St. Thomas More got the name right.
The wrestling tournament the school will host Friday and Saturday at Huff Hall is called the New Year’s Challenge.
Thirty-three schools are coming to the third annual event at Huff. When Sabers wrestling coach Cord Schroeder started the dual-meet extravaganza in 2010, there were 16 teams. Last year, 24 teams competed.
“Next year we’ll max out at 40 teams,” Schroeder said.
There will be even more action than at the Assembly Hall when six mats are used in February for the state finals. Huff will feature matches on eight mats, starting at 8 a.m. and continuing for about 12 hours each day.
“It will be insane,” Schroeder said.
Every competing school is guaranteed nine dual meets, and most schools will wrestle 10 times.
Interestingly, the New Year’s Challenge is structured as a tournament. The IHSA restricts schools to 21 dual meets in a season and also allows four tournaments. For these schools, the Challenge will count as one of their tournaments instead of nearly half of their entire dual-meet schedule.
Friday’s action will be devoted to pool-play matches. On Day 2, all teams except the bottom one in each pool will participate in a bracket that will determine a champion. The last-place teams from each pool will have a round-robin format for their second-day duals.
Area teams in the New Year’s Challenge besides the Sabers are Bismarck-Henning, Clinton, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher, LeRoy, Monticello and St. Joseph-Ogden.
In all, 11 teams in the most recent Class 1A state rankings compiled by The Illinois Best Weekly will compete at Huff. They are No. 3 Wilmington, No. 8 LeRoy, No. 10 Plano, No. 12 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher, No. 13 Coal City, No. 14 Litchfield, No. 18 Beardstown, No. 19 Petersburg PORTA, No. 20 Monticello, No. 21 Olympia and No. 24 Shelbyville.
Admission for adults is $10 for a single-day pass or $15 for a two-day pass. Students up to age 21 who have their ID will pay $5 for a one-day pass or $10 for a two-day pass. Children under 12 will be admitted free.
Eagles quickly improving
Even though it’s midseason, Rantoul first-year head coach Craig Acree has tangible proof of the Eagles’ improvement.
“Hunter Adkins (160-pound junior) only won three matches total last year,” said Acree, an assistant the past two seasons. “He has already won 12 matches this year.
“Mitch Williams (220-pound senior) has doubled his win total from last year.”
The Eagles finished with three dual-meet wins a year ago but took a 5-4 mark into the break. It’s impressive, Acree said, due to the amount of forfeits Rantoul makes due to its lack of numbers.
“Not being able to fill the lower weight spots, we give up 30 to 36 points a meet,” he said.
Rantoul started the season with 19 wrestlers. They all shared one common bond.
“No kid on the team started wrestling until they got in high school,” Acree said.
For those who’ve worked their way into the varsity lineup, the results have been good. “All except for one has winning records,” Acree said.
Charger duo chasing records
The good news for veteran Centennial coach Ed Mears is the Chargers are filling all 14 weight classes.
That doesn’t mean they’re all the caliber of Austen Schott, who won his 100th match earlier this season, or Darren Wynn, who has posted 85 career victories. Both seniors were state qualifiers a year ago.
“My 106-pounder is a freshman, and from 170 up (170, 182, 195, 220 and 285) they’re all first-year kids,” Mears said. “I have more football players out and kids who have never wrestled before making very good efforts.”
Six Centennial weight classes are filled by experienced veterans. Schott has certified at 126 for the postseason, and Wynn will wrestle at 132 when the tournament arrives. For now, they are wrestling up a weight class to enable another quality athlete to compete.
Samuel Lack (120) and Terrace Davis (126) have winning records but likely will challenge one another for the varsity spot at 120 prior to regionals.
Schott is in position to break the Chargers’ career pins record, which was set a year ago by 2012 graduate Archie Williams (70). After pinning his way to a repeat Twin City title, Schott has 59 career falls.
Another record that Schott and Wynn could contend for is the season mark for takedowns (123), set by Peter Haydel in 1998. Schott has 47 takedowns; Wynn has 44.
Falcons led by veterans
The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher team has nine returning starters in its lineup. The veterans include 100-match career winners Chet McClure (138) and Dylan Donner (120) and two others who could achieve their 100th victory this season: Josh Wallick (285), who has 79 varsity wins, and Cameron Schwing (113), who has 75 victories.
Donner has 69 pins and needs seven to break the school record (75) held by Ross Brucker. McClure has 13 career technical falls, two from matching the school mark held by his father Dave, an assistant coach.
Chet McClure is also in line to be a valedictorian at GCMS.
‘Heavy’ numbers at Prairie Central
First-year Prairie Central coach Ben Morris has 27 prospects, but with no one on the team weighing less than 120 pounds, the Hawks will be unable to fill either the 106 or 113 weight classes.
He is thankful PC doesn’t have twice the number of wrestlers it has.
“We do not have a wrestling room,” Morris said. “We used to wrestle in the cafeteria. Now, we wrestle in the weightroom. If we did get big numbers out, we would not have enough room to accommodate them.”
Morris is concerned about the direction of the sport.
“The non-televised Olympic sports are all down for the most part,” Morris said. “Americans follow the televised sports and are almost completely uneducated about the international Olympic sports.
“Because they are not televised, they do not bring in revenue to colleges, and they are being dropped at the college level. Numbers are down in some states at the high school level.”
Talent arriving at Danville
Danville coach Terrence Tetter has one of the area’s rising teams. Seventeen of the Vikings’ 26 squad members are freshmen or sophomores. Included in that group are seven ninth-graders who were IKWF state qualifiers with the Lion Heart Wrestling program.
Among the Danville freshmen making a quick impact are Javeonte Crider (113), Gabriel Cross (120) and Aaron Weaver (126). Another newcomer who is contributing is junior Traevon Wilson (152), a transfer from Urbana who went to middle school in Danville.
