Yorkville Christian dominates to repeat as Plano Reaper Classic champs

By Patrick Z. McGavin

PLANO – The natural question confronting Yorkville Christian is how do the Mustangs ward off the natural complacency.

The clear answer is never stop winning.

“Everybody is coming after us because we are winning,” senior Jackson Gillen said.

He achieved the rare and impressive double last season of capturing the Class 1A 170-pound individual state championship in Champaign.

Gillen also fueled the Mustangs’ Class 1A state dual championship over Tremont for the first state title in school history.

The new season is a daily challenge to return to the upper echelon. That is not always easy.

The Mustangs are still hungry.

“Personally I just feel like it’s motivation to go back and get another one,” said senior Noah Dial, who captured the 132-pound individual title.  “I think back-to-back sounds a lot better than just a one-hit wonder. 

“I don’t see it as pressure, and I don’t think a lot of guys see it that way either. It’s more motivational to just go and do it again. We love the feeling of getting that state championship. We want to do it one last time, since we have so many seniors on the team.”

Yorkville Christian made another commanding statement with seven individual champions in capturing Plano’s Reaper Classic on Saturday.

Coach Mike Vester’s Mustangs amassed 247.50 points in defending their Reaper Classic title last year.

Oregon was runner-up with 184 points, followed by Tremont’s 158 and 153.50 by De La Salle Institute.

Tremont and Princeton were the only other programs that delivered multiple champions. Coached by former Mount Carmel legend TJ Williams, Tremont had winners with Bowden Delaney (126) and TJ Connor (182).

Augustus Swanson (106) and Angie Christiansen (145) brought home individual titles for Princeton.

Oregon had no individual champions. Coach Justin Lahman’s Hawks had the second highest number of finalists with five.

East Aurora, St. Francis and Amboy had one champion apiece.

Results by weight class

106 – Augustus Swanson, Princeton

Princeton’s Augustus Swanson put on a clinic, showing balance, quickness and explosiveness.

He earned the individual championship at 106 with a fall over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Gage Martin at the 1:01 mark.

He also won by major decision and fall in capturing his side of the bracket.

“I like to wrestle aggressively and fast,” Swanson said. “What was very effective today was just getting to my shots, and working really well when I was on top.

“I was able to go out, wrestle my style and push the pace.”

Martin had a first-period fall and a major decision in dominating the lower bracket.

In the third-place match, De La Salle’s Jeremiah Lawrence beat Tremont’s Jayden Neil by technical fall. Stillman Valley’s Michael Pannarale beat Yorkville Christian’s Eli Foster 5-3 in overtime for fifth place.

113 – Landon Blanton, Amboy/Ashton-Franklin Center/LaMoille/Ohio

In one of the best championship matches, Amboy/Ashton-Franklin Center/

LaMoille/Ohio’s Landon Blanton secured an 8-2 decision over De La Salle’s Raymond Alvarado for the 113 title.

“I was really pushing my shots, even more than usual,” Blanton said. “Typically I always want them to shoot, because I have a pretty good sprawl. 

“If I have to shoot, I will.”

Blanton won by injury default and a major decision in winning the upper bracket.

Alvarado was one of the most dominant performers in the preliminary rounds. He posted three first-period falls to reach the final.

In the third-place match, Oregon’s Jackson Messenger defeated Sandwich’s Ashlyn Strenz with a first-period fall. Hoopeston Area/Milford’s Charlie Flores recorded a pin of Somonauk/Leland’s Mason Smith for fifth place. 

120 – Ty Edwards, Yorkville Christian

Ty Edwards is back with a vengeance. 

After reaching the state championship match at 106 pounds as a freshman two years ago, he missed the championship season.

Yorkville Christian’s Edwards ran his record to 14-1 by decimating with four falls. Only one of his matches lasted into the second period.

Showing toughness, quickness and power, he defeated Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/

Fisher’s Shawn Schlickman at 1:06 in the 120 finals.

“I am really excited,” Edwards said. “I spent all last year waiting to get back, for the coaches and my teammates.

“Today my focus was just getting into my offense first. I was able to use my hand fighting to shake them, and when the opportunity was there.”

Despite the layoff, Edwards is finding his groove.

“I have definitely gotten my timing and rhythm back, especially in the offseason. That helped a lot. I think I am doing better than I was my freshman year.

“I’d say I have more of a controlling style, just trying to get the other guy into positions I need to get them in and just get them off.”

Schlickman posted two falls to capture the lower bracket.

Tremont’s Peyton Murphy pinned Hoopeston Area/Milford’s Talan Nelson for third place. Dixon’s Gavin Kramer posted a second-period fall of De La Salle’s Anthony Trendle for fifth place.

126 – Bowden Delaney, Tremont

Tremont’s Bowden Delaney had a long offseason to ponder his next move.

He earned a special distinction, marking four falls in just over five minutes of wrestling time.

