Ruzic, Wenzel, Tieffel lead the way at the IHSA Class 1A Individual State Finals 

By Curt Herron – for the IWCOAThe 2024 IHSA Class 1A Individual State Finals will certainly be one to remember because of the great stories that played out during the three days of intense competition at the State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign. 

There were two three-time champions who were four-time medalists in Auburn’s Joey Ruzic and Dakota’s Noah Wenzel and there was a two-time champion, three-time finalist and four-time medal winner in Benton’s Mason Tieffel. They each left a great legacy for their programs that will be the envy of future athletes at those schools for years to come.

Wenzel and Ruzic were three-time IHSA champions, joining St. Charles East’s Ben Davino and Jayden Colon, Joliet Catholic Academy’s Dillan Johnson and Mount Carmel’s Seth Mendoza in that exclusive club. In addition, Tieffel, Ruzic and Wenzel were three of the 14 individuals who have competed in a title match in each of the last three IHSA Individual Finals in Champaign.

Also, the annual regular feature of the Finals, seniors who put it all together at the right time and close out their high school careers as champions even though they haven’t placed before because they believed that they could be state champions, such as was the case with Olympia’s Bentley Wise and Manteno’s Carter Watkins.

And there is the other great tradition of the juniors that have been accomplishing a lot of good things who put it all together and become state champions, which significantly changes the way that others see them from previously being one of the state’s better individuals to becoming the best in Illinois such as Rockridge’s Jude Finch, Illini Bluffs’ Jackson Carroll, Coal City’s Landin Benson and Unity’s Hunter Eastin.

In addition, there were two juniors who found the right setting with new teammates and coaches that helped move them up on the awards stand to become champions, as was the case for Marian Central Catholic’s Brayden Teunissen and Althoff Catholic’s Jason Dowell.

And in another common theme that occurs each year at the Finals, there were three freshmen who made a great first impression in Champaign by winning titles, Johnsburg’s Eric Bush, Carlyle’s Preston Waughtel and Marian Central Catholic’s Jimmy Mastny.

Obviously, there’s also the sad stories of accomplished seniors who didn’t make it to the awards stand one last time, and those who fell short for the second time on the championship mat or individuals who entered with outstanding records and then lost as many or even more matches at state than they had suffered up to that point.

With 12 of the championship matches being decisions and nine of those determined by three points or less, there were obviously a lot of tales of woe and reflection on what may have been if only this, that, or the other thing had gone a bit differently.

Carlyle junior Tyson Waughtel lost in sudden victory to fall just short of a third-straight title and an unbeaten season and also missed out on sharing a title win with his brother, Preston, while Herrin senior Blue Bishop and Tremont junior Bowden Delaney suffered two-point defeats on the title mat to finish with the same number of losses in Champaign as they had during the rest of their season.

The High School of Saint Thomas More senior Brody Cuppernell and Marian Central Catholic junior Vance Williams both lost three-point decisions to settle for second-place finishes for the second year in a row.

Unity junior Kaden Inman, St. Francis sophomore Jaylen Torres and Vandalia freshman Max Philpot all were either in the lead or within one point of their opponent in the late going before falling just short on the title mat.

In another disappointing set of circumstances, Oakwood/Salt Fork senior Bryson Capansky not only fell in the championship match but also lost in the dual team sectional as his team just missed out on making a return trip to the IHSA Dual Team Finals, where they took fourth place and won their first trophy last season.

Despite their disappointment, the good news for Peoria Notre Dame junior Ian Akers, East Alton-Wood River junior Drake Champlin, Coal City sophomore Brody Widlowski, Vandalia sophomore Dillon Hinton and Lena-Winslow/Stockton sophomore Eli Larson, in addition to those mentioned earlier, is that all of them still have one or two more opportunities to be a state champion. 

But winners and losers in the title matches are not the only stories of the IHSA Individual Finals. Two other champions from a year ago, Marian Central Catholic senior Anthony Alanis and Riverdale sophomore Dean Wainwright, had to settle for third-place finishes.

And there was also the disappointments suffered by two individuals who had placed second in both 2023 and 2022. Illini Bluffs senior Hunter Robbins fell one win shy of a medal and Richmond-Burton junior Emmett Nelson wasn’t feeling well and did his best to take sixth place to claim a third medal.

Two seniors who had won medals for four-straight years, Farmington’s Keygan Jennings and Newman Central Catholic’s Brady Grennan, and two that won state medals the last three years, Harrisburg’s Tony Keene and Newman Central Catholic’s Carter Rude, not only didn’t win titles in their final seasons, they failed to get to the Grand March, though Jennings and Rude did get that opportunity a year ago.

Fortunately, there were a lot more good stories to tell than bad ones. Among those were Unity Christian sophomore brothers Clinton and Garrett VerHeecke both getting medals for the second year in a row. And there was history made by two seniors who were on co-op teams, Oblong/Hutsonville/Palestine’s Ian Rosborough and Red Bud/Valmeyer’s Ty Carter, who both became the first medalists for their programs.

Fifty schools had all-state competitors, with the reward being a medal for a top-six finish. Class 1A champion Marian Central Catholic led the way with six and Class 1A runner-up Coal City was next with five. Roxana, which took third place and Vandalia, who took fourth place, both had three medal winners. Others who had three all-staters were De La Salle Institute, Newman Central Catholic, Oakwood/Salt Fork, Olympia, Princeton and Unity. Nine schools had two medalists, Benton, Carlyle, Chicago Hope Academy, Hoopeston Area, Illini Bluffs, Murphysboro, Riverdale, Rockridge and Unity Christian.

Here’s a look at the 2024 IHSA Class 1A Individual Finals, with the weight classes listed in the same order that they were conducted at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

132 – Jude Finch, Rockridge

Even though the 132 weight class featured four individuals who had won multiple state medals and were hoping that their third or fourth state appearances would finally result in a title, a first-time medalist in 2023 who didn’t win a tournament until the final weeks of the regular season emerged as the state champion after beating two of the multiple medal winners late in the season and the other two in Champaign. In the 132 title match, Rockridge junior Jude Finch took a 5-2 lead over Marian Central Catholic junior Vance Williams with a takedown with 1:06 left and went on to claim a 7-4 victory to cap a 43-6 season. Finch, a three-time qualifier who took third place at 126 a year ago, became the eighth individual from Rockridge to win a state title and its first since Dallas Krueger and Nolan Throne were both champions in 2020. After opening with a fall in 1:40 over Clifton Central senior Kayden Cody (25-12), Finch won 9-2 in the quarterfinals over a two-time medalist, St. Joseph-Ogden’s Holden Brazelton, and reached the title mat with a 4-2 victory over Richland County’s Carson Bissey. Late in the season, Finch, one of the two medalists and three qualifiers for coach Lucas Smith’s Rockets, showed that he could win close matches against seniors who were three-time medalists when he won 3-2 over Farmington’s Keygan Jennings for first at Orion’s Bob Mitton Invitational and claimed a 2-1 victory over Newman Central Catholic’s Brady Grennan to win the title of the Fulton Regional.

“I got it done,” Finch said. “I figured it out and I wrestled my butt off and did what I wanted to do the whole year and I accomplished it and I’m proud. I worked my butt off every day at practice, I didn’t take one day off and I was going, going, going, no matter what. I’ve got wonderful coaches, they get done what needs to get done, they’re the best. I took losses, but I bounced back, you’ve got to keep wrestling. I was down, but I kept wrestling all six minutes of the match, 

no matter what. It feels great, you know it.”

Williams (44-9),  who took second at 132 a year ago and fourth at 132 in 2022, followed a fall with a 6-2 decision over Roxana’s Brandon Green Jr. before earning his spot on the title mat with an 8-0 major decision over Jennings. Williams was one of six qualifiers and three finalists for the Hurricanes, who won their first IHSA Dual Team title one week later when they beat defending champion Coal City 34-27 in Bloomington. Grennan (46-5), who took fifth at 126 a year ago and placed third at 120 in 2022 and also was third at 113 in 2021 at the IWCOA Finals, lost to Bissey by a tiebreaker 6-3 in the quarterfinals and had to beat Oakwood/Salt Fork junior Pedro Rangel (45-7), Brazelton and Jennings in the wrestlebacks before winning 5-1 over Bissey to claim third place for the third time. Bissey (48-3) took fourth at 126 in 2022 to become his first school’s first medal winner, but didn’t compete in the 2023 postseason because he failed to make weight in the regional. Roxana sophomore Brandon Green, Jr. (46-6) claimed his first medal and won 7-5 in sudden victory over Jennings in the fifth-place match to become of three medalists for the Shells, who took third at Dual Team state. Jennings (42-7) was second last season at 113 after taking sixth at 113 in 2022 and fifth at 106 in the IWCOA. Brazelton (47-3), a junior who took third at 132 a year ago and sixth at 120 in 2022, had two wins by technical fall but came up one win shy of a third medal. Lena-Winslow/Stockton sophomore Arrison Bauer (41-13) also fell one win short of his first medal.