One of the area’s Nifty 50 wrestlers didn’t make the list because he’s injured and sidelined for the season. Sophomore Brandon Klein, a state qualifier as a freshman at Champaign Central, will undergo shoulder surgery today. ... Urbana senior Cameron Mammen (170 pounds) needs seven wins to hit 100 and 21 victories to become the winningest prep wrestler in his house. Father Mark had 113 career varsity wins for the Tigers. ... Fourteen of Argenta-Oreana’s 30 squad members are juniors. ... Clinton has six freshmen in its varsity lineup. ... Milford/Cissna Park football coach Nathaniel Albaugh is Hoopeston Area’s first-year wrestling head coach. He has 15 squad members but has been unable to fill the five weights from 145 to 182. “Gage Foster (8-0 at 132) has had a great start,” Albaugh said. “We are excited about his future.” ... LeRoy has 22 squad members, six of whom are returning starters. Austin Matlock (120 pounds) has eclipsed the 100-win mark and could finish among the Panthers’ top all-time winners. ... Monticello’s Austin Hyde (126 pounds) needs 27 wins to reach 100. ... Oakwood’s roster has ballooned from 14 last year to 23, though 10 of them are in their first year in the sport. Fifteen squad members are either freshmen or sophomores. Ashton Haton (120 pounds) is eight wins from 100 in his career. ... Schlarman, which canceled its football season after three games due to lack of numbers, didn’t have enough participants to continue its wrestling program, at least for this season. ... St. Joseph-Ogden’s Austin Upton (170 pounds) needs seven wins to reach 100. ... Mahomet-Seymour’s 33rd Marty Williams Invitational, featuring 21 teams, is scheduled Jan. 12. The Bulldogs’ Tyler Moxley (120 pounds) needs 16 wins to reach 100.
Wrestlers to watch heading into the new year, courtesy prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner:
NAME SCHOOL YR. WT.
Hunter Adkins Rantoul Jr. 160
Antonio Alvarez Oakwood So. 113
Evan Bahler Prairie Central Sr. 145
Brett Bennett Prairie Central Jr. 285
Luc Bequette St. Thomas More So. 285
Javeonte Crider Danville Fr. 113
Darius Daniels Unity Fr. 106
Tyler Dicken Salt Fork/W/G-RF Jr. 195
Dylan Donner GCMS/Fisher Sr. 120
Derek Grant Mahomet-Seymour Jr. 152
Ashton Haton Oakwood Sr. 120
Austin Hedrick St. Joseph-Ogden Sr. 152
Kyle Heller Mahomet-Seymour Sr. 145
Cody Hooper Mahomet-Seymour Jr. 132
Austin Hyde Monticello Jr. 126
Josh Johnson Hoopeston Area Sr. 120
Nate Jozsa Argenta-Oreana Jr. 132
Dylan Knisley Monticello Jr. 145
Rob Lane Argenta-Oreana Sr. 145
Ethan Linder Hoopeston Area Sr. 285
Alex Lynch Urbana Sr. 182
Cameron Mammen Urbana Sr. 170
Austin Matlock LeRoy Sr. 120
Chet McClure GCMS/Fisher Sr. 138
Chanc McQueen Urbana So. 120
Brendan Menacher Monticello Jr. 182
Tyler Moxley Mahomet-Seymour Sr. 120
Jared Noel Bismarck-Henning So. 170
Tyler Ortmann Argenta-Oreana Jr. 285
Josh Pratt Urbana Sr. 220
Kye Reczek Clinton Sr. 160
Colton Reed Unity So. 195
Toby Rivera Champaign Central Jr. 195
Klayton Rodgers Argenta-Oreana Sr. 195
Jack Rossi Champaign Central Jr. 138
Ty Sandy LeRoy Jr. 220
Austen Schott Centennial Sr. 132
Sam Schuler Prairie Central So. 152
Cameron Schwing GCMS/Fisher Jr. 113
Colin Sullivan Paxton-Buckley-Loda So. 120
Morgan Supergan Bismarck-Henning Sr. 285
Kolton Taylor Mahomet-Seymour So. 113
Ben Traub Prairie Central Sr. 138
Austin Upton St. Joseph-Ogden Sr. 170
Kenton Walker Champaign Central Sr. 126
Josh Wallick GCMS/Fisher Jr. 285
Indy Whalen Champaign Central Sr. 152
Caleb Wilson LeRoy Jr. 160
Zach Whitsel Argenta-Oreana Jr. 120
Darren Wynn Centennial Sr. 138
Did we overlook a deserving wrestler? Let us know at email@example.com .
Area Top 10
SCHOOL REC. COMMENT
1. Mahomet-Seymour 5-0 Bulldogs have 16 lettermen
2. Monticello 10-4 Sages have 10 lettermen
3. GCMS/Fisher 8-3 Falcons have 11 lettermen
4. Prairie Central 7-3 Hawks have 11 lettermen
5. LeRoy 8-1 Panthers have nine lettermen
6. Argenta-Oreana 4-2 Bombers got three transfers from Mount Zion
7. St. Joseph-Ogden 6-6 Spartans have five lettermen
8. Champaign Central 8-6 Maroons have seven lettermen
9. Centennial 7-7 Chargers have seven lettermen
10. Oakwood/A-P 6-7 Comets have eight lettermen
Save the date
Feb. 2 — Class 1A, 2A, 3A regionals
Feb. 8-9 — Class 1A, 2A, 3A sectionals
Feb. 14-16 — Class 1A, 2A, 3A individual state (Assembly Hall)
Feb. 19 — Class 1A, 2A, 3A team-dual sectionals
Feb. 23 — Class 1A, 2A, 3A team-dual state (Bloomington)