THE COAL CITY Coalers qualified 11 individuals for the IHSA 1A State Championships, which will begin on Thursday. Wrestlers competing down in Champaign include (front, from left) Alex Friddle, Lane Kutemeier, Ryan Wasielewski, Jake Hiles, TJ Jezik and Danny Norton. (Back) Daniel Jezik, Bryan Stopka, Brendan Nevin, Brock Crawford and Brandon Strnad. Photo by Brent Sumner.
by Brent Sumner Staff writer
Coal City's wrestling program will be sending one more wrestler than they planned on this week as they head to Champaign for State.
The Coalers entered the Sectional after advancing 10 from the Wilmington Regional last week.
However, Brandon Strnad (106) went as an alternate, and wound up earning an entry into the Sectional, where he placed fourth, securing number 11 for the Coalers that will be heading to state.
"It is one of those things, his dad texted me asking what his chances are of getting in, and I said it was pretty slim to none," said Coaler coach Mark Masters. "If you could relate it to something, look at the Super Bowl. Falcons, after scoring, they had a 99.6 percent chance of winning, that 99.6 percent of the time, Brandon wasn't getting in. That 4/10ths of one percent is how close it was to him getting in. It was crazy."
Strnad made the most of his opportunity, picking up two pins in the opening rounds over Eric Henderson from Corliss (:30) and Josh Gutierrez from Lutheran (1:05).
He eventually lost to top-ranked Pauley Keane from Bishop Mac, pushing Strnad to the wrestlebacks, where he picked up a win moving into the third place match.
In the final, he ran into Wilmington's Tyler Rock, who won the match by pin (:43). While Strnad placed fourth, he will still be traveling to state. Not bad for a wrestler who thought his season was over.
"It is a celebration for us," Masters added. "We thought if he got in, he could qualify. We did think that, if he could get in."
In addition to Strnad, the Coalers had 10 others claim trips to state, including two sectional champions, Jake Hiles (120) and Ryan Wasielewski (132).
Coal City also had five wrestlers place second, two third, and two fourth place (including Strnad).
"We competed at a high level the entire tournament," Masters said. "One thing I'll try and steal from PJ Fleck's program, have an elite practice. Have high expectations for yourself and your team, how we conduct ourselves, and that has kind of been the theme all year. I am extremely proud of all of these guys."
At 113 pounds, Alex Friddle entered his bracket as one of the favorites.
The regional champion received a first round bye, and made quick work in the following two matches, picking up pins over St. Joseph's Chris Ramirez (2:58) and Sual Castillo (3:40).
Friddle moved to the final round, where fans watched one of the most anticipated matches of the Sectional.
Friddle, ranked second in state, faced No. 1 ranked Joey Bianchini from IC Catholic.
Friddle wound up losing the match 7-0, but there is a good chance the two will see each other again at state.
Hiles entered his bracket as the easy favorite, and wound up receiving two byes to open the tournament.
Not wrestling until the semifinals seemed to benefit the Coaler, as he picked up a pin over Walther's Luis Dieguez (4:37) to advance to the final.
Hiles had another big win in the final, defeating Oliver Willis from Hope Academy in 2:34 by tech. fall (15-0).
Lane Kutemeier just made the cutoff at 126, as he earned fourth during the Sectional.
He opened up his competition on Friday, where he faced Jack Kelly from Lisle, and wound up pinning him in the third period (5:12).
Kutemeier lost in the next round to Nick Peterson from Walther (4-0), but battled through the wrestlebacks to reach the third-place match.
He picked up two pins and a major decision before squaring up against Chicago Military Academy's Shawn Sparacino. Kutemeier put a strong fight, going three periods, but wound up getting pinned at 5:31.
Ryan Wasielewski entered 132 as another favorite for the area wrestlers, and wound up earning the second title for Coal City.
Receiving a first round bye, he defeated Dayvonta Stevenson in the second round, kicking things off with a tech. fall (18-2, 1:50).