“I’ve always wanted to wrestle in college and my coaches have told me that I’m good enough, so this is just practice and it can get me to the next level,” Bissey said. “I was fourth in 2022 and last year at regionals, I missed weight by .3 pounds. So I took that personally and I just got better and that’s not happening again. It feels great (to place again) but I can’t let it get to me, I need to get better and I want to come back next year stronger than ever.”

138 – Mason Tieffel, Benton

When future discussions about who some of the most important athletes have been who helped to raise the bar in a significant way for wrestling in southern Illinois, Mason Tieffel certainly needs to be mentioned. The Benton senior capped an impressive career in which he won state titles as a junior and senior after taking second as a sophomore and third at the IWCOA Finals in 2021. Tieffel was one of 14 individuals who competed in championship matches in each of the past three seasons. He capped a dominant unbeaten season with an 18-6 major decision over Vandalia’s Dillon Hinton in the Class 1A 138 title match. He opened with a fall in 3:00 over Riverdale junior Kolton Kruse (38-16), followed that with a pin in 2:17 over Illini Bluffs’ Ian O’Connor in the quarterfinals and got a fall in 2:49 over Sandwich’s Cooper Corder in the semifinals. Tieffel, who finished 56-0 after winning his final match on Tuesday in Benton when his team fell to Vandalia in the dual team sectional, went 52-2 and was also a state champion at 138 a year ago after going 47-5 and taking second place at 126 in 2022 and also went 33-1 to finish third at 120 in 2021, giving him a career record of 188-8. His only losses in state tournament competition were to Dakota’s four-time champion Phoenix Blakely in the title match in 2022 and to Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Garrett Luke in the semifinals in 2021. Tieffel became Benton’s first two-time champion, three-time finalist and four-time medal winner. He won six other tournament titles this season, taking firsts at Civic Memorial’s Bradley, Unity, Carbondale’s Murdale, Goreville/Vienna’s Blackcat Brawl, the Herrin Regional and the Vandalia Sectional, He also beat Hinton in two other title matches by major decision, at Civic Memorial and the sectional.

“It’s been a really fun season,” Tieffel said. “This is what I’ve wanted since I did it last year. I’ve done a really good job this year and I’ve just kept working hard trying to get better and working as hard as I can in every match. And my team has been doing a great job this year and it’s just been really exciting. The target’s on your back, so you just have to keep working harder. I was confident since I put in the work this offseason and this season. The coaches have been great for me and the team has done a really good job this season. It’s been really exciting having a team behind me and they’ve all worked hard this season, so they deserve it, too. Everybody in Benton, the whole town has been really good to me and the coaches have been great and the team is amazing. Every kid on the team works hard in practice and they’ve pushed me and they do whatever I need to do to help me reach my goals, so it was really nice having them all.”

“He’s had a great career and it’s something that he’s worked his whole life for,” Benton coach Aaron Robinson said. “Every good thing that’s happened to him, he’s earned it. We’re moving in the right direction and he’s a big part of that. Having a guy like him in the room kind of ups the game for everyone else. Our kids are homegrown kids, they’re from Benton. We’ve got some kids that are coming through that are going to make some noise in the next few years.”

Hinton (46-4), a sophomore who went 46-7 last year and placed fifth at 132, was hoping that he or freshman teammate Max Philpot at 106 might become the fifth individuals from Vandalia to win a state title and the first since Jarek Wehrle in 2021 at the IWCOA Finals. Although both were thwarted, they were the top finishers for coach Jason Clay’s Vandals, who had three medal winners and one week later finished fourth at the IHSA Dual Team Finals. Hinton opened with a fall in 3:13 over Marian Central Catholic junior Andrew Alvarado (34-14), who placed fifth at 113 in 2023. After edging Mercer County’s Ethan Monson 5-2 in the quarterfinals, Hinton earned his spot on the 138 title mat with an 8-2 decision over Princeton junior Ace Christiansen (39-7), who responded to that setback with two close decisions to take third place. After edging O’Connor 3-1 in sudden victory, Christiansen, one of three medal winners for 2020 IWCOA Hall of Famer coach Steve Amy’s Tigers, beat Corder 5-4 in an ultimate tiebreaker to claim third place. Corder (35-5), a freshman who was the lone medalist for Sandwich, earned his spot in the third-place match after beating Dwight’s Dylan Crouch 7-3 in the semifinal wrestlebacks. Crouch (49-3), a junior, went on to take fifth place with a 5-3 victory over Illini Bluffs senior Ian O’Connor (48-10), who joined his father and coach, Shawn (fourth at 98 in 1987), as medalists for the program at the Glasford school that was started and coached for 35 years by his grandfather Pat O’Connor, a 2009 recipient of the Lifetime Service Award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – Illinois Chapter. Falling one shy of a medal were Mercer County senior Ethan Monson (46-6), who took fourth at 120 in 2022 fourth at 106 inn the IWCOA in 2021, and Coal City sophomore Mason Garner (37-6).

“I think everybody’s done their best and that’s all that me and coach could ask of them,” Hinton said. “I think it’s really cool for me to be able to do all of this stuff. And there’s always next year. I think that our team is definitely able to do anything that we put our minds to.”

“It’s a big deal because there are bigger schools that bring a lot of guys here and we get three kids in the semis and only brought four,” Christiansen said. “We have awesome coaches and they push us to be our best and I think that helps you out in times like when you’re in double overtime. This feels amazing.”  

144 – Jackson Carroll, Illini Bluffs

After going 47-8 last season but falling one win shy of a medal at 138 to miss out on joining 145 state champion Paul Ishikawa and 106 runner-up Hunter Robbins as medalists for Illini Bluffs, Jackson Carroll was determined that he not only wouldn’t be denied of making it to the awards stand this year, but that he also would follow in two-time champion Ishikawa’s footsteps and win a title. And after capturing close decisions in the quarterfinals and semifinals, the Tigers junior got a late takedown to edge Unity’s Kaden Inman 8-7 in the 144 title match to become the fifth individual from his school to become a state champion. He was one of two medalists for coach Shawn O’Connor’s Tigers, with the coach’s senior son Ian taking sixth at 138. But there was also disappointment for Illini Bluffs as senior Robbins, a two-time finalist, was unable to win a third medal at 113. The state title match was much different than Carroll and Inman’s matchup one week earlier in the Olympia Sectional finals where Carroll captured a 14-5 major decision. Carroll, who finished 51-2, opened with a fall in 1:49 over Frankfort Community freshman Lucas Parker (35-19) and followed that with a 5-2 decision over DeKalb’s Miles Corder. He reached the title mat with a 12-7 decision over Murphysboro’s Bryce Edwards. Carroll won five other tournaments this season, Illinois Bluffs, LeRoy Bowman, Quincy Notre Dame, the Knoxville Regional and the Olympia Sectional. His lone losses were in tournament finals to Newman Central Catholic’s Carter Rude at Erie/Prophetstown and the Lyle King Princeton Invitational.

“I’ve worked for this my entire life,” Carroll said. “I knew it was close, but I actually didn’t know what the score was at the time, I just knew that I needed a takedown. The philosophy is to just score more points than the other guy. My community is absolutely amazing. There were people in the front section and that was our basketball team, and I expect them to win state, too. That’s just how close our community is. Small school, big dream, that’s how everyone in the school is. The kids I work with, I think we have the best practice room in the state.”

Inman (44-8), a junior who was one of two finalists and three medalists for coach Logan Patton’s Unity Rockets. His classmate, Hunter Eastin (47-6), became the Tolono school’s sixth individual to win a state title when he beat the High School of Saint Thomas More’s Brody Cuppernell 5-2 in the 190 finals. Inman won a 14-4 major decision over Cumberland sophomore Owen McGinnis (44-7) in his opener and then captured a 7-1 victory over Richmond-Burton’s Emmett Nelson. Inman earned his spot on the 144 title mat in dramatic fashion as he prevailed 3-2 by ultimate tiebreaker over Rude in the semifinals. Unity’s season lasted another week as it qualified again for the IHSA Dual Team Finals. Chicago Hope Academy senior Santiago Chapparo (50-3) surprised many by placing third with a 7-1 win over Edwards. Chapparo, a native of Columbia who was familiar with freestyle but not folkstyle when he started training at Beat The Streets and then joined coach Dan Willis’ Eagles, was one of his two medalists for his team after falling 3-1 to Nelson in his opener before winning his next five matches, with the first four of those being by two points or less. Edwards (46-9), a junior, was one of two semifinalists and medalists for Murphysboro. Rude (45-3), a senior who took second last year at 138 and placed sixth at 126 in 2022, fell 6-5 by ultimate tiebreaker in the semifinal wrestleback to Chaparro to compete for fifth place, which he won by medical forfeit over Richmond-Burton junior Emmett Nelson (48-3), a runner-up at 126 last year and at 113 in 2022, who was unbeaten heading into the Byron Sectional but was unable to perform in his usual fashion due to an illness. However, he toughed it out to qualify again and also to place for a third time.

