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Around the mat

News and notes from Friday at the Assembly Hall:

Youth clubs give wrestling much-need shot in the arm

It is the ultimate paradox.

There are fewer opportunities for wrestlers to earn scholarships at Division I colleges than there were 10 years ago, yet there is an increase in participation in the sport at the high school and youth levels.

Top of the heap

Top-ranked and ranked area wrestlers, courtesy The Illinois Best Weekly

Brewer hopes third time's a charm this weekend

MAHOMET – For some wrestlers, the exit ramp at the IHSA state tournament can be a particularly cruel road to travel.

Just ask Andrew Brewer.

Falcons turn up the heat

STANFORD – Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Ryan Birt instructs his wrestlers to practice as if they are competing in a meet.

The intensity in the practice room paid off for the Falcons as GCMS will send four grapplers to the IHSA state finals next weekend at the Assembly Hall after a successful day Saturday at the Class 1A Olympia Sectional.

Business as usual for Bulldogs

NORMAL – Zach Ochs was the biggest success story among area athletes at Saturday's Normal West Class 2A sectional wrestling tournament. The Mahomet-Seymour junior earned the recognition in a literal as well as a figurative sense.

As a heavyweight, he was the largest of the area's 10 2A state qualifiers. After pinning an opponent in the third-place match who had beaten him on three previous occasions, Ochs also had staged the day's biggest comeback.

Central'sSmith comes through with mom on mind

CHAMPAIGN – Ever since Brandon Smith, a Champaign Central senior, started wrestling, his parents have been his biggest fans.

They have been at every meet he has wrestled since seventh grade, and stood proudly beside him when he was honored during the Maroons' last regular season home meet.

Seeds planted by pair

BISMARCK – A day of marquee wrestling matches found Rayse Clendenen and Jamie Ping as the headliners.

Clendenen, a junior at Oakwood, and Ping, a senior at Unity, were the only athletes at Bismarck-Henning's Class A regional to upend No. 1-seeded opponents in the finals.

Recuperating Zaayer finds right medicine

HOOPESTON – Westville's playoff run to the Class 2A state title football game last fall took its toll on junior Dusty Zaayer.

In December, the 171-pound standout was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his neck, a popped disk in his back and a minor spinal injury that cost him three weeks of the wrestling season.

Central takes its best shot

BLOOMINGTON – It was the No. 1 goal from the very first practice. And the Champaign Central Maroons never forgot it, ending each workout with the chant Big 12 champs.

Maroons coach Jeff Scott targeted a conference title not only because he thought it was reachable, but because it had been sooooo long. Forty-one years ago, to be exact.