FULTON – Fulton High School wrestling coach Chris Grant knew this week would be a challenge for his young team.
The Steamers competed in Alleman Tuesday and hosted a triangular meet Wednesday at FHS, welcoming in the elite programs of Lena-Winslow/Stockton and Rock Falls.
Not to mention Fulton is holding final exams for students this week.
"We knew it would be tough going into it and that it would be 'Hell Week' but the fortunate thing about tonight is that we have a review day tomorrow," Grant said. "They are going to get a nice break around Christmas time to enjoy time with their family."
While the Steamers lost to both teams, the evening was not without shining performances from a team that rosters just one senior in Eli Pannell, who won both of his matches in convincing fashion.
Pannell pinned Gennings Dunker of Lena-Winslow/Stockton in his first bout of the evening before defeating Brody Mulvaney (Rock Falls) via fall in the night cap.
Grant acknowledged the importance of Pannell providing a leadership role to the group, which the coach says begins long before the wrestling season commences.
"The reason they are as good as they are is because of the offseason," Grant said. "They go to these tournaments and they go to these extra clubs to get mat time... they have to be proponents of [working] and that is how the younger guys will get better."
Fulton sophomore Jakob North, who trains with state qualifier Pannell every day in practice, earned a couple of decisive wins despite not factoring into the team's scoring.
"It is nice to see," Grant said. "He is bound and determined to get better and to get better at pinning... I am excited to see it and maybe fit into the lineup somewhere."
North was pleased with his 2-0 showing Wednesday night but was quick to point towards a goal of consistent improvement.
"It feels good and feels like I am making progress moving forward," North said. "I just have to keep working."
Max Pannell was another Steamer that finished the event 2-0, the second of which came in an exciting match with Rock Falls' Joseph Nelson in the nightcap after a swift defeat of Brady Stich (Lena-Winslow/Stockton) earlier in the evening.
After the score was tied after three periods, Pannell and Nelson entered a one-minute session in which a takedown would clinch the match. Neither of them recorded the winning move, allowing the FHS sophomore to earn a point for an escape in the subsequent 30-second period and claim a hard-fought victory.
Grant said the two Pannell's garnered useful experience as the season starts to unwind and opponents begin to get tougher.
"Both Eli and Max getting full matches is good for them because the further we get into this season and into the postseason, there are going to be guys that they will have to be able to go those six or eight minutes," Grant said.
Fulton will take on Camanche and Central DeWitt at 6 p.m. Thursday in Camanche, the last event for the Steamers until Jan. 5.