During his introduction on senior night last month, Mercer County 152-pound senior wrestler Zach Nelson made a point of having his Twitter handle revealed.|
Appropriately, he goes by @allwesawwasgold.
"Football," Nelson said when asked why he chose that handle. "But I'm thinking about changing it to something about wrestling."
That may not be necessary.
Three months after helping the Mercer County football team win the Class 2A state championship at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Nelson can earn a repeat performance across the street at the Assembly Hall this weekend. The two-time state wrestling finalist joins Tristen Finch, Devin Morford, Jon Ricke and Bobby Lincoln who look to win another title.
"It's an awesome opportunity," Nelson said. "Hopefully, I can get two golds and make it be the 'golden' year."
For two Alleman wrestlers, they look for redemption.
Seniors Sean Wetherell and Ben West were starters on the Alleman football team that reached the Class 4A state championship game. The run ended with a 43-18 loss to Rochester, a finish that still is frustrating.
"Don't get me wrong -- it was great to play in that game," said West, a first-time state qualifier and 220-pound sectional runner-up. "But it was a tough feeling walking off with second place. One of the first things that entered my mind was making sure I got another shot to do this in wrestling. Hopefully, I have a different result."
No matter what happens, this weekend provides another memorable experience.
"These are stories you can tell the rest of your life," Ricke, a 170-pound qualifier, said. "Not everyone gets this chance. To make it to state and do great things, that's something you can talk about the rest of your life."
Wetherell already has an interesting story to tell down the road. He just hopes this chapter has a better ending.
In less than a calendar year, Wetherell reached state championship games in both football and baseball. Each time Wetherell appeared in those contests, the Pioneers lost.
Given a third chance to be a champion, he is not focusing on it being the charm. Instead, Wetherell reflects on why he gets another opportunity.
"Hard work does pay off," Wetherell said.
For everyone involved, that is true. Each of them craved a double-dose of Champaign.
"Going into football, we knew we had a chance to do something special," West said. "With wrestling, I had a tough way to end the season last year. I worked hard in the offseason to put myself in a position to do well."
Winning a football state title and individual wrestling state championship is nothing new as Morrison twins Mark and Matt McDonnell did it last year. However, those are the only two local athletes who have accomplished.
Five will vie to add to that distinction, with two more hoping to add to the medal count.
Some, though, already will have jewelry with them in Champaign.
"When I walk into Assembly Hall," Nelson said, "I'll definitely be wearing my state ring."
A new Twitter handle could come when he walks out of Assembly Hall.
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