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Prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner surveyed more than two dozen of the state’s top prep wrestlers, getting their opinions about their sport’s most difficult aspect. These are individuals who all will seek championships in the IHSA’s 73rd annual state tournament, which begins Friday at the Assembly Hall.
He selected seven categories and asked the 26 state qualifiers to rank them from hardest to easiest.
According to Rob Sherrill, who has compiled weekly state wrestling rankings for 26 years for The Illinois Best Weekly, these are the favorites to win state championships during the 73rd state tournament, which concludes Saturday at the Assembly Hall.
WT. NAME SCHOOL YR. REC.
103 Kevin Malarick Palos Hills Stagg Sr. 30-0
112 Derek Elmore Machesney Park Harlem Jr. 37-1
119 Eddie Klimara New Lenox Providence So. 39-1
125 Jameson Oster Lockport Jr. 42-2
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR BOYS' BASKETBALL
The Bulldogs (17-7) won their sixth straight game and avenged a previous loss to Bloomington Central Catholic, which kept alive the team's hopes for a Corn Belt Conference championship.
CPCI GIRLS' BASKETBALL
The Timberwolves won their first regional title in three years. Four different squad members had double-figure games, including Taylor Redeker in each game. CPCI beat No. 1 seed Milford in the finals.
St. Thomas More senior wrestler Nathan Santhanam and Salt Fork junior basketball player Maddison Stutsman are our Athletes of the Week:
Nathan Santhanam, St. Thomas More senior, Wrestling
Recent accomplishments: The 112-pounder won his second consecutive sectional championship. In the finals, he defeated LeRoy's Devin Bulington, who a week earlier beat him in the regional finals.
Quote: "It means a lot. Hopefully I can win some matches and become a better wrestler."
A look at the top area wrestling teams:
News-Gazette Top 10
SCHOOL (PREVIOUS) RECORD
1. Champaign Central (1) 19-2
Four state qualifiers in Class 2A
2. LeRoy (2) 20-0
Eight state qualifiers in Class 1A
3. GCMS/Fisher (3) 20-5
Seven state qualifiers in Class 1A
4. Prairie Central (4) 16-6
Three state qualifiers in Class 1A
5. Argenta-Oreana (5) 21-1
Four state qualifiers in Class 1A
CHAMPAIGN – Tyler Finkbeiner is nothing if not honest about his relationship with wrestling. A relationship so lukewarm that the Champaign Central senior walked away from the sport last season.
"Honestly, I don't really like wrestling quite that much," Finkbeiner said. "I just like the workout and so I decided to take my junior year off and prepare for football."
LeROY – Two weeks ago, Argenta-Oreana's Kris Powars, Unity's Buddy Daly and Clinton's Jacob Bateson placed first, second and third, respectively, at 140 pounds at LeRoy's Class 1A regionals. In the semifinals, Daly beat Bateson.
For their efforts, each qualified for Clinton's Class 1A sectional last Saturday. Nothing changed. When the bracket was completed, Powars was the sectional champ, Daly was the runner-up and Bateson was third. Again, Daly defeated Bateson in the semifinals.
In his role as head coach of the University of Illinois wrestling team, there will be much to keep Jim Heffernan occupied this weekend when the IHSA state tournament hits the Assembly Hall.
Of course, Heffernan will want to catch every second of Illini signee Jed Lightfoot's matches. A year after placing second at 125 pounds in Class 2A, the Yorkville senior has his eyes on a 140-pound crown.
AREA QUALIFIERS Class 1A
ARGENTA-OREANA–Kris Powars (140); Andrew Patterson (189); Aaron Ford (215); Trent Trudeau (Hwt.)
BISMARCK-HENNING–Morgan Supergan (Hwt.)
CLINTON–Jacob Bateson (140)
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY/FISHER–Dylan Donner (103); Chet McClure (112); Guy Kirby (140); Elliott McClure (145); Stephan BIrt (171); Cody Flynn (189); Austin Seneca (215)
HOOPESTON AREA–Robbie Irwin (152)
Area wrestling All-Decade team
NAME SCHOOL YEAR GRAD COMMENT
Josh Blackburn Unity 2002 State runner-up as a senior won 85.9 percent of his matches (134-22)
Andrew Brewer Mahomet-Seymour 2009 State champion as a senior won 82.1 percent of his matches (138-30)
Dustinn Brown Unity 2008 Three-time state placer won 91.3 percent of his matches (136-13)
Tyrone Byrd Clinton 2001 Two-time state champion won 91.2 percent of his matches (155-15)