CHAMPAIGN — Josh Wallick’s Friday loss was only temporary.
As the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher junior wrestler was celebrating his semifinal victory, one of the Falcons’ coaches returned to the mat and located the contact lens that had popped out.
It was all good.
Wallick, the state’s top-ranked Class 1A 285-pounder, made a second-period escape hold up as the only point against Sherrard’s Ben Corlett in their semifinal match at the Assembly Hall.
“This is what I’ve been hoping for,” Wallick said. “I knew if I worked hard, it would pay off.”
Wallick needed all of his endurance for the final 2-minute period. To preserve his advancement, he had to prevent Corlett from escaping.
He held on so tight that 8 minutes after the match was over, “my forearm is still pulsating,” he said.
Wallick is one victory away from becoming the first area athlete to win 50 matches in a season. In the finals, he will face North Boone’s Gus Eisele, who upset second-ranked Morgan Supergan, from Bismarck-Henning, 4-3. Eisele trailed 3-0 with a minute remaining.
Wallick and Supergan had faced one another each of the last two weeks.
“I’m looking forward to the competition,” Wallick said.
In all, three area athletes advanced to championship matches in Class 1A. Argenta-Oreana’s Rob Lane (145) and Clinton’s Kye Reczek (160) are first-time finalists and first-time state medalists.
Lane’s win was one of the most dramatic in the semifinals. A takedown that came two seconds before the final buzzer accounted for the final margin in his 4-3 triumph.
“It was perfect,” A-O coach Gary Cook said, “because the kid (Dakota’s second-ranked Brandon Lizer) didn’t have time to escape.”
Cook anticipated a stellar season for Lane, but added, “I think he has exceeded his own goals. We thought he’d be a place-winner. To be in the finals is unbelievable.”
The win that clinched Reczek’s medal (9-5 against North Boone’s Tyler Westlund in the quarterfinals) was the 100th of his career and his 40th of the season.
The senior, who had a 10-12 varsity record as a freshman, didn’t stop there. In the semifinals, Reczek built an 8-1 first-period lead against Plano’s second-ranked Wes Brown and made it hold up in a 9-7 conquest.
Four other area wrestlers, including Supergan, assured themselves of medals on Friday by advancing into the semifinal round of the 76th annual IHSA tournament. They could finish as high as third place.
That group includes teammates Tate Ruffin (113) and Ty Sandy (220) from LeRoy as well as Argenta-Oreana’s Nate Jozsa (132) and Prairie Central’s Evan Bahler (145).
Jozsa won his 43rd consecutive match in the quarterfinals, again scoring the first takedown. The junior has not given up a first takedown this season, including in the semifinals, when he suffered his first loss, 4-2, to top-ranked J.J. Wolfe, from Dakota.
“When you get that lead early, it lets you concentrate on the match,” Jozsa said. “Takedowns have always been my thing.”
In 44 matches this year, Jozsa has not allowed a near-fall or reversal and gave up his lone takedown on Friday.
Bahler and Ruffner each upended higher-ranked grapplers in the quarterfinals. Bahler escaped with a 3-1 decision against Orion’s Joe Devolder.
“It may have surprised people who hadn’t seen me wrestle before, but my coaches know how I can wrestle when I wrestle good,” Bahler said. “I’m happy to come back and place (for the second year in a row). That was a goal.”
Unranked Ruffner rallied in the final period to take his first lead against No. 3 Jarid Braunagel, from Althoff, whom he finished off with a pin in 5:26.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” Ruffner said. “It’s a credit to all the people who’ve taken time out to help me. I wasn’t very good in junior high. Now I’ll never be forgotten and will be part of the LeRoy history.”
Ten area athletes representing four schools are one win away from securing a medal in Class 1A.
LeRoy’s candidates include brothers Alex (106) and Austin (120) Matlock along with teammate Caleb Wilson (160).
Monticello’s hopefuls are Dylan Knisley (145), Tanner VanDalsen (195) and Zach Armstrong (220).
Contenders from GCMS/Fisher are Cameron Schwing (113) and Chet McClure (138), and St. Joseph-Ogden’s medal candidates are Austin Hedrick (152) and Austin Upton (170).
Of those 10, only McClure (fifth in 2012) and Austin Matlock (sixth in 2012) have previously placed at state.