CHAMPAIGN – Sycamore senior Austin Culton pounced on a wild shot by Marion’s Jon Evetts to put himself in position for a second straight state wrestling title.
Notching a fall in 42 seconds in his 152-pound, Class 2A state semifinal Friday night, Culton advanced to tonight’s state final at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall.
Culton, boasting a 43-0 record, will encounter fellow unbeaten Garrett Sutton, a 37-0 junior from Richmond-Burton with a much more disciplined style. After competing alongside Sutton as members of a Team Illinois program as grade-schoolers, Culton doesn’t expect a quick bout in their reunion.
“We’re both undefeated, we both know each other pretty well,” Culton said, “so to have a match like this, it’s more than just a match, I guess you could say.”
Sycamore junior Kyle Akins (39-1 at 113) and Kaneland senior Dan Goress (41-3 at 145) also will vie for 2A titles today.
With IHSA officials electing to start the state championship bouts at 170 pounds after a random draw, lighter-weight wrestlers such as Akins face a challenge to their preparation and time management.
The move was made in a bid to keep bigger crowds for the end of the finals.
“I almost like that,” said Akins, who finished third as a freshman and fourth last season. “It gives me time to prepare, you know. As soon as the day starts, I’m usually the second match up, and it’s almost hard to get ready. With it starting at 170, it gives me time to watch a couple of matches and then start my warm-up.”
Sycamore missed an opportunity at a third championship bout when senior 195-pounder Jake Davis lost a 4-3 decision to Rich South’s Roy Hickman in his semifinal.
Davis (36-2) scuffled for a scoring opportunity on the edge in the late stages of the final period, but was unable to score the go-ahead takedown. He enters today’s competition in the wrestleback semifinals, two victories away from placing third in state.
In 3A, DeKalb senior Doug Johnson (41-2) finds himself in the same position at 132 pounds. After edging Glenbard North’s Johnny Gosinski, 4-3, in the quarterfinals, Johnson lost a 3-2 semifinal decision against Marmion’s George Fisher.
Johnson trailed by the final margin entering the third period, but was unable to escape Fisher. Johnson placed third last season.
“It’s really tough. The kid’s hopes and dreams, things that he’s been working for for a long time kind of all come crashing down at once,” Barbs coach Mike Pater said. “So right now it’s just refocus mentally and get ourselves back on our feet. Try to focus on the next one I think is all we can do.”
Kaneland heavyweight Zach Theis also is in the running to finish in third, but no matter his fate, Theis figures to be in the stands to support Goress, who continues to allow his opponents little leverage and offense en route to the state finals.
“It’s every kid’s dream,” Goress said. “I got mine by pure hard work. Nothing but hard work. Every day, I went into the room wanting to be a state champion.