“I trusted myself and knew that if I wrestled my hardest, that I could make it, and hopefully get a chance at winning it,” Inman said.” I think I wrestled my best and there was a few seconds on clock when I got scored off of, so I was right there. Thirteen seconds and I would have won, so it was close. (Hunter Eastin taking first) It definitely eases the loss, I’m proud of Hunter, me and him worked very hard. He accomplished his goal and I just fell a little short.  

“After I lost in the first round, I was nervous and confused and I kind of felt down on myself as if I wasn’t good at wrestling,” Chaparro said, through translation by teammate Ismael Montero. “I want to thank coach Willis because told me to stay loose and stay focused because it didn’t matter that I lost as long as I kept pushing to win the next ones. In Columbia, it’s mostly all Freestyle, so coming here I had to learn the new rules. The competition here is really crazy and everyone is so talented.”

150 – Bentley Wise, Olympia

Heading into the postseason, Bentley Wise was enjoying a successful season but with one just tournament title, he was just another good individual who would be trying to get to state for the first time and maybe placing while two-time qualifiers and two-time medal winners looked to be more likely to win the 150 title. But following his championship at one of the state’s toughest regionals, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, the Olympia senior was confident that he was going to finish on a high note at state, even though he had come up one win shy of trips to the state finals in each of the past two seasons. Two weeks later, Wise indeed appears to have been very realistic about his prospects since he not only won the title at his own Olympia Sectional to earn his first trip to the IHSA Finals but he also wound up taking top honors in Champaign. Wise capped a 44-8 season by claiming a 5-3 decision in the 150 championship over Herrin senior Blue Bishop, who was the favorite at the weight and reached the title mat with a 46-1 record. After Bishop took a 3-2 lead with a nearfall, Wise answered with an escape and takedown and then hung on to become the fourth individual from his school to win a state title and the first since 2001, when his coach, Josh Collins, followed a Class A title win at 112 in 2000 with a second championship at 125. Wise, whose other title was at Unity in mid-December, was one of three medal winners for the Spartans, who finished ranked among the state’s top 10 teams. He won by technical fall in 3:51 over Nazareth Academy senior  Andrew Fowler (28-14) in his state debut, followed with a 9-2 decision over Wheaton Academy’s Chasen Kazmierczak and then won a 13-4 major decision over Oakwood/Salt Fork’s Grant Brewer in the semifinals.

“Being here was amazing,”  Wise said. “My goal was to make it to state, everything else was just calm, and it just kept going up and up, I wouldn’t stop. (Coach Josh Collins as the last champion) “It’s awesome, I love it.”

Bishop (46-2), who was hoping to become the first state champion for the Tigers, joins Jake Holliday (2006-2008) as the only three-time medalists for the school. Bishop took fourth place last year at 145 and was sixth at 132 in 2022. He had won all five of his Illinois tournaments, Lawrence County, Cumberland’s Skull and Crossbones, Carbondale’s Murdale, the Herrin Regional and the Vandalia Sectional, and had been unbeaten against Illinois competitors, with his only other loss being by a 4-2 score to Evansville North, IN’s Cale Bonenberger in the finals at the Johnston Invitational in Paducah, Kentucky. Bishop, the,lone qualifier for coach Kelsey Lewis’ Tigers, followed an 8-0 major decision over Byron freshman Brody Stien (33-16) with a 3-1 quarterfinal win over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Carson Maxey before earning his trip to the 150 title mat with a 6-4 decision over Riverdale’s Blake Smith in the semifinals.

“I’m pretty proud of all the things that I’ve accomplished,” Bishop said. “It was frustrating falling short today but at the end of the day, you just have to keep pushing. I want to give a shout out for PSF Wrestling, it’s a great group.”

Smith (50-3), a junior, won his first medal and joined Dean Wainwright (third at 120) as the Rams’ two placewinners. After getting edged by Bishop, Smith defeated Coal City’s Brant Widlowski 8-2 before winning 9-2 over Maxey in the third-place match. Riverdale kept its season going for another week by qualifying for its first trip to the IHSA Dual Team Finals since 2007. Maxey (40-10), a senior, was the lone medal winner for the Falcons, who were also one of the state’s top-ranked teams. Widlowski (47-5), a senior who took fifth at 120 in 2022 and sixth at 106 in 2021 at the IWCOA Finals, took fifth place with a fall in 5:37 over Oakwood/Salt Fork senior Grant Brewer (41-6), who also won his first state medal. Widlowski was one of five medalists for the Coalers, who finished second in Class 1A while Brewer was one of three medal winners for the Comets. Falling one victory shy of winning their first state medals were Wheaton Academy junior Chasen Kazmierczak (39-9) and Roxana senior Braden Johnson (35-9).

157 – Jimmy Mastny, Marian Central Catholic

Since there’s no team scoring at the IHSA Finals, determining who had the most team points might usually require some calculation. But there was no need to do that to figure out who was the most dominant Class 1A champion since Jimmy Mastny won all four of his matches by fall while Mason Tieffel won his first three with pins before claiming his second title with a major decision. The Marian Central Catholic freshman joined junior Brayden Teunissen (120) as one of the two champions, three finalists and six medal winners for the Hurricanes, the eventual Class 1A champions, who are coached by Jordan Blanton and Ryan Prater. Mastny and Teunissen are the fifth and sixth individuals from the school to win titles with the others Dylan Connell (2018 to 2020 in 2A, 2021 in IWCOA 2A), Elon Rodriguez (2021 in IWCOA 2A), Nik Jimenez (2021 in IWCOA 2A) and Rich Powers (1986 and 1987 in A). Mastny and Connell both won titles as freshmen. On a day where 12 of the title matches were decisions, including nine which were decided by three points or less, Mastny recorded the lone fall while Benton senior Tieffel had the other outcome, a win by major decision. Mastny wrapped up his impressive debut state finals with a 28-1 record and capped things with a fall in 3:23 over Oakwood/Salt Fork’s Bryson Capansky in the 157 title match. After opening with a fall in 1:20 over Shelbyville sophomore Ryne Peavler (40-9), Mastny got a pin in 0:57 over Mercer County sophomore Eli Burns (22-7) and then handed Murphysboro’s Liam Fox his first defeat in 50 matches when he recorded a fall in 5:57 in the semifinals. Mastny, who was top-ranked heading into state, only lost once all season, 3-1 to Mount Carmel’s Edmund Enright (39-4), who lost 5-2 to Warren Township’s Aaron Stewart in the Class 3A 157 championship, which was one of the most-anticipated title matches. The freshman also won titles in his other three tournaments, the Chicagoland Christian Conference, the Johnsburg Regional and the Byron Sectional. 

“Just as soon as the season started, I knew that I could win it,” Mastny said. “Now we’ve got team sectionals and team state.”

Capansky (43-7), a senior and the top finisher and one of three medalists for coach Mike Glosser’s Comets, who’s returned most of the members of last year’s team which made program history by advancing to the IHSA Dual Team Finals for the first time and finishing in fourth place. He assured himself of his first medal after winning a 10-7 decision over Oregon’s Anthony Bauer in his first match and then prevailing 4-3 over LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Connor Lyons in the quarterfinals.Capansky won another close match in the semifinals, a 9-6 decision over Hoopeston Area’s Ayden Larkin, to advance to the 157 title match. Oakwood/Salt Fork lost to Roxana in the sectional and fell short of a second-straight trip to the IHSA Dual Team Finals.

“It was pretty enjoyable and a lot of fun,” Capansky said. “I enjoyed my last remaining time with my teammates and I just came out here and had fun. It means the world. I came all this way, I was a three-time state qualifier and this is my first time ever making it this far, so I’m grateful. It’s been really enjoyable and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s two schools, but we’re just one big family. And my teammates came out and proved what they could do, too. I’m very proud of my teammates and what they’ve accomplished this year.”

Fox (51-1), a senior who won his first state medal and was one of two who placed in the top six for coach Shea Baker’s Red Devils, bounced back from his only loss of the season, which was handed to him by Mastny in the semifinals, to take third with a 10-2 decision over Roxana sophomore Lyndon Thies (47-7), who was one of three first-time medalists for coach Rob Milazzo’s Shells, who went on to take third place at the IHSA Dual Team Finals in Bloomington.

 “It feels great,” Fox said. “I put in all of the work in the offseason that led up to this and I wish I could have gone a little further so that I could have been in the finals, but everything happens for a reason. (Success of southern Illinois wrestlers) We all work together in the offseason, which I think plays a big part into. And I think that we can compete with any of the top guys, we’re just as tough. In my sectional bracket, a guy (Bryson Capansky) is in the finals, I took third and (Lyndon) Thies took fourth, so that’s as tough as it gets.”  

In the fifth-place match, Newman Central Catholic junior Daniel Kelly (45-6) captured a 13-7 decision over Hoopeston Area junior Ayden Larkin (42-14), which avenged Larkin’s 8-6 win over Kelly in the quarterfinals. Both of them won their initial state medals with Kelly being one of three top-six finishers out of four qualifiers for coach Brian Bahrs’ Comets while Larkin was one of two medal winners for coach Chris Kelnhofers’s Cornjerkers.Two seniors who had successful season but fell one win short of earning a first state medal were Oregon’s Anthony Bauer (36-8) and LeRoy/Tri-Valley’s Connor Lyons (41-11), although the latter’s season didn’t conclude since he and his Panthers teammates competed in the Dual Team Finals for the second year in a row.

