SYCAMORE – Sycamore senior Kyle Akins may be wrestling a weight class up this year, but the 120-pounder walked into the ring Thursday to take on Yorkville’s Dan Cikauskas as confident as ever.
The defending Class 2A champion at 113 pounds wrestled all summer at 120, so his dominant form hasn’t taken a dip. On Tuesday, he pinned Cikauskas, a top-32 120-pounder in Class 3A according to Illinoismatmen.com, with 26 seconds left in the first round.
“I go into every match with the same confidence I had all summer and all last season,” Akins said. “During the beginning of the summer, it was a little bit more difficult. I was hanging in with kids. I started to build into the 120-pounder that I wanted to be, and it got a little easier.”
Sycamore isn’t the same team it has been the last two seasons, each of which it finished in the top eight in the team state tournament, especially because the Spartans have a few holes in their lineup. On Thursday, the Spartans lost, 41-25, after forfeiting the 106-pound and 220-pound divisions.
But they certainly have star power. Along with Akins, Tyler Barton moved up a weight class this season after returning from an ACL tear, which he suffered midway through 2012. The senior, ranked ninth in Class 2A’s 195-pound division on Illinoismatmen.com, won by pin Thursday in the third round.
“[Barton and Akins] were cutting quite a bit of weight last year, and now they’re at a weight that I think is more comfortable for them,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “They’re the seniors, they’re our leaders, them and Austin [Armstrong], those are our leaders, those are our seniors and those are the ones that kind of pick these guys up and put us on their back.”
The Spartans took four other matchups. Chris Malone came from behind to win at 182 pounds, Brian Johnston dominated at 132 pounds, Armstrong won at 170 pounds and Andrew Larsen took the 145-pound bout.
For a team that is used to winning big, taking positives out of losses will be an adjustment this year. The Spartans beat Yorkville, 30-28 in the first round of last year’s team duals.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Barton said. “We would have liked to beat them again, especially because it’s my senior year. It was a little disappointing.”
But Nelson seemed happy with his team’s performance. As certain wrestlers try to work their way into empty weight classes, the Spartans know that measures of success are different right now than they’ve been in years past.
“On the ones that we did wrestle, I thought we did a really good job,” Nelson said. “Going into the meets, as an individual for those guys, you tell the guys to take care of what they can take care of, and that’s yourself, and if we come away with a win, then we come away with a win. … It’s a little different than last year. Right now we’re trying to get guys down into certain spots, and hopefully we can make that happen.”