SYCAMORE – The Sycamore Invitational was one of the few of Sycamore's big invitationals that Kyle Akins hadn't won during his first three years in high school. While he was highly motivated to win his final home invite, the senior wasn't feeling his best heading into Saturday's meet after a cold nagged him throughout the week.
As it turns out, a less-than-healthy Akins is still a formidable opponent.
Akins swept his way to the 120-pound championship on Saturday, beating Belvidere's Keegan Powers, who is ranked ninth in Class 3A by illinoismatmen.com, by a 3-0 decision in the championship.
“My body's a little bit tired, but I think I performed up to par,” Akins said. “I hadn't won at this meet, and that was the big pressure. My brother won at this meet, and this was the last one on my list to check off.”
All three of the Akins' knockout-round opponents came into the day ranked in Class 3A, but the pedigree of opponent made little difference for the No. 1-ranked 120-pounder in Class 2A. The Buffalo commit cast aside his first two opponents, beating Grant's Gage Datlovsky by a 16-3 major decision before beating McHenry's Robby Duh by fall after 4:55.
“This week, I could tell [not having won the tournament] was something that ate at him a little bit,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “To finally get that one victory of the tournament that he hadn't won yet feels good. To win it in the fashion that he did, and to get [Outstanding Wrestler of the Meet] at the same time is pretty special.”
Kaneland finished in 12th out of 25 teams at the meet, led by a sixth-place finish from 285-pounder Justin Diddell and a seventh-place finish from 170-pounder Tom Price.
Coming into the day, Diddell said all five losses were to ranked Class 3A opponents, and he thinks that type of pedigree of opponent will only help him going forward.
“Having that competition really shows me how far I need to go in order to get better,” Diddell said. “The kids that are ranked five or higher are all taking shots like they're 106 [pounds].”
Riddled by injuries, Sycamore finished 18th, rounded out by a fifth-place finish from Chris Malone at 182 pounds and an eighth-place finish from 152-pounder Michael Ernster.
The Spartans are missing three of their five ranked wrestlers, and without Tyler Barton, Austin Armstrong and Brian Johnston, they aren't the powerhouse they're used to being. While he's satisfied with his healthy wrestlers, Nelson knows that the only way his team will make a deep run is mending those injuries over the next few weeks.
“We're a little depleted right now,” Nelson said. “We wrestled hard and that's all you can ask for this time of year. It's a long, kind of grueling tournament, and we're preparing ourselves for a couple of weeks when we have the conference tournament, then regionals, sectionals, and the state tournament.”