“We got four guys down here,” Kelly said. “It just comes down to how we practice and the room that we’re in. We’re all really close and we’ve all wrestled each other since we were like five years old and that brings everyone together. You just have to come back strong and wrestle your match and just go for what you can at that point. it feels great.”  

165 – Landin Benson, Coal City

Throughout most of his athletic career, Landin Benson has considered himself to be a football player first and a wrestler second. But after running over the competition at the IHSA Class 1A Finals to capture top honors at 165 much as he had done in the fall as a running back in football, the Coal City junior who’s an All-Stater in both sports, may be reevaluating which of the two that he is actually better at. Benson opened with two falls and closed with two narrow decisions, getting past Tremont’s Bowden Delaney 3-1 to capture the 165 championship and improved to 26-2 on the season. One of five top-six finishers who earned medals for IWCOA Hall of Fame coach Mark Masters’ Coalers, Benson earned all-state honors for the first time on the mat after pinning Princeton’s Casey Etheridge in 3:49 in his opener, getting a fall in 1:38 over Hillsboro’s Zander Wells in the quarterfinals and then edging edging Marian Central Catholic’s Max Astacio 3-2 in the semifinals to join 126 runner-up Brody Widlowski as two finalists for the Coalers, who lost 34-27 to Marian Central Catholic in IHSA Dual Team Finals to fall short of repeating as 1A champions, He qualified for state for the first time in 2023 but only won one match. Benson won three other tournaments this season, the Illinois Central Eight Conference, the Wilmington Regional and the Chicago Hope Academy Sectional after taking second place at the Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament, where he suffered his first loss by a 4-0 score against Delaney, who improved to 25-0 with that title win. In the fall, the football All-Stater ran for 1,444 yards and 26 touchdowns to help lead the Coalers to an 8-3 season.

“Being a state champion has been a goal and I knew that it wasn’t out of reach because I’m going to go up against whoever’s in front of me,” Benson said. “It’s just amazing to win it. We all want to win team state just as much as we all want to win individual state. Team state, we won last year, so winning back-to-back would be amazing. It’s always been football and then wrestling, now I’m All-State in both sports.”

Tremont junior Bowden Delaney (45-2), a three-time qualifier who won 42 matches a year ago and reached the quarterfinals at 126, earned his first state medal but fell just short of becoming the third individual from his school to win a state title and the first to accomplish that since 1985, when Russ Witzig, a 2022 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee who has had a successful coaching career at Triad, took first place at 167 in Class A. Delaney is the fifth Turk to reach the Grand March and the first to get there since 1985 when Eric Burden joined Witzig as a finalist. It’s the third year in a row that the Turks, who are coached by 2006 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee T.J. Williams, have had a state placewinner, which is a first for the school. Delaney won six tournament titles, taking firsts at PORTA, Unity, Lyle King Princeton Invitational, Heart of Illinois Conference, the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Regional and the Olympia Sectional. His only other loss came to Marian Central Catholic’s Max Astacio, who lost 3-2 to Benson in the semifinals.  

“I know that I can wrestle better but I’ll learn and move on from it,” Delaney said. “I really wasn’t wrestling my best and he’s a tough opponent, and that’s when I have to be at my finest, and I just wasn’t tonight. It’s fun to look back on it and see how big the growth was. So I have to learn from this and work hard in the offseason and go get it next year.”

Genoa-Kingston senior Brady Brewick (42-4), who became his school’s second medal winner and first since Clay Chaberski took second at 215 in 1A in 2010, won the third-place match with a 4-1 decision over Rockridge sophomore Ryan Lower (46-5), who joins the 132 champion, junior Jude Finch, as medal winners for coach Lucas Smith’s Rockets. Unity junior Ryan Rink (43-12) took fifth place by medical forfeit when Marian Central Catholic senior Max Astacio (39-8), who took fifth place at 160 last season, was unable to go. Astacio was one of the six medalists for the Hurricanes. Rink, a first-time medal winner, joins 190 champion Hunter Eastin and 144 runner-up Kaden Inman as medal winners for coach Logan Patton’s Rockets. All three also got the opportunity to compete in the IHSA Dual Team Finals in Bloomington. Northridge Prep senior Jon Suter (35-5) fell one victory shy of becoming his school’s first medalist and Princeton sophomore Casey Etheridge (32-11) also was one win away from a top-six finish.

175 – Carter Watkins, Manteno

While a lot of the IHSA Class 1A champions have more to accomplish at their schools and others are excited about the success that they will likely have at the collegiate level, Manteno senior Carter Watkins appears to be more inclined to end his career by reaching the prep pinnacle after winning the 175 championship with a 7-2 decision over Lena-Winslow/Stockton’s Eli Larson. Watkins (37-2) opened with a fall and then won his next three matches with decisions to not only claim his first medal in the sport but also to become the second individual from his school to win a title, with Ross George being the other in 2007 when he took top honors at 130 in Class A. Watkins is also only the sixth Panther to win a medal at state and the first since Stevie Silva placed at state for the second time in 2018. The lone qualifier for Manteno, which is coached by Ed Spiewak, Watkins won by fall in 4:49 in his opener over another individual with the same last name, Illini West junior Shawn Watkins (35-11) before capturing a 7-2 decision over Riverdale senior Zachary Bradley (48-6) in the quarterfinals. He earned his spot in the finals, something that had only been done two other times at the school by George in 2006 and 2007, with a wild 13-10 decision over Hoopeston Area’s Angel Zamora in the semifinals. A state qualifier for the third time, Watkins went 32-8 a year ago but fell one win shy of a medal at 160 and two years before that when he was a freshman, he competed in the IWCOA Finals. Watkins won four other tournament titles this season,  the Lyle King Princeton Invitational, the Illinois Central Eight Conference, the Wilmington Regional and the Chicago Hope Academy Sectional. 

“My confidence has always been high,” Watkins said. “I knew most of these kids and I knew that I could beat them. I’m going to ONU (Olivet Nazarene University) on a scholarship so the only thing that I’m doing that has to do with wrestling now is going back to the high school next year and helping the little kids. This is like a weight lifted off of my shoulders and it’s something that I’m going to think about for the rest of my life.”

Lena-Winslow/Stockton sophomore Eli Larson (44-6) took a similar path to the 175 finals as did Watkins, winning by fall in his opener before claiming close decisions in his next two matches. Making his first appearance at state, Larson won by fall in 3:52 over Auburn senior Joey Barrow (31-13) in his first match and then captured a 6-3 victory over Unity senior Thayden Root (45-11) in the quarterfinals. Larson earned his spot on the 175 title mat after capturing a 7-5 decision over Red Bud/Valmeyer’s Ty Carter in the semifinals. That win assured that he would win a state medal and he was the only to do that for the PantherHawks, who are coached by 2020 IWCOA Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Milder. De La Salle Institute senior Josue Hernandez (32-7) was one of two third-place finishers and three medalists for coach Jason Davidson’s Meteors, won 4-2 on a tiebreaker over Hoopeston Area/Milford junior Angel Zamora (51-4), one of his team’s two medal winners, with Ayden Larkin, who finished sixth at 157, being the other. The last time that the Cornjerkers had more than one medalist was in 2012. 

“I train hard every day in practice and I do what I have to do and I know that I can compete with anybody,” Hernandez said. “It’s my last year and my last match so I was hoping to leave it all out there, and I wasn’t holding anything back. Our coaches are always pushing us to be our best since they know what we’re capable of and they know what we can do.”  

Saturday was also a big day for Red Bud/Valmeyer senior Ty Carter (47-5), who became the first individual from Red Bud to place at state. He took fifth place after claiming a 4-2 decision over Oakwood/Salt Fork senior Dalton Brown (44-8), who was one of three medalists for the Comets, who lost to Roxana on Tuesday to miss making a second-straight trip to the IHSA Dual Team Finals after taking fourth in 2023. Falling one win shy of state medals were Seneca senior Asher Hamby (50-8) and the High School of Saint Thomas More senior August Christhilf (40-7). 

“I could have done better, but it feels good nonetheless,” Carter said. “It’s good to finish it off with a win, I’d rather end up as an odd number than an even number. I was just focused every day in practice and I worked every day. It was the only thing on my mind the last three months. It’s not easier down there, that’s a misconception. We’re smaller and less concentrated but it’s tough throughout the whole state.”

