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February 11, 2013

Pair of Thunder wrestlers qualify for state

OREGON, Ill. — West Carroll advanced two wrestlers to the Illinois Class 1A state tournament based on their performance Saturday at the Oregon Sectional. The two Thunder wrestlers took very different paths to advancing.

At 132 pounds, Zach Hartman won his first three matches to advance to the finals and secure a berth in the state meet. At 182, Jacob Klein had to win three matches on the consolation side of the bracket to continue his season.

Other locals advancing were Erie/Prophetstown senior Brandon McCullough at 106 pounds and Morrison senior Calvin Harridge at 195.

Hartman, ranked 10th, started the meet with a technical fall and then beat No. 11 Tiburcio Cervantes of Rock Falls by decision. In the semifinals, Hartman faced No. 9 Andy Abitua of Stillman Valley.

“He wrestled really well,” West Carroll coach Jeff McIntyre said. “We’d seen the Arbitua kid, so we told him what he had to do defensively on his feet. Zach made the adjustment. We thought we were in better condition, so we wore him down and forced him to wrestle our match.”

The result was a victory by 11-7 decision. Hartman, a senior, lost to fifth-ranked JJ Wolfe of Dakota 6-2 in the final.

Saturday was much different for Klein, also a senior. After a 4-3 loss to No. 5 Terry White of Riverdale in the quarterfinals Friday, Klein knew one more loss would end his high school wrestling career.

“We basically told him to keep it one match at a time,” McIntyre said. “He was focused on going to state. I think we were probably more worried than he was. He kept saying, ‘I’m going to state, coach.’ We said, ‘OK, but focus on one match at a time.’ ”

Klein won his first match Saturday by pin in 57 seconds. He followed with an 8-1 victory over No. 15 Roman Luevano of Rock Falls. Then came the consolation semifinal, where the winner went to state and the loser went home. Klein’s opponent was Junior Smith of Mooseheart, whose only loss in 25 matches came in the semifinals to top-ranked Logan Staver of Lena-Winslow.

“(Smith) was a real strong, muscular kid,” McIntyre said. “We noticed him run out of gas (against Staver). Sometimes wrestlers who are really muscular tend to wear out easier. Jacob stayed on him, kept him moving, kept the pace of the match up and didn’t let him settle in.”

Klein, who had a comfortable lead, finished off Smith with a power-half for a pin in 5:28.

“Those are two seniors who worked really hard to get to state,” McIntyre said. “I’m proud of them.”

McCullough, ranked fifth, won his quarterfinal 8-1, but then had to face No. 2 Anthony Luis of Harvard in the semifinal. On the other side of the bracket, No. 6 Hunter Spengler of Sherrard — whom McCullough beat in the district final — was the highest seed and advanced to the final.

“We were a little disappointed when we saw the pairings,” Erie coach Tod McCullough said. “There’s not much you can do when there’s a blind draw.”

McCullough and Luis were tied at 3 with 10 seconds in the match, when the Panthers senior made a perhaps ill-advised move.

“We didn’t need to force a throw; we could have gone to overtime,” coach McCullough said. “But Brandon thought it was there.” It turned into a four-point move for Luis and a 7-3 loss for McCullough.

“I didn’t get on him too much because we had to get him mentally ready,” coach McCullough said.

With the loss, Brandon McCullough went into the consolation semifinals against Ruben Garza of Riverdale.

“Him and Garza are pretty good friends; they’ve wrestled since they were freshmen,” coach McCullough said. “It’s not a matchup either wanted. As a father and coach, I felt bad for Garza. We hadn’t lost to him, but I was worried if we weren’t mentally ready he could beat us.”

McCullough earned a trip to state with a 7-4 decision and then faced Brady Wilsie of Byron in the third-place match.

“I told him to send a message, to make a statement he was ready to go for next weekend,” coach McCullough said. “He went out there and took care of business.”

McCullough pinned Wilsie in 28 seconds to end his day on a high note.

As exciting as the day was for the four qualifiers, it was just as tough for many of their teammates. The Panthers sent seven wrestlers to the sectional, but only McCullough will continue his season in Champaign.

“I thought we had a legitimate shot at a couple others,” coach McCullough said. “But that shows how darn tough that sectional is.”

Perhaps the area wrestler who had the toughest tournament was Erie/Prophetstown sophomore Jared Cole at 138 pounds. Cole won his opening match then was pinned by top-seeded Carver James of Dakota.

Cole won his first two matches in the consolations, but then faced No. 2 Austin McPeek of Lena-Winslow in the consolation semifinals.

“He wrestled really well against McPeek,” coach McCullough said. “It was a really tough day for him. But his future is really good if he keeps improving.”

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