. Yorkville Christian (192) 3. GC-Melvin-Sibley (187) 4. De La Salle (167) 5. St. Rita (151.5) 6. Plano (132.5) 7. Princeton (131.5) 8. Hoopeston (106) 9. Amboy  (80.5) 10. Oregon (62) 11. Metea Valley (54) 12. Sandwich (51) 13. East Aurora (50) 14. St. Francis (50) 15. Marmion Academy (46) 16. Proviso East (31) 17. Mendota (23) 18. St. Viator (22) 19. Marian Catholic (21.5)  20. St. Edward (14)

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