190 – Hunter Eastin, Unity

After Nick Nosler won the 195 championship last year at the IHSA Finals to cap a 52-2 senior season, the hope among those who support coach Logan Patton’s Unity Rockets was that the program might follow up on its first state title since 1991 with another first-place finisher this season. After junior Kaden Inman fell just short of a title at 144 with an 8-7 defeat to Illini Bluffs’ Jackson Carroll, junior Hunter Eastin got his chance to win the 190 title match and made the most of it by capturing a 5-2 decision over The High School of Saint Thomas More senior Brody Cuppernell, who coincidentally was Nosler’s opponent when he won his state title a year ago. So for the first time since 1991, the Rockets have had champions in consecutive seasons, a feat that the program accomplished from 1989 to 1991 when Terry Bagwell (1989), Travis Smith (1990) and Juan Molina (1991) won Class A titles each year. Eastin can now add his name to those four as well as Unity’s first title winner, Bill Brandon (1986), as the only individuals from the Tolono school who have captured state championships. Eastin (47-6), Inman and their teammates also got to compete in the IHSA Dual Team Finals in Bloomington. He opened with a fall in 1:22 over Frankfort Community junior Conner Henson (39-12) and followed that with a pin in 5:45 over Lena-Winslow/Stockton sophomore Jeremiah Luke (43-8) in the quarterfinals. He earned his trip to the 195 title mat with an 8-3 decision over Vandalia’s Kaden Tidwell. A year ago, Eastin went 48-7 and fell one win shy of placing at 182, which gave the Rockets two medalists, with Kyus Root the other after taking fourth at 170. Unity exceeded that total by one this year since another junior, Ryan Rink, took fifth at 165. Eastin won three other tournaments this season, with two at his own school, the first in the Unity Invite and the second the Unity Regional and he also took first at the Olympia Sectional. In the regional finals, he captured a 6-2 decision over Cuppernell and in the sectional finals, he won a 7-4 decision over Cuppernell.

“It was tough getting here,” Eastin said. “It feels really good, that’s really the only way that I can describe it right now. We have really big hopes for the team duals. We’ve been trending in the right direction these last couple of weekends.”

The High School of Saint Thomas More senior Brody Cuppernell, who finished with a 35-4 record after his second-straight second-place state finish, became the second two-time placewinner for the Sabers, who are coached by Kurt Sexton, with the other two-time medalist being Nathan Santhanam (2009-2010). Cuppernell, who went 42-6 last season, won his opener by fall in 0:53 over Oakwood/Salt Fork freshman Jamison Chambliss (24-7) before defeating Coal City’s Cade Poyner (42-9) by technical fall in 5:40. He earned his spot in the 195 title match with a 6-1 decision over King College Prep’s Calvin Savage. In the third-place match, Orion junior Maddux Anderson (49-3) won a 7-6 decision over Vandalia junior Kaden Tidwell (37-11) as both individuals became state medalists for the first time and Tidwell got to help his team take fourth place in the Dual Team Finals. And for fifth place, Canton senior Danny Murphy (47-4) won a 3-1 decision over King College Prep senior Calvin Savage (36-6). It was the first state medal for both competitors with Murphy being the Little Giants’ lone medalist and coach Zach Crawford’s program has had an all-stater each year since 2020, which counting the 2021 IWCOA Finals, gives it 11 during that time, which is three more than it had before 2020. Savage became the second individual from his school to earn all-state honors, with the other being Lavontay Cobb, who took fourth place in 2A in 2013. Falling one win shy of state medals were Clifton Central senior Hunter Hull (26-9) and Coal City sophomore Cade Poyner (42-9), who also got to compete in the IHSA Dual Team Finals, where the Coalers claimed second place.

215 – Noah Wenzel, Dakota

Although Noah Wenzel might not have been able to reach the rare standard that three others from Dakota have achieved, four-time champions Phoenix Blakely, Josh Alber and Seth Milks, since he took fourth place as the lone freshman medalist at 195 at the 2021 IWCOA Finals, the senior will have to settle to be in the same company along with Jayden Colon, Ben Davino, Dillan Johnson, Seth Mendoza and Joey Ruzic as the only individuals who have won IHSA titles in each of the past three seasons, with Wenzel being one of the five seniors from that group who had no IHSA Tournament to take part in during their freshman seasons. In addition, he’s one of 14 competitors who took part in each of the last three Grand Marches at the IHSA Finals. Wenzel’s also one of six individuals from his school who have won three IHSA championships. Wenzel capped a 36-0 season and finished with a 126-9 career record by capturing the title at 215 with a 7-4 decision over East Alton-Wood River’s Drake Champlin. In 2022, he went 41-4 and won the 195 title over Unity’s Nick Nosler and last season posted a 42-3 record and defeated Nazareth Academy’s Gabe Kaminski to win the 220 championship. In the weight classes that he competed in, there have been very few repeat champions in the state’s smallest division, making his three-peat even that much more impressive. He opened his final tournament run with a fall in 3:38 over Carmi-White County senior Nelson Rider (42-9) and then recorded a pin in 2:26 over Olympia’s Nolen Yeary in the quarterfinals. He earned his third appearance in the Grand March after capturing a 7-2 decision over Johnston City’s Jude Beers in the semifinals. Wenzel was one of three qualifiers and the lone placewinner for coach Matt Jacobs’ Indians. He won five other tournaments, Harlem’s Al Dvorak, Lyle King Princeton Invitational, Oak Park and River Forest, the Stillman Valley Regional and the Byron Sectional.

“I’ve said this before, that has always been so surreal,” Wenzel said. “I used to be sitting right there in the crowd and watching people do this, so it’s so weird being the guy down here now. I’ll remember the people that I’ve met.”

East Alton-Wood River junior Drake Champlin (51-4) became just the fifth individual from his school to reach the title mat and was the first to advance there since 2021 when Jason Shaw took second at 126 in 1A in the IWCOA Finals while Zac Blasioli competed for state titles in both 2016 and 2017 and won a Class 1A title in 2017. Champlin recorded a fall in 5:40 over Lena-Winslow/Stockton senior Michael Haas (34-10) in his opener and then won 3-1 in sudden victory over LeRoy/Tri-Valley senior Jacob Bischoff (43-4) in the quarterfinals. Then he had another tight match in the semifinals, winning 7-5 by sudden victory over Seneca’s Chris Peura. Champlin was the lone state qualifier for coach Tim Donohoo’s Oilers. Johnston City senior Jude Beers (44-3) became just the second medal winner for his program and equalled Jamie Hubbard’s finish from 1998, which was the first time that someone from that school placed. Beers won the third-place match by recording a fall in 1:59 over Seneca senior Chris Peura (47-6), who suffered a tough semifinal loss to Champlin. Peura placed sixth last year at 195, making him one of the four Fighting Irish who have been two-time medalists. In the fifth-place match, Kewanee junior Alejandro Duarte (41-6) won by fall in 3:37 over Olympia senior Nolen Yeary (39-9) with both claiming their first state medals. Falling one victory shy of being a medalist were Orion junior Aiden Fisher (40-13) and Quincy Notre Dame junior Taylin Scott (45-6).

“This is a second-year program and last season we barely even had a season since our football team went to the semis so we started late,” Beers said. “I worked hard in the offseason and my coaches worked with me hard and I have great teammates who’ve worked with me the whole time. There were a lot of big boys here and they’re all good.”  

285 – Jason Dowell, Althoff Catholic

After going 42-10 and falling to the eventual champion, IC Catholic Prep’s Isaiah Gonzalez, in the 285 semifinals at the IHSA Finals before settling for third place last year while competing for Cahokia, Jason Dowell was hopeful that a different setting this season would prevent another close call and instead result in him winning  a state title and that’s just what happened for the junior at Althoff Catholic who capped a 32-2 season by winning the 285 state title thanks to his third-straight 2-1 decision in the finals over St. Francis sophomore Jaylen Torres. As a result, Dowell became the fourth individual to win an IHSA championship at the Belleville school and the first to accomplish that feat since 1997, when Mike Weber claimed first place in Class A at 171. Dowell, who’s also a Division I prospect in football who has numerous scholarship offers from top programs, began his title run with a fall in 5:03 over Byron junior Jared Claunch (29-9) and then won 2-1 over De La Salle Institute’s David McCarthy in the quarterfinals. He edged Princeton’s Cade Odell 2-1 in the semifinals to become the first finalist for the Crusaders since 2005, when Aaron Winning took second place at 130 in Class A. But there was also some  disappointment for coach EJ Brooks’ team as junior Brenden Rayl finished 35-4 but fell one win shy of a medal at 126 to prevent Althoff Catholic from having two medal winners for the first time since Kameron and Michael Harris took third and sixth place, respectively, in 1A in 2012. Dowell won five other tournament titles, with three of those taking place in Missouri. He took firsts at Cumberland’s Skull and Crossbones and the Carlyle Regional in Illinois. He lost in the Vandalia Sectional finals to Roxana’s James Herring 10-9 by ultimate tiebreaker and his other defeat was by 4-0 score in the title match of Carbondale’s Murdale Tournament to Centennial senior Jack Barnhart, who capped a 44-0 season by winning the 2A 285 championship in his hometown.

