DeKALB – Saturday's second day of the IESA Wrestling State Meet was played in front of a big crowd at Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center.
It featured some of the best middle school wrestlers the state has to offer.
For wrestlers from DeKalb's two middle schools – Huntley and Clinton Rosette, it also serves as a stepping stone for when it's time to compete for the DeKalb Barbs, which is the level for eighth-grade wrestlers like Clinton Rosette's Jacobe Schmerbach, who was third at 135 pounds, and Huntley's Milo Johnson, who took fourth at 112.
Huntley took 12th as a team with 58 points. Clinton Rosette was 21st with 45.
"I think any time you're on a big stage like that it prepares you for some big matches. When you wrestle against Sycamore and stuff like that when the atmosphere's up, it helps," Clinton Rosette coach Dan Weller said. "It helps them get ready for stuff like that. Just the training part of that, there's regionals, sectionals, state, just like high school."
Huntley had four placers – Justin Hernandez (fifth place, 90 pounds), Christian Komitas (sixth, 100), Keonte McKinnie (fifth, 126) and Johnson. All of them are eighth graders.
"I'm proud of them. It's tough to be able to wrestle back once you've lost that dream of a state title, lost that chance," Huntley coach Patrick Kiley said. "It's kind of hard to step up and do that but they did, so they came back and wrestled well."
Clinton Rosette's other placer was Jacob Lindemann, who finished fifth at 80 pounds.
Schmerbach suffered a 3-1 decision to Minooka's Jared Moreno in the semifinals, but was able to bounce back with an 8-0 major decision win over Mahomet-Seymour's Tanner Francisco in the third-place match.
"I used my loss in the semifinals to try to boost my performance," Schmerbach said.
During the next four years, the wrestlers who competed this weekend hope to be on the bigger stage – wrestling for DeKalb High School in Champaign at the IHSA state wrestling championships.
"Very good experience," Johnson said. "I have a lot more training for next year to get ready for the big guys."
"It's a great starter for them. I tell them all the time, this is great, but you're not done," Kiley said. "This is not supposed to be your pinnacle of your wrestling career. This is to get you ready for high school, and win, lose or draw you qualified for the state meet."
Richoz leads parade as Grand Marshal: Former Huntley coach and IESA State Wrestling tournament manager Arthur V. "Arch" Richoz was the Grand Marshal for the Parade of Champions before Saturday's championship matches. Richoz is retired after serving as the tournament's manager since 1999.
Richoz coached 18 individual state champions during his career at Huntley, and coached the team to the IESA championship in 1991. He was inducted into the DeKalb Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005.