ORION -- Two lengthy streaks carried by Mercer County 152-pound senior wrestler Zach Nelson extended into Saturday afternoon.|
Nelson only could continue one.
Turns out, it was the one that mattered most.
Taken down for the first time this season midway through the first period by Ashton-Franklin Center senior Jake Kaecker, Nelson regained his focus and found his form. Nelson scored five of the next six points to claim his fourth consecutive Bob Mitton-Orion Invitational championship.
"It's definitely an awesome accomplishment," Nelson said after his 5-3 victory. "But my last match here, I didn't wrestle the way I could have. In my perspective, I was really sloppy."
Appearing fatigued, Nelson surrendered the first points as Kaecker finished a shot and put him to the mat. A few moments later, Nelson escaped before the first-period ended to cut the deficit in half.
"It was a scramble situation, and he came out on top," Nelson said. "I'm glad it happened early in the match."
From there, he completed a second-period takedown to take a lead he did not relinquish. Nelson has not lost a regular-season bout since his sophomore year.
Another bonus was Nelson outlasting an opponent he could see in next month's Class 1A Oregon Sectional.
"Hopefully, I'll have a better answer for the stuff he does," Nelson said. "Then, I could not let it be so close."
As a team, Mercer County took second in the 16-team event with 199.5 points. Top-ranked Dakota outlasted a field of five state-ranked teams as it tallied 245 points.
Besides Nelson, the Golden Eagles had five additional finalists. Out of that quintet, only 160-pound senior Devin Morford earned a title. Morford overcame a 2-0 first-period deficit to get a 9-4 win over Erie-Prophetstown's Seth Montgomery.
"Now I have it in my head that I can beat him," Morford said, "and he's got it in his head that he needs to step it up to beat me."
Mercer County's Tristen Finch (138 pounds), Logan Snyder (145), Matt Weeks (182) and Bobby Lincoln (220) all lost in the finals. Finch, ranked second in the latest Illinois Best Weekly Class 1A poll, dropped a 7-0 decision to top-ranked Dakota sophomore Carver James.
Alleman gets two champions: On his way to the upper-weight most outstanding wrestler award, Alleman 170-pound senior Sean Wetherell earned a title with a classic finish. Wetherell outlasted stated-rated Oregon senior Brandon Sklavanitis by a 3-2 decision in the ultimate tiebreaker.
"I thought I had a lot better conditioning," Wetherell said. "It came down to who wanted it the most and who had the conditioning. I felt I was ahead of him on both."
Tied at 2 heading into the tie-breaker, Wetherell chose down and needed an escape in the 30-second frame to get the win. With less than 10 seconds remaining, he wiggled free to get his first-ever Mitton title.
"When I got up to my feet, he would pick me up and take me down," Wetherell said. "I was nervous, but I felt more comfortable underneath. I felt if I kept bouncing up, he was going to get gassed and I would get my escape. That's what happened."
Ben West didn't need overtime to get a title. The Alleman 220-pound senior pinned Lincoln with 90 seconds left in the second period on what appeared to be a throw. Prior to that, West led 1-0.
"I can't call that a move," said West, who won all three of his matches by fall. "We were just wrestling. He kind of got out of position a little bit, and I threw him to his back."
Both Erie-Prophetstown 106-pound senior Brandon McCullough and Orion 126-pound junior Jacob DeVolder rolled to titles.
McCullough scored a takedown and 2-point near fall in the first period to set up his 8-0 major decision over Sherrard's Hunter Spengler.
"I can't really explain it," McCullough said. "Everything was going right."
In his title bout, DeVolder tallied an 11-0 major decision against Kewanee's Bo Walters.
"I'm wrestling to my potential," DeVolder said. "I'm going to keep working and keep improving."
Sherrard 285-pound junior nearly upset top-ranked Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley-Fisher junior Josh Wallick in the finals before suffering a 3-2 loss. Also earning runner-up finishes were Sherrard's Chance Teel (113) and Kewanee's Mark Breedlove (132).
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