“He believed in me,” Dowell said of coach EJ Brooks. “Of course God is one, but him being the big brother that he is to me, telling me, ‘no you cannot do that yet, no, you should work on this, you should change up and do this’. With him being right there in the room, pushing me and pushing me. There were many times when I was like ‘why is he so nit picky when it comes to a certain moves that I do. So I tried to model my wrestling like how he wrestled. Working with him 24-7 in that stupid wrestling room, that was a blessing. I can’t thank him enough. I was cocky going to sectionals and a friend of mine named James Herring humbled me, I was thinking that I was more than I was. Sometimes, you need that. To come here with confidence and not cockiness was an absolute blessing and I’m very happy that I’m here. Deny myself every single day, picking up my cross and following God in everything I do, whether it’s the wrestling room or the football field, baseball diamond or my class. And hold up His name as high as I can.”

St. Francis sophomore Jaylen Torres, who went 19-2 after playing football on a 10-3 Spartans team that lost to eventual Class 5A champion Nazareth Academy in the semifinals. He opened his run to the finals with a fall in 3:13 over Lawrenceville/Red Hill junior Dylan Camden (39-14) and then won with a pin in 1:36 over Chicago Hope Academy’s Roy Phelps in the quarterfinals. Torres earned his spot on the 285 title match with a 7-4 decision over Roxana’s James Herring. He is only the fifth individual from his program who has placed at state, and the first since 1984. Only one other Spartan, 1980 Class A heavyweight champion Bob Hudetz, placed higher than him in Champaign. Torres, who’s coached by Eric Kirkman, was the lone state qualifier for the Wheaton school. For third place, Roxana senior James Herring (46-4) edged Princeton junior Cade Odell (32-4) by a 3-2 score as both earned their first state medals. Odell was one of three medalists for coach Steve Amy’s Tigers while Herring was one of the three medal winners for coach Rob Milazzo’s Shells, who claimed third place in the IHSA Dual Team Finals one week later. It was the school’s first state appearance since 2014 and also its second-best finish there, with only a second-place finish in 2004 in Class A being superior to this season’s showing.

“I probably should be in the finals, but stuff happens since it’s the state tournament, nothing’s guaranteed,” Herring said. “Our team has been really good this year and we’re getting ready for the team tourney. We’ve had a heck of a season and it’s been a great senior season for me with my senior brothers.”

In the fifth-place match, two juniors from Chicago schools who won their first state medals met and De La Salle Institute’s David McCarthy (31-7) won by fall in 1:15 over Chicago Hope Academy’s Roy Phelps (46-10). McCarthy’s Meteors had three medalists while the Eagles had two in the top six. Falling one victory shy of medals were Canton sophomore Connor Williams (43-4) and Leo junior Nicholas Armour (35-7).

106 – Eric Bush, Johnsburg

When you’re trying to achieve something special, like becoming the first individual from your school to win a state championship, and you have a large and vocal group of students from your school on hand to support you, it might provide just enough of a boost to help you get the job done. Johnsburg freshman Eric Bush certainly had those extras going for him when he took on another freshman with plenty of motivation behind him, Vandalia’s Max Philpot, in the 106 championship match. He led 2-1 heading into the third period and added one more point and made that stand to capture a 3-1 victory and conclude a 34-4 season. Bush’s ability to win close matches was evidenced by him recording three two-point decisions in his final three matches to become the Skyhawks’ first IHSA champion. Bush ended the quest for an initial champion that dates back 36 years to 1988, when the school’s first two-time medalist, Sean Kegel, was the runner-up at 98 in the Class AA Finals. In 2000, Jerad Karlen took second in AA and in 2020, the Skyhawks’ other two-time medal winner, Justin Peake, settled for second place in 1A. Bush kicked off his debut at the State Finals with a fall in 2:46 over Murphysboro freshman Kanton Richards (33-19) and then got past De La Salle Institute sophomore Jeremiah Lawrence 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Then he recorded his first 3-1 victory when he edged Marian Central Catholic sophomore Austin Hagevold in the semifinals. Bush, the lone qualifier for Johnsburg, which is coached by James Sylvanus, was down on the list of favorites for the 106 championship but the winner of four tournament titles was determined that he could be a state champion in his initial attempt. Bush captured titles in three early competitions, Vernon Hills, Richmond-Burton and Stillman Valley, before starting his postseason run with a title at the Johnsburg Regional. He lost 7-5 in the Byron Sectional title match to Princeton’s Augustus Swanson, who came in as the favorite at 106, but Bush used that loss as motivation and the result was his school’s first title.

“My coach has always told me the exact same thing over and over, that it’s just a match and I believed in that,” Bush said. “I trained every single day and every single night and got it done. It definitely helped that big crowd up there. It’s amazing to be the first state champion at Johnsburg ever. They’ve had second places, but to be the first-ever state champ and the first freshman to win is big, too. After sectionals when I lost that 7-5 match, I just got it in my head that I was going to win state. That day it hurt, but it motivated me even more. Now this motivates me to win next year, that’s for sure.”

Vandalia freshman Max Philpot (48-3), who went past the 50-win mark in his debut season while helping his team take fourth place at the IHSA Dual Team Finals, also had plenty of motivation to reach the top of the awards stand at 106. His program captured its 1000th dual meet win this season and also advanced to the dual team finals for a 23rd time, which ranks second only to Montini Catholic, where it finished fourth. But despite all of that team success, the Vandals have only had four individual champions, with the last of those being Jarek Wehrle, who won 1A at 106 in the 2021 IWCOA Finals while Joe-E Smith was the school’s last IHSA champion in 2007 when he took first at 152 in Class A. Philpot opened with a fall in 1:48 over Dakota sophomore Brandon White (38-11) and then won by technical fall in 2:42 over Seneca freshman Raiden Terry (41-10). One of six qualifiers, three medalists and two finalists for coach Jason Clay’s Vandals, who have been ranked among the state’s best all season, Philpot earned his spot in the 106 finals by claiming a 14-10 decision over Princeton’s Augustus Swanson in the semifinals. De La Salle Institute sophomore Jeremiah Lawrence (27-5). one of three medal winners for the Meteors, took third place with a 12-4 major decision over Marian Central Catholic sophomore Austin Hagevold (37-18), who was of the six medalists for the Hurricanes, who went on to win the Class 1A Dual Team championship. For fifth place, Princeton sophomore Augustus Swanson (35-3), one of three Tigers who won medals, claimed a 6-4 decision over Coal City freshman Owen Petersen (45-7), who was one of five medal winners for coach Mark Masters’ Coalers, who took second place in the Dual Team Finals. Falling one win shy of state medals were LeRoy/Tri-Valley junior Brady Mouser (44-4) and Pontiac senior Aidan Scholwin (31-17).

113 – Preston Waughtel, Carlyle

While Carlyle freshman Preston Waughtel had every reason to be thrilled about capping a 50-0 season by beating a pair of two-time state finalists, including one who was a returning IHSA champion, along the way to winning the title at 113, it’s understandable that he was disappointed seeing his brother Tyson lose 7-5 in sudden victory to Marian Central Catholic’s Brayden Teunissen in the next championship match at 120 to deny the junior of a third-straight title and prevent him from also having a perfect season. Despite that, it was obviously a special weekend for coach Ben Wademan’s Indians, who had two finalists and medalists for the first and the Waughtel brothers won the same number of medals in the Finals as the school had claimed before Tyson started his impressive run of success in 2021-22. Opening with a win by technical fall in 1:33 over Sandwich freshman Colten Stone (30-19), Preston won a 15-2 major decision over Illini Bluffs senior Hunter Robbins (47-4), who placed second at 106 in both 2022 and 2023. He earned his spot in the 113 title match with a 5-2 decision over Marian Central Catholic senior Anthony Alanis, who won the Class 2A 106 title for Grayslake Central a year ago after placing second at 106 in 2022. In the title match, Preston met Peoria Notre Dame’s Ian Akers, who placed fourth at 106 a year ago, and won a 7-0 decision. He joined Benton senior Mason Tieffel (55-0 at 138) and Dakota senior Noah Wenzel (36-0 at 215) as unbeaten champions in Class 1A and also was one of three freshmen title winners in 1A along with Johnburg’s Eric Bush (106) and Marian Central Catholic’s Jimmy Mastny (157). Preston won six other tournament titles, Civic Memorial’s Bradley, Cumberland’s Skull and Crossbones, Carbondale’s Murdale, Goreville/Vienna’s Blackcat Brawl, the Carlyle Regional and the Vandalia Sectional. 

“I’m very excited about how I performed,” Waughtel said. “It shows that I’ve been working the hardest in my weight class and that I haven’t been taking days off. Four titles is always the goal and then being undefeated is another goal. Anyone can get beaten at any time, so I just have to train harder. With it being his senior year next year, hopefully we can both go undefeated and win another state title.”

Peoria Notre Dame junior Ian Akers (41-6) became just the third individual from his program to compete for a title and the fourth to win two or more state medals. He won by fall in 1:47 over Nazareth Academy sophomore Charlie Dvorak in his first match and then captured an 8-4 decision over Oregon freshman Nelson Benesh (38-9). Akers earned his spot on the 113 title mat by capturing a 7-0 decision over Benton freshman Cohen Sweely (41-10). Akers won five tournament titles, Glenwood’s Cox, Metamora, Prairie Central, Litchfield’s Lovellette and the Knoxville Regional and he also helped coach Danny Burk’s Irish win their first regional title.

