CHAMPAIGN -- The Mercer County wrestling team entered the Champaign St. Thomas More New Year's Challenge as the highest-ranked squad in the field.|
After the first day, the Golden Eagles lived up to the expectations. Ranked second in the Illinois Best Weekly Class 1A state poll, they earned four convincing dual wins on Friday at Huff Hall, starting the two-day event in impressive fashion. The Golden Eagles beat 12th-ranked Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher (52-18), 18th-ranked Beardstown (45-28), Dwight (54-27) and Robinson (53-20) to win their pool and advance to the championship bracket.
"We wrestled well, especially the end of the day," Mercer County coach Jeremy Finch said. "We looked pretty good."
Mercer County ended the day with an impressive win over Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher. The Golden Eagles won every bout from 132 through 220 pounds. Five of those victories featured bonus points.
"When we get in the middle of the lineup, we get rolling," Finch said. "That was big for us."
Logan Snyder (145 pounds), Zach Nelson (152) and Jon Ricke (170/182) each had four wins for the Golden Eagles.
"The way we handled our business is an indication of the kind of team we have," Finch said. "These kids find a way to perform."
Rockridge and Monmouth-Roseville each claimed two victories. The Rockets topped Monmouth-Roseville (39-36) and Clinton (42-39), but lost to St. Joseph-Ogden (48-36) and Clifton Central (71-10).
Monmouth-Roseville topped Clinton (51-27), tied St. Joseph-Ogden (42-42) and lost to Wilmington (65-12). Morrison lost to Chillicothe IVC (53-21), Petersburg PORTA (58-27) and Plano (61-13), but beat St. Thomas More (48-27).
McGhee wins at Palatine: Rock Island senior B.J. McGhee continued his undefeated start by winning the 120-pound title at the Palatine Invitational. McGhee, 23-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Illinois Best Weekly Class 2A poll, won the title with an 8-4 win over second-ranked Richmond-Burton junior Grant Sutton.
"I felt like I prepared myself well to wrestle (Sutton)," McGhee said. "I feel like I proved that I deserve to be No. 1."
United Township's Jeronnie Steward (113 pounds) and Markus Murphy (170) each finished third in their respective weight classes. Rocky's Devin Syler took fourth at 138 pounds.
The Rocks (135.5 points) were sixth in the 27-team field, with UT (66) taking 22nd place.