Tigers score silver at rugged E-P tourney

ERIE — One week after winning the team title at Riverdale’s Jim Boyd Invitational, the Sherrard wrestling squad faced a greater challenge Saturday.

Competing at the 15-team Erie-Prophetstown Holiday Tournament, a field highlighted by reigning Class 1A state champion Lena-Winslow/Stockton, the Tigers had a sense that they would be competing for silver instead of gold.

The PantherHawks did run away with the team title, racking up 282.5 points, but Sherrard’s 147-point total was good enough to earn it second place, besting Three Rivers Conference rival Orion (137) for the silver medal.

“They’re tough as nails, and we knew it’d be pulling their way,” Sherrard coach Jeff Garrett said of the Le-Win/Stockton co-op, which has won two of the last three state team titles. “We were definitely thinking top 3 at best, and we kind of had a dogfight for second and third place.

“I’m very pleased. This is a very tough tourney, with a lot of good teams. More competition is great; that’s what you want. Win or lose, it’s about how better it makes you.”

Sherrard junior 195-pounder Josh Bynum, an individual champion last week at Riverdale, was the lone Tiger to reach the championship round, where he was pinned in 1:57 by undefeated Dixon standout Sebastian Quintana.

“I always try as hard as I can, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” Bynum (13-2) said. “We hadn’t seen Dixon, so this was good to know where I’m at. I’ll definitely be working extremely hard in the room.”

Also bolstering the Tigers were third-place finishes from Austin Fratzke (132) and Gavyn White (182).

Orion’s Josh Fair (182) and Brady Mulvaney (220) advanced to the title round.

Taking on Le-Win/Stockton’s Gavin Keefer, Fair (14-1) wasted no time in putting his opponent down for the count, striking gold with a 46-second pin.

“At the beginning of the season, I felt very out of shape. Throughout my matches, I’d get tired and weaker, and it’d end up feeling like a loss for me, even when I won,” he said. “I can feel it; I’m definitely getting in better shape. There’s still room to improve, though.”

Mulvaney dropped a 3-2 decision to Morrison’s Riley Wilkens, with a third-period escape point the difference as Wilkens (11-0) joined Mustang teammate Colton Linke (13-1) in the winner’s circle Saturday; Linke took the 126-pound title.

However, Mulvaney (16-2) believes that although the final outcome was not what he wanted, the experience will only benefit him.

“I’d say this shows how far I’ve come since I started wrestling,” said the Cambridge prep, who competes with the Chargers as part of a co-op, “and it shows me what I need to improve on.”

Rockridge, which tallied 102 points to tie Fulton for eighth, crowned a pair of champions in the senior duo of 138-pounder Dallas Krueger and 145-pounder Nolan Throne.

Throne (11-0) shared Most Outstanding Wrestler honors for the lower weights with Morrison’s Linke. He capped a dominant day with a 13-1 major decision win over East Peoria’s Tristen Westbay.

“This is kind of how I had it planned, to be more aggressive offensively, come out and get quick takedowns,” he said. “I feel like I did a good job today, but it doesn’t stop here. I’ve got to keep pushing and come prepared in February.”

Krueger, who also moved to 11-0 with his 4-1 title-bout win over Le-Win/Stockton’s Winston McPeek, likewise view’s Saturday’s win as a steppingstone to his goal of winning his first state championship.

“All of this is preparation for the state series,” Krueger said. “I’m constantly trying to be the best I can be. This is the year I want it all, and I’m going to work hard for it.”

Meet host Erie-Prophetstown (seventh, 116 points) had a pair of finalists who settled for silver medals. Jase Grunder (14-4) fell 5-3 to Illini Bluffs’ Cameron Clark in the 120-pound title bout, and Tyler Smith (16-4) dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Le-Win/Stockton’s Case Harmston at 170.

Fulton’s Nate Portz (11-1) reached the 285-pound finals, but was pinned in 16 seconds by Le-Win/Stockton standout Gennings Dunker.