SYCAMORE – Kyle Akins has one gear.
The Sycamore junior makes his third consecutive appearance at the Class 2A state meet, which starts today at Assembly Hall in Champaign with his nonstop wrestling style.
He won by either a major decision or a technical fall on the way to the Rochelle Sectional. Akins and teammates Austin Culton – the defending 152-pound state champion – and Jake Davis enter the state meet on a high note.
Because he’s so active on the mat, Akins offers opponents an intense physical and mental test. Akins has finished third and fourth in his first two seasons and has the potential to take the next step up on the medal stand because of his participation at off-season tournaments and tireless approach in the mat room according to Sycamore coach Alex Nelson.
Montini senior, Tommy Pawelski (38-6), a Stanford recruit and 2012 Class 2A 106-pound state champion, is the No. 1 seed in the top half of the 113-pound bracket. Akins (36-1) is No. 2 in the lower half.
“Kyle is just relentless,” Nelson said. “He just doesn’t stop. He’s on a non-stop attack that gives opponents no room for rest. He’s always going from one turn to the next. He’s fundamental in all positions and is always looking to score. He pushes guys so far mentally that they either break or he catches them.”
All year no opponent has managed to catch Culton (40-0). The Northern Illinois recruit has yet to be taken down. He has a stout defense that thwarts opponents’ attacks. Last year’s state-title run has Culton’s confidence at an all-time high.
“Austin has a chip on his shoulder from that run,” Nelson said. “He believes he’s the best out there. When you believe in yourself you can get out of tough situations. He knows he can score and takes good, smart shots.”
With the agility of a lightweight wrestler, Davis (34-1) has become an explosive force at 195 pounds. He’s the No. 1 seed and has the explosiveness and power to end a match from any position.
“Jake has wrestled well on all areas of the mat,” Nelson said. “At state he knows everyone he faces will be good from all positions and every point down there is so important. Jake has that. He’s gotten so much better on his feet this year and is still very tough on top and can get away when on bottom.”
Kaneland had two Rochelle Sectional champions, Dan Goress (38-3), the No. 3 seed at 145 pounds, and Zach Theis (32-6), the No. 4 seed at 285. Esai Ponce (33-5) is in the bottom half of the 132-pound bracket.
Doug Johnson has talked about winning a state title since he walked into DeKalb as a freshman.
His last shot begins today at the Class 3A state meet in Champaign. Johnson (39-1) is the No. 2 seed in the lower half of an absolutely loaded 132-pound bracket.
Oak Park sophomore Larry Early (40-0) is the No. 1 seed in the top of the bracket. Johnson is with Marmion senior George Fisher (43-4), the No. 3 seed in the lower half of the bracket but the top -anked 132-pounder on Illinoismatmen.com. Fisher, a Michigan recruit, won a state tile as a sophomore at 119 pounds and was runner up last year at 126 pounds.
It’s a challenging road to a state title, but DeKalb coach Mike Pater said Johnson has the intangibles.
“It takes something special to get to that state finals match,” said Pater who is looking to coach in his first state finals match. “You’ve got to have an intrinsic motivation. A willingness to believe there’s no way you’re going to lose. You’ve got to use positive self talk when faced with a tough situation. Doug has that he believes he can win every match.”