He dispatched Sandwich’s Kadin Kern at the 3:21 mark in the 126 title match.

The duration of his other matches were, respectively, :25, 1:00, and 1:10.

“I have been working on my feet a lot in the room with my partners, and that was my big goal today,” Delaney said.

“That was a big part of my attack today. I wanted to get in my shots, and go to work on top. If I did get taken down, I wanted to react and do what I had to do and make it my match.”

His experience at the state meet last year profoundly impacted his approach and technique pushing forward.

“Last season at the state tournament, I struggled on my feet a lot,” Delaney said. “Over the summer, I have been working with my partners, with my footwork, and getting into my shots.

“Now my style is more aggressive, and I like to go out and control the match. I know what I’m doing, and I want to make him work for me and my style. Losing those matches at state was motivation more than anything and knowing that I could do better, and work to be on top of the podium this year.”

Somonauk/Leland’s Aiden Rowan defeated Hoopeston Area/Milford’s Aiden Bel 10-4 for third place. In the fifth place match, Princeton’s Andrew Peacock recorded a second-period fall of Saint Ignatius’ Jacob Ponce.

132 – Noah Dial, Yorkville Christian

Noah Dial is feeling explosive again.

The Yorkville Christian standout is still working through an ankle injury that slowed his early season action.

He captured the 132 title with a hard-fought and tough 6-0 victory over Tremont’s Mason Mark.

Dial posted three consecutive falls in the preliminaries.

“I had a different mentality today,” Dial said. “I didn’t like the way I was wrestling yesterday. I changed it up, and that is just what I have been working on. 

“I feel like I’m getting my explosiveness back. I felt a lot better today than yesterday. During some matches, I am all offense, and then other matches I will just wrestle with the flow. I like scrambling and positions, and doing what is best at that time. I was able to do that in the final.”

Despite the loss, Mark posted one of the big upsets, defeating a returning state qualifier, Princeton’s Ace Christiansen, 5-4 in the quarterfinals.

Mark also posted two falls.

Amboy/Ashton-Franklin Center/LaMoille/Ohio’s Levi Near edged Chicago Hope Academy’s Sammy Saez 3-2 to earn third place. Christiansen claimed an 11-3 major decision over De La Salle’s Mario Perez for fifth place.

138 – Grason Johnson, Yorkville Christian

Yorkville Christian’s Grason Johnson made the leap forward.

A year after finishing runner-up at 126 pounds, he earned the title at 138 with a 12-4 victory over Oregon’s Lane Halverson, a returning state qualifier.

Johnson showed perseverance and toughness, surviving consecutive tight matches in the preliminaries to gain the upper hand in the championship match.

“Just keep moving on my feet, and not really reacting to his moves, but getting a positive reaction to his shots,” Johnson said. 

“I wanted to make sure I kept my feet moving,  and I was able to get around him and get my two. I had to make the pace of the match right at the start, and keep my feet moving. I wanted to keep pushing the pace.”

By contrast, Halverson needed less than five minutes of cumulative time to post three pins.

Marian Catholic’s Joey Baranski defeated Sandwich’s Miles Corder 9-4 in the third-place match. Princeton’s Carlos Benavidez won fifth place with a second-period pin of Plano’s Norbert Gajda.

145 – Augie Christiansen, Princeton

In the most riveting championship match, Princeton’s Augie Christiansen achieved the most dramatic outcome by turning Oregon’s Seth Stevens in the final seconds of overtime for a 6-4 victory in the 145 finals.

Christiansen also had a great semifinals duel with Sandwich’s Sy Smith, pulling out a 3-2 decision.

After two falls, Stevens captured the lower bracket with the 4-1 victory over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Carson Maxey.

Maxey defeated Smith 7-1 for third place.

De La Salle’s Nicholas Arvetis defeated Marian Catholic’s Jonah Greenwood 9-2 for fifth place.

152 – Drew Torza, Yorkville Christian

Yorkville Christian’s Drew Torza dominated his side of the 152 bracket with three second-period falls.

His championship opponent, Oregon’s Grant Stender, was just as unstoppable, mashing through the lower bracket with four first-period falls.

Torza pulled out the championship with a 7-2 decision. He secured the early advantage with a first-period takedown, and had a reversal in the second period.

He improved his record to 12-2.

“I’d say I’m very much an offensive wrestler who wants to be aggressive,” Torza said. “When I go out there, my main goal is to be as aggressive as possible, rack up some points.”

Sandwich’s Nolan Bobee defeated Stillman Valley’s Porter Needs 12-11 for third place. Princeton’s Casey Etheridge posted a second-period fall of Marian Catholic’s Evan Fitzgerald for fifth place.

160 – Tyler Martinez, Yorkville Christian

Tyler Martinez came home.

The Yorkville Christian star ran his record to 18-0 with his dominant 15-1 major decision over Oregon’s Anthony Bauer in the 160 title match.

