The 138-pound weight class at the Class 1A Oregon Individual Sectional on Friday and Saturday represents a who’s who of some of the best 1A wrestlers in the state.
Four of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association’s top eight ranked wrestlers at that weight will be competing, including No. 1 Dallas Krueger of Rockridge, No. 2 Adam Meenen of Rock Falls, No. 6 Lucas Sutherland of Dakota and No. 8 Winston McPeek of Lena-Winslow/Stockton.
Not that Genoa-Kingston’s Luke Bennett is deterred by the looming gantlet.
“My goal is just to make it top four,” Bennett said. “I know I’m going to have a lot of tough competition in front of me.”
The senior, whose record is 27-2, is one of five Cogs to qualify for the sectional as an individual. The others are Erik Garcia (220 pounds), Jesse Torres (145), Joan Moreno (113) and Jose Garcia (285). They will face a field that includes No. 1 Dakota, No. 2 Lena-Winslow, No. 8 Dixon and No. 9 Harvard.
“There’s a lot of good people at sectionals, and we have a lot of good people going into brackets, too,” Bennett said. “If they’re smart, they definitely have a shot of reaching top four and state.”
Bennett has bought into the message coach Chad Wilmarth is preaching, saying not to treat any match as too big.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing,” Bennett said. “Stand them up, take them down, do me.”
Wilmarth doesn’t want his team stressing over their tough pairings.
“To all those guys, try not to put it on a pedestal,” Wilmarth said. “Go out and wrestle your match. Don’t overthink it.”
Eleven Sycamore wrestlers will compete at the Class 2A Rochelle Sectional, and for the IWCOA 11th-ranked Spartans, Friday and Saturday will face an upward battle against a heavy field that includes 2A top-10 teams Washington, Joliet Catholic, Geneseo, Aurora Christian and LaSalle-Peru.
Dylan Shuman (220) one of four regional champions for the Spartans, said that the reason he’s back out for wrestling this season is specifically to aid his development for football.
“I noticed a difference in my playing football,” Shuman said. “I just wasn’t playing as well when I stopped wrestling. I think it truly helps just playing really well in football, too.”
Shuman enters Friday’s competition against a field that he matches up favorably with., He owns wins over several Interstate Eight Conference opponents within the sectional.
“It’s good competition,” Shuman said. “I’m going to have to wrestle my best to get [to state]. Make it to a state tournament means I’ve wrestled really well. I have to beat some good kids to get there.”
Other Spartans vying for state berths with a top-four finish are Sam Sprinkle (113), Alex Crawford (120), Nicholas Lockhart (126), Zack Crawford (132), Sam Carlson (138), Brayden Peet (145), Gus Cambier (152), Colton Berg (160), Zak Kozumplik (170), and Zechariah Hollingsworth (285).
“I think [Shuman] knows that there’s unfinished business yet,” Sycamore coach Alex Nelson said. “We’ve lost to a couple guys that are that sectional. We’re 1-1 against his possible second-round opponents so there’s some familiarity there, but the way he’s wrestling, and how he’s looked the last couple weeks, I think if he wrestles well, there’s no reason he can’t be in that top four Saturday night.”
Peet is ranked No. 8 by the IWCOA and as a sophomore is competing on an unfamiliar stage. He did not make sectionals a season ago.
“You have to wrestle 100 percent,” Peet said. “If you don’t give 100 percent when you wrestle at sectionals Friday and Saturday, I don’t think you’ll make it, because our sectional is pretty tough.”
Peet said he’s confident heading into the sectional but expects to come out of it with lessons learned regardless of the result.
“He’s been pretty battle-tested all year and had some pretty big wins against some pretty solid kids and been in grinder matches where he’s won and lost some,” Nelson said. “I think he’s mentally and physically prepared.”
The sophomore 145-pounder is looking forward to a potential matchup with Washington’s Cole Watkins in the semifinals.
“I know that sectionals is going to be way harder than regionals,” Peet said. “I should make it definitely into the semis, but my semis match is definitely going to be very close.”
Both Peet and Shuman exuded an aura of confidence that each of Sycamore’s 11 wrestlers has a strong chance at qualifying for the 2A individual state
“Everyone that qualified for sectionals has a chance to make it,” Shuman said. “If everyone wrestles well, I think we can get all 11.”
Four Kaneland Knights wrestlers are in action at the Rochelle Sectional: Cameron Phillips (106), Caden Grabowski (113), Jack Yore (160) and Miles Ripper (220).
DeKalb qualified 13 of 14 wrestlers for the Class 3A Conant Sectional in Hoffman Estates, seven of whom won regional titles.
Advancing to the sectional for the Barbs are Ben Aranda (106), Austin Martin (113), Danny Curran (120), Blake McGee (126), Tommy Curran (132), Fabian Lopez (138), Damien Lopez (152), Bradley Gillum (160), Shawn Ager (170), Tucker Ikens (182), Bryson Buhk (195), Bryan Mora (220) and Tunde Oroye (285), while 145-pounder Nate Perry is available as an alternate.
Other top teams at the sectional include top-ranked Montini, No. 7 Glenbard North and No. 19 St. Charles East, the latter which DeKalb defeated at Saturday’s regional.