“I’m proud of where I’ve gotten to, but obviously, I’d like to be one step above that and the state champ, but I’m right there,” Akers said. “In my freshman year we were really close, but didn’t get it (a regional title), so that was kind of a goal of ours as a team. And it’s nice to be surrounded by guys who want to work hard and want to be good, that’s awesome.”

Marian Central Catholic senior Anthony Alanis (40-5) took third place after winning an 8-0 major decision over Olympia junior Dylan Eimer (33-5). The two also met in the quarterfinals with Alanis, one of six medal winners for the Hurricanes, winning that matchup by an 8-1 score. While competing for Grayslake Central, Alanis won the Class 2A title at 106 last year, took second at that weight in 2022 and finished sixth at 106 in 2021 at the IWCOA Finals. Alanis concluded his season and career on a high note as Marian Central Catholic captured its first IHSA Dual Team title when it defeated defending champion Coal City 34-27 in Bloomington. Eimer, who placed fourth at 106 in 2022, was one of three medalists for coach Josh Collins’ Spartans. In a matchup of freshmen for fifth place, Coal City’s Cooper Morris (42-9) won a 5-2 decision over Benton’s Cohen Sweely (41-10). They also met up in the quarterfinals with Sweely capturing a 7-2 win in that match. Falling one win shy of state medals  were Illini Bluffs senior Hunter Robbins (47-4), who had finished in second place at 106 in both 2023 and 2022. as well as Vandalia freshman Elijah Mabry (36-14), who capped his debut season on a good note when the Vandals finished in fourth place at the IHSA Dual Team Finals in Bloomington.

120 – Brayden Teunissen, Marian Central Catholic

After capturing the title at the Byron Sectional, Brayden Teunissen felt that the tough schedule that he faced and having coaches Jordan Blanton and Ryan Prater in his corner might be good enough to help him capture the title at 120, and that confidence seemed to be justified after he defeated two unbeaten competitors, including a two-time defending IHSA champion on the title match to achieve his goal. The Marian Central Catholic junior followed two wins by technical fall and a major decision with a 7-5 win by sudden victory over Carlyle’s two-time title winner Tyson Waughtel in the 120 finals. Waughtel led 5-3 in the final period before Teunissen used a late takedown to force overtime and then scored again in sudden victory. Teunissen (40-5), who was one of two champions, three finalists and six medal winners for the Hurricanes, helped his team win the IHSA Class 1A Dual Team Finals in Bloomington for its first title to secure the win. He advanced to the state finals for the second year in a row. Last season, he took second place at 106 in Class 3A to St. Charles East’s Dom Munaretto while competing for the Belvidere co-op. Teunissen opened with a win by technical fall in 4:32 over LeRoy/Tri-Valley freshman EJ Chaon (30-13) and then won a 17-7 major decision in the quarterfinals over Anna-Jonesboro’s Drew Sadler, who placed third the last two years at state. Teunissen advanced to the 120 title match with another win by technical fall, this time in 4:19 over Unity Christian’s Clinton VerHeecke, who lost for the first time in that match. Teunissen won three other tournament titles this season, the Chicagoland Christian Conference, the Johnsburg Regional and the Byron Sectional.

“I felt really confident,” Teunissen said. “I knew that I was better prepared than him. Our schedule is the toughest competition that you can possibly have and I knew that he hadn’t seen anything like my wrestling style. Our team wrestled amazing.”

Carlyle junior Tyson Waughtel (50-1) was hoping to join six others who have won three-straight IHSA championships but saw those hopes dashed in heartbreaking fashion to Marian Central Catholic junior Brayden Teunissen to suffer his first defeat in 51 matches this season and second loss in 154 matches during his career. He hoped to follow his freshman brother Preston, who capped a perfect 50-0 season with the championship at 113 when he won a 7-0 decision over Peoria Notre Dame’s Ian Akers. A year ago, Tyson beat Farmington’s Keygan Jennings in the 113 title match to complete a 50-1 season and in 2022, he concluded a perfect 50-0 debut season with a victory over Illini Bluffs’ Hunter Robbins in the 106 title match. Tyson opened his quest for a third title with a fall in 1:10 over Bishop McNamara sophomore Blake Arseneau (21-9) and then won by technical fall in 4:25 over Riverdale’s Dean Wainwright in a matchup of defending Class 1A champions. He reached the 120 title match with another win by technical fall, this time in 2:36 over Warrensburg-Latham’s Logan Roberts. Like his brother Preston, he won six other tournament titles, Civic Memorial’s Bradley, Cumberland’s Skull and Crossbones, Cardbondale’s Murdale, Goreville/Vienna’s Blackcat Brawl, the Carlyle Regional and the Vandalia Sectional. In the third-place match, Riverdale sophomore Dean Wainwright (47-3) won by fall in 1:42 over Oblong senior Ian Rosborough (39-7). Wainwright, who fell to Waughtel in the quarterfinals, recorded four falls in the consolation bracket in order to capture third place. A year ago, he finished 50-1 and defeated Illini Bluffs’ Hunter Robbins to win the 106 IHSA championship. He got the opportunity to compete with his team at the IHSA Dual Team Finals, which Riverdale advanced to for the first time since 2007. And Rosborough also made history in his state finals debut by becoming the first individual from Oblong to win a state medal. 

“Yesterday was a tough day,” Wainwright said after he took third. “I took a pretty bad loss to Tyson Waughtel and he’s a pretty good kid, but I absolutely could have wrestled better and I know that in my heart, but things happen and I came back and wrestled for third. I want to thank my coaches and my teammates over at Big Game Wrestling Club and at the school. The season’s not over yet.”    

“It feels pretty good, but I wish that I got third and not fourth, since I put in a lot of work,” Rosborough said. “I’m a senior and I’d never qualified before. It was a lot of pressure at first but I just wrestled like it was a normal tournament and all of the pressure went away and I just wrestled hard and did what I know I can do.”

For fifth place, Unity Christian sophomore Clinton VerHeecke (42-2) won an 11-1 major decision over Warrensburg-Latham junior Logan Roberts (44-7). VerHeecke took third at 113 a year ago representing Lutheran Schools Association – Decatur while Roberts won his first state medal. Falling one win shy of medals were Anna-Jonesboro junior Drew Sadler (49-5), who took third place at 106 in both 2023 and 2022, as well as Coal City junior Culan Lindemuth (33-16).

126 – Joey Ruzic, Auburn

Joey Ruzic put the finishing touches of one of the best careers that any individual from the Springfield area has enjoyed when he captured his third-straight IHSA championship after taking top honors at 126 with a 6-1 decision over Coal City’s Brody Widlowski in the 126 finals to cap a 46-1 season and finish his four-year career with an impressive 158-6 record. The Auburn senior only lost one match this season, to Harrisburg’s Tony Keene in the Vandalia Sectional finals, but he closed things out in impressive fashion by defeating the state’s other three sectional champions, with two of those victories by major decision. Ruzic, who went 32-3 and placed third at the IWCOA Finals in 2021, won his first IHSA title at 113 in 2022 over Richmond-Burton’s Emmitt Nelson to cap a perfect 26-0 season. A year ago, he beat Yorkville Christian’s Ty Edwards for the 120 title to complete a 53-2 campaign. As a result, he joins St. Charles East seniors Ben Davino and Jayden Colon, Joliet Catholic Academy senior Dillan Johnson, Dakota senior Noah Wenzel and Mount Carmel junior Seth Mendoza as the six individuals who have won three-straight IHSA championships, with him and four others not getting the opportunity to compete in an IHSA Finals as freshmen in 2021 due to the pandemic. He was one of the 14 individuals who made three finals appearances in the last three seasons. Ruzic opened with a fall in 0:51 over Walther Christian Academy’s Caleb Peterson and then claimed a 13-5 major decision over Wheaton Academy’s Lincoln Hoger. He earned his third appearance in the Grand Match with a 12-1 major decision over Unity Christian’s Garrett VerHeecke and concluded the Class 1A championships by winning his third title on the campus of the University of Illinois, where he will continue his education and as his career competing for coach Mike Poeta’s Fighting Illini. He won six other tournaments, PORTA Avery, Springfield Bee, Lyle King Princeton Invitational, LeRoy Bowman, Litchfield Lovellete and the Auburn Regional in his final home competition. He was one of two qualifiers and the lone medalist for coach Matt Grimm’s Trojans and is the only individual from his school that has won a state title.

“My offseason training definitely helped me and that’s what made the difference,” Ruzic said. “It’s awesome, but I knew that I’d get it done, I knew that it would happen. I worked hard for it, so I knew that it would come. (The sectional loss) I definitely had a chip on my shoulder because of that, but I didn’t let it affect me and I just came out and did what I did, and you see the result. I kind of underestimated my opponent and didn’t give the respect he deserved, and it happens, so I just couldn’t let that affect me. Anything can happen in the state tournament and what happened before does not matter. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to be in the orange and blue and represent my home state. It feels good to finally get it done. Without my coaches and my teammates, none of this would have been possible, so I’m very thankful for that. Now it’s time for the real fun part.”