“Coming back here was really meaningful,” Martinez said. “It’s my parents’ high school, it’s my sister’s high school. 

“I had to come in, work as hard as I could, and put on the best show possible, and come out with another victory.”

Martinez defended his Reaper Classic title from last year.

“I was looking to push the pace and work hard,” Martinez said. “Each match I went out there, I was trying to get a technical fall or pin. I was trying to score as much as I could, and put on a show for the fans.”

Bauer blitzed through the lower bracket with three first-period falls.

Dixon’s Jayce Kastner defeated Saint Ignatius’ Teddy Braman by fall for third place. Plano’s Gio Diaz secured a first-period pin of Hoopeston Area/Milford’s Cohen Brown for fifth place.

170 – Jackson Gillen, Yorkville Christian

Jackson Gillen has set the highest stakes for his final high school season.

“I want to go undefeated,” he said.

The defending state champion from Yorkville Christian moved his mark to 13-0 with his annihilating, powerful style.

After two pins and a major decision, Gillen punctuated his dominant run with a fall in 3:41 of Oregon’s Gabe Eckerd in the 170 finals.

“I don’t feel like I have a target on my back,” Gillen said. “I have to prove to everyone that is why everybody has a high standard for me.”

For his part, Eckerd had three pins in five minutes of wrestling to reach the championship match.

Tremont’s Logan Stedman earned third place with a first-period fall of Sandwich’s Bryce Decker. Hoopeston Area/Milford’s Angel Zamora defeated Marian Catholic’s Lloyd Mills by fall in the fifth-place match.

182 – TJ Connor, Tremont

Time was running out for Tremont’s TJ Connor.

“I just knew I had to get one,” he said.

He showed a flair for the dramatic with a two-point nearfall in the closing seconds for an 8-7 victory over Dixon’s Owen Brooks in the 182 title match.

Connor won the upper bracket with three pins.

He also made the most of a second-chance opportunity.

“I kind of messed up there, and I tried to make that throw when it wasn’t there, and that didn’t help,” Connor said. “My mentality was to just keep pushing through it, and hard work.”

Brooks had two pins and his own epic 10-9 decision over Stillman Valley’s Andrew Forcier in the semifinals.

Brooks was a formidable opponent who forced Connor out of his comfort zone.

“In the championship match, I switched between offense and defense,” Connor said. “I was aggressive when the chance was there.”

Forcier edged De La Salle’s Josue Hernandez 3-2 for third place. Yorkville Christian’s Chris Durbin defeated Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Lincoln Eastin by technical fall for fifth place.

195 – Jeremy Loomis, Yorkville Christian

Yorkville Christian’s Jeremy Loomis completed the Mustangs’ perfect 7-for-7 championship run with an 8-1 decision over Chicago Hope Academy’s Uriah Martin-Velez in the 195 finals.

Loomis previously won by fall and major decision in winning the lower bracket.

Martin-Velez won by fall and forfeit in winning the upper bracket.

In the wildest and most-entertaining match outside of the championships, De La Salle’s Evan Smith edged Plano’s Richie Amakiri 21-18 in a back and forth masterpiece for third place.

Dixon’s Ethan Mick earned fifth place with a forfeit over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher’s Aiden Sancken.

220 – Bryan Romero, East Aurora

East Aurora’s Bryan Romero thinks outside the box. His opponents could barely see him.

He improved his record to 10-2 and earned the upperweights’ Most Outstanding Wrestler distinction with his 11-2 major decision over Plano’s Eliyas Peray in the 220 title match.

Romero had three falls preceding the title match.

“I think I have gotten a lot better at knowing when to take my shots,” Romero said. “When you get to my weight class, at 220 pounds, people are not really used to taking shots.

“I take a lot of pride in being a little bit more athletic than most guys my size. I love to be on the offensive. I think it really helps out. Once I get on top, things go down. I flip people, and that’s when I’m best.”

Peray captured the lower bracket with two falls and a tough 10-9 decision over De La Salle’s Zion Nix.

Nix recovered for third place with a third-period fall of Yorkville Christian’s Jackson Mehochko. Oregon’s Josh Crandall won by fall over Phillips’ Kelvin Tovar for fifth.

285 – Jaylen Torres, St. Francis

Mass and size collided in the 285 championship bout, the strength and power of St. Francis’ Jaylen Torres and Plano’s previously-undefeated Alex Diaz closed out the tournament in grand style.

Torres earned the subtle advantage with a late first-period takedown he rode to the 7-4 victory.

Torres had three falls in winning the lower bracket.

Diaz dispatched his preliminary opponents in quick fashion with two falls.

East Aurora’s Arnold Walker won by fall over Oregon’s Evan Flaharty for third place. Dixon’s Sean DeVries defeated Stillman Valley’s Blake Mollet by pin for fifth place.

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