SHERRARD -- One of Zach Nelson's goals for Saturday's Class 1A Sherrard Regional was to return home as a four-time champion.|
However, even that lofty standard was trumped by the collective goal the senior 152-pounder and his Mercer County wrestling teammates had set for themselves -- to score a second consecutive regional team title.
Advancing 11 wrestlers on to next weekend's Oregon Sectional, a group led by gold medalists Tristen Finch (138 pounds) and Nelson, the Golden Eagles accomplished their mission with 205.5 points, besting an Erie-Prophetstown squad that tallied 176 points and seven sectional qualifiers at Harry Hunt Gym.
"I wanted to do what I could do to help get us to the next round, and if that meant getting all the bonus points we needed, I was going to take that opportunity," said Nelson, who dominated Morrison's Nolan Dykema with a 12-1 major decision. "It was definitely a goal of ours, to win regionals."
Now, the Golden Eagles get to look forward to the Feb. 19 dual-team sectional at Byron, where they will take on Harvard in their quest to return to the 1A state duals in Bloomington, where they placed third last winter.
"All we want is to get back to state, and improve on what we did last year," Nelson stated. "My goal here was to get first, nothing less. That's going to be my main goal at sectionals, too."
Finch, who also won by major decision in his 138-pound title bout (11-1 over Erie-Prophetstown standout Jared Cole), is also looking to raise his game next weekend at Oregon's Blackhawk Center, home to arguably the toughest 1A sectional in all of Illinois.
"I wrestled all right (Saturday), but I've got to get back in the room and really improve to get out of sectionals," he said. "Our sectional is really tough, so I know I've got to perform even better. I know I've got to work hard this week."
While Nelson and Finch were the lone gold medalists for Mercer County, the Eagles also benefited from a plethora of silver medalists along with the bronze-medal winning trio of Logan Snyder (145), Matt Weeks (182) and Bobby Lincoln (220).
Earning runner-up honors were Ashton Klingaman (113), Preston Adams (120), Devin Morford (160), Jon Ricke (170), Mason Weeks (195) and Alex Kisner (285).
"Getting two (team titles) in a row is really gratifying for this senior class," said Mercer County coach Jeremy Finch. "I really feel good about them winning another regional title, which was one of our big goals, which is what you work for all year. We drove up here together with team and individual goals, which we achieved."
McCullough, Montgomery golden for E-P: While Erie-Prophetstown missed out on advancing its whole team, two of its individuals made sure they earned individual titles.
At 106 pounds, Brandon McCullough prevailed over Sherrard's Hunter Spengler with a 10-6 decision, but was almost pinned when Spengler took him down in the closing seconds. Fortunately for McCullough, time expired.
"I've just got to make things interesting,'' he said. " ... It just shows you can't let your guard down anytime.''
Teammate Seth Montgomery struck gold as the No. 3 seed at 160, reversing MC's top-seeded Morford in the final 30 seconds of the third period to prevail 4-3.
"This is my first varsity tournament win ever, so it feels real good," said Montgomery. "Sectionals are going to be tough, but I think I can manage.''
Silver medals went to the Panthers' Josh Wheeler (132) and Cole.
Orion, Sherrard crown three champs each: Although Orion finished sixth at the nine-team regional with 87 points, the Chargers did crown three champions, tying third-place Sherrard (131) for the most of any school. Brothers Jacob and Joe DeVolder earned the 126- and 145-pound titles, while Mikey Dierikx prevailed at 132 pounds.
"Jacob's my partner, and he's a good one. I like to follow right behind him," said Dierikx. "It just makes me feel better."
The Tigers crowned back-to-back winners in Chance Teel (113) and Jacob Hast (120), and 285-pounder Ben Corlett wrapped up the day by pinning MC's Kisner in 3:48. "It's good to get this at home," said Teel. "It means a lot seeing family and friends here, and also having my teammates here to support me."
Wetherell, West tops for Alleman: Seventh-place Alleman (66) had a pair of winners in Sean Wetherell (170) and Ben West (220), while teammate Max Rocha also qualified with his third-place finish at 285 pounds.
"I felt like both of us prepared very well," said Wetherell, who edged Ricke in the finals. "Now, I've got to step it up a bit. This was a great match; I just wanted to work more offense than I did."
TRAC-9 rivals win one apiece: Three Rivers Conference rivals Morrison and Riverdale crowned one champion each in Calvin Harridge (195) and Terry White (182), respectively. White won his first regional crown by blanking Morrison's Austin Shoup 7-0 in the finals. "I hope to go to sectionals, wrestle my style and go as far as I can," said White.
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