“They do not come around too often, and when they do, you have to take advantage and cherish every moment that you have with those kids,” Auburn coach Matt Grimm said. “He’s a very humble kid, a down to earth kid, and he puts the work in and he gets the results because of the work that he put in. It was a bump in the road is what we called it and we hit the restart button on Sunday morning and got back after it. It wasn’t a big deal since we knew we had to put four matches in a row to get a state title, and that’s what we focused on. We try to emulate what he does and the hard work that he puts in and we talk about it in the room all the time. If you want the results, you’ve got to put the work in to get the results, and he’s the epitome of that.”

Coal City sophomore Brody Widlowski (26-4) was one of the two finalists and five medal winners for IWCOA Hall of Fame coach Mark Masters’ Coalers, who reached the IHSA Dual Team Finals title match for the eighth time but were unable to repeat as champions after falling  34-27 to Marian Central Catholic. Widlowski, who went 42-3 last year and placed fourth at 113, pinned Roxana sophomore Logan Riggs (41-11) in 3:40 in his opener and then won a 6-3 decision over Unity sophomore Hunter Shike (39-8) in the quarterfinals. The champion of the Chicago Hope Academy Sectional earned his spot in the Grand March by claiming a 7-3 decision over Keene in the semifinals. Unity Christian sophomore Garrett VerHeecke (44-1), the sectional champion at Olympia, was unbeaten heading to state and lost for the only time to Ruzic in the semifinals and bounced back with two wins to take third with a fall in 1:30 over Harrisburg senior Tony Keene (44-4). VerHeecke placed sixth last year at 120 while Keene, one of two medalists from his school and the only one to win more than one medal, finished in fourth place for the third year in a row. Wheaton Academy sophomore Lincoln Hoger (42-7), the Byron Sectional champion, took fifth place following a 4-0 decision over North Boone junior Gavin Ekberg (39-9). Hoger is the third medal winner and the first since 2019 for Wheaton Academy while Ekberg became the fourth medalist for North Boone and its first since four-time finalist and two-champion Brandon Briggs in 2015. Falling one victory shy of medals were Warrensburg-Latham junior Kaden Roberts (44-10) and Althoff Catholic junior Brenden Rayl (35-4).

Class 1A Championship Matches

1A 106 – Eric Bush (Johnsburg) 34-4, Fr. over Max Philpot (Vandalia) 48-3, Fr. (Dec 3-1)
1A 113 – Preston Waughtel (Carlyle) 50-0, Fr. over Ian Akers (Peoria Notre Dame) 41-6, Jr. (Dec 7-0)
1A 120 – Brayden Teunissen (Marian Central Catholic) 40-5, Jr. over Tyson Waughtel (Carlyle) 50-1, Jr. (SV-1 7-5)
1A 126 – Joey Ruzic (Auburn) 46-1, Sr. over Brody Widlowski (Coal City) 26-4, So. (Dec 6-1)
1A 132 – Jude Finch (Rockridge) 43-6, Jr. over Vance Williams (Marian Central Catholic) 44-9, Jr. (Dec 7-4)
1A 138 – Mason Tieffel (Benton) 55-0, Sr. over Dillon Hinton (Vandalia) 46-4, So. (MD 18-6)
1A 144 – Jackson Carroll (Illini Bluffs) 51-2, Jr. over Kaden Inman (Unity) 44-8, Jr. (Dec 8-7)
1A 150 – Bentley Wise (Olympia) 44-8, Sr. over Blue Bishop (Herrin) 46-2, Sr. (Dec 5-3)
1A 157 – Jimmy Mastny (Marian Central Catholic) 28-1, Fr. over Bryson Capansky (Oakwood/Salt Fork) 43-7, Sr. (Fall 3:23)
1A 165 – Landin Benson (Coal City) 26-2, Jr. over Bowden Delaney (Tremont) 45-2, Jr. (Dec 3-1)
1A 175 – Carter Watkins (Manteno) 37-2, Sr. over Eli Larson (Lena-Winslow/Stockton) 44-6, So. (Dec 7-2)
1A 190 – Hunter Eastin (Unity) 47-6, Jr. over Brody Cuppernell (The High School of Saint Thomas More) 35-4, Sr. (Dec 5-2)
1A 215 – Noah Wenzel (Dakota) 36-0, Sr. over Drake Champlin (East Alton-Wood River) 51-4, Jr. (Dec 7-4)
1A 285 – Jason Dowell (Althoff Catholic) 32-2, Jr. over Jaylen Torres (St. Francis) 19-2, So. (Dec 2-1)

Class 1A Third Place Matches

1A 106 – Jeremiah Lawrence (De La Salle Institute) 27-5, So. over Austin Hagevold (Marian Central Catholic) 37-18, So. (MD 12-4)
1A 113 – Anthony Alanis (Marian Central Catholic) 40-5, Sr. over Dylan Eimer (Olympia) 33-5, Jr. (MD 8-0)
1A 120 – Dean Wainwright (Riverdale) 47-3, So. over Ian Rosborough (Oblong) 39-7, Sr. (Fall 1:42)
1A 126 – Garrett VerHeecke (Unity Christian) 44-1, So. over Tony Keene (Harrisburg) 44-4, Sr. (Fall 1:30)
1A 132 – Brady Grennan (Newman Central Catholic) 46-5, Sr. over Carson Bissey (Richland County) 48-3, Jr. (Dec 5-1)
1A 138 – Ace Christiansen (Princeton) 39-7, Jr. over Cooper Corder (Sandwich) 35-5, Fr. (UTB 5-4)
1A 144 – Santiago Chaparro (Chicago Hope Academy) 50-3, Sr. over Bryce Edwards (Murphysboro) 46-9, Jr. (Dec 7-1)
1A 150 – Blake Smith (Riverdale) 50-3, Jr. over Carson Maxey (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher) 40-10, Sr. (Dec 9-2)
1A 157 – Liam Fox (Murphysboro) 51-1, Sr. over Lyndon Thies (Roxana) 47-7, So. (MD 10-2)
1A 165 – Brady Brewick (Genoa-Kingston) 42-4, Sr. over Ryan Lower (Rockridge) 46-5, So. (Dec 4-1)
1A 175 – Josue Hernandez (De La Salle Institute) 32-7, Sr. over Angel Zamora (Hoopeston Area) 51-4, Jr. (TB-1 4-2)
1A 190 – Maddux Anderson (Orion) 49-3, Jr. over Kaden Tidwell (Vandalia) 37-11, Jr. (Dec 7-6)
1A 215 – Jude Beers (Johnston City) 44-3, Sr. over Chris Peura (Seneca) 47-6, Sr. (Fall 1:59)
1A 285 – James Herring (Roxana) 46-4, Sr. over Cade Odell (Princeton) 32-4, Jr. (Dec 3-2)

Class 1A Fifth Place Matches

1A 106 – Augustus Swanson (Princeton) 35-3, So. over Owen Petersen (Coal City) 45-7, Fr. (Dec 6-4)
1A 113 – Cooper Morris (Coal City) 42-9, Fr. over Cohen Sweely (Benton) 41-10, Fr. (Dec 5-2)
1A 120 – Clinton VerHeecke (Unity Christian) 42-2, So. over Logan Roberts (Warrensburg-Latham) 44-7, Jr. (MD 11-1)
1A 126 – Lincoln Hoger (Wheaton Academy) 42-7, So. over Gavin Ekberg (North Boone) 39-9, Jr. (Dec 4-0)
1A 132 – Brandon Green Jr. (Roxana) 46-6, So. over Keygan Jennings (Farmington) 42-7, Sr. (SV-1 7-5)
1A 138 – Dylan Crouch (Dwight) 49-3, Jr. over Ian O`Connor (Illini Bluffs) 48-10, Sr. (Dec 5-3)
1A 144 – Carter Rude (Newman Central Catholic) 45-3, Sr. over Emmett Nelson (Richmond-Burton) 48-3, Jr. (M. For.)
1A 150 – Brant Widlowski (Coal City) 47-5, Sr. over Grant Brewer (Oakwood/Salt Fork) 41-6, Sr. (Fall 5:37)
1A 157 – Daniel Kelly (Newman Central Catholic) 45-6, Jr. over Ayden Larkin (Hoopeston Area) 42-14, Jr. (Dec 13-7)
1A 165 – Ryan Rink (Unity) 43-12, Jr. over Max Astacio (Marian Central Catholic) 39-8, Sr. (M. For.)
1A 175 – Ty Carter (Red Bud) 47-5, Sr. over Dalton Brown (Oakwood/Salt Fork) 44-8, Sr. (Dec 4-2)
1A 190 – Danny Murphy (Canton) 47-4, Sr. over Calvin Savage (King College Prep) 36-6, Sr. (Dec 3-1)
1A 215 – Alejandro Duarte (Kewanee) 41-6, Jr. over Nolen Yeary (Olympia) 39-9, Sr. (Fall 3:37)
1A 285 – David McCarthy (De La Salle Institute) 31-7, Jr. over Roy Phelps (Chicago Hope Academy) 46-10, Jr. (Fall 1:15)

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