Wasielewski followed that up with a semifinal win over Damrious Jointer from Marshall with a 13-2 major decision, and picked up another major decision in the final, defeating Bishop Mac's Andrew Steffes, 11-3.
TJ Jezik (138) was another wrestler who battled his way through the wrestlebacks, as he clinched a third place finish.
Jezik started Friday against Marco Gonzalez from Leo, and picked up a quick pin (1:20), before losing in the next round to DePaul's Omar Otero in a close decision, 7-6.
Jezik battled through the wrestlebacks, defeating Curtis Green from Westmont (pin, 2:35), Jacob Ramirez from Bishop Mac (maj. 11-0) and Wilmington's Landon Flynn (dec. 11-7).
In the third place match, he faced the same wrestler he lost to earlier, Otero from DePaul.
This time, Jezik got the last laugh, defeating Otero by a 5-3 decision to earn third place.
At 145, Daniel Jezik finished second, defeating Traysi Monden from Bowen in the opening round by injury default. He picked up a second round win over second seed Amos Willis by decision, 8-2.
In the semis, Jezik was in a tough battle with Reed-Custer's Gabe Nagel, but wound up edging out on top with a 2-1 decision, lining up a final against Wilmington's Bobby Shields.
Shields won the match with a 9-2 decision.
Danny Norton (160) also earned second place in his weight class, entering as one of the top seeds.
Norton picked up his first win over Westmont's Jacob Torrens (pin, 3:05), before winning in the semi-final against Mark Pivek (6-2 dec).
In the final, it was another anticipated match, as Norton faced Hope Academy's Jedidah Willis, with both wrestlers having only two losses on the season.
Willis wound up winning the title with a pin in the first period (1:20).
Bryan Stopka (182) got off to a fast start Friday night, pinning his first opponent in :26 seconds, and opened Saturday with another pin over Hope Academy's Pablo Tellez (3:45).
In the semis, Stopka ran into a familiar opponent, Wilmington's James Cox. Both wrestlers have a history between them, but Stopka picked up the win, defeating Cox with a 7-2 decision, moving to the final.
Stopka faced top-seeded Isaac Lyzenga from Illiana in the final. He put up a good fight, but Lyzenga wound up winning by pin (3:27).
Brock Crawford (195) was the final Coaler wrestler to earn a second-place finish, as he battled to the final with wins over Walther's Luke Mason (pin, 4:17) and Hope Academy's Freddy Vastarella (2-0 decision).
In the final he faced top seed, Marquise Paino from Bowen, who held a record of 31-3).
Crawford battled throughout the match with Paino, scoring an escape to pull within one point. Crawford needed a take down to tie it up, but there was only three seconds left. He settled for second, losing by decision, 3-2.
The final wrestler to advance for Coal City was Brendan Nevin (220), who picked up third place in the Sectional.
Entering with a record of 17-10, he defeated Hope Academy's John Garcia (30-13) by pin at 4:43, and followed that up by defeating Bowen's David Jordan with another pin (2:51).
Nevin lost in the semis to Victor Vargas (8-3 dec), but battled back to the third-place match with a win over Carlos Burgos from DePaul (13-4 maj).
In the third place match, Nevin got some revenge, defeating Wilmington's Sam Jones with a 9-4 decision.
The 11 wrestlers will now prepare for the state finals, which will kick off on Thursday. The preliminaries will start at 1 p.m., with the quarterfinals and first-round wrestlebacks starting on Friday at 8:30 a.m.
"Our focus never changes, it is getting yourself mentally right. On Monday, that is the physical part," said Masters. "Monday will be more physical, getting some soreness out. Tuesday we will focus on scoring points, what if you are on bottom or top. Wednesday will be getting a good drill in, find out if we are all on weight, and Thursday will be time to have fun. Let it all hang out and see what happens."
The Grand March and championship matches will be held on Saturday, starting at 5 p.m. at the State Farm Center in Champaign.