CHAMPAIGN — Cameron Mammen loves his family, but there are times he can’t be around them. This has been one of those weeks.
The Urbana senior was last at home on Monday. He’ll return tonight.
When his three younger siblings, ages 14, 6 and 5, all came down with the flu the week of Cameron’s most important high school wrestling meet, immediate changes were needed.
Mark Mammen took his son to Eastland Suites, where they spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights. On Thursday, as local motels were filled with folks in town for the 76th state wrestling tournament, Cameron and his paternal grandparents stayed with family friend Norma Gremer.
When the stakes included a state wrestling title, staying healthy and at full strength was a priority for Cameron Mammen.
“I had to adjust to where I was sleeping,” he said, “but I’ve gotten good nights of sleep.”
The unbeaten and top-rated 170-pound senior secured his first high school championship berth on Friday, continuing his series of dominating performances. He handled two 30-match winners with ease on the second day of the tournament at the Assembly Hall. His semifinal win against Geneseo’s Brandon Mizlo was by pin in 36 seconds.
“Every year I’ve been in wrestling, I’ve worked for this,” Mammen said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Once tonight’s championship round starts, Mammen won’t need to wait long to determine his fate. By blind draw, the 170-pound class was picked as the one to lead off the championship matches at approximately 7 p.m. Mammen will face East Moline’s Markus Murphy, whom he beat 8-0 earlier in the season.
Now 32-0, Mammen won’t be overconfident. “I’ll come in ready to go,” he said.
Urbana coach Charles Trabaris said he should be used to the unexpected from Mammen, but a sub-40-second pin in the semifinals was not what he anticipated.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Trabaris said. “He got at it right off the bat.”
Senior Darren Wynn became Centennial’s first-ever championship-match participant. He took down top-ranked Kyle Rodriguez, from Lincoln-Way West, 12-6, winning the semifinal bout on his feet. Wynn had the first five takedowns.
“Words can’t explain how I feel,” said Wynn, who has won 33 consecutive matches. “I’ll probably go to sleep tonight with a smile on my face.”
Wynn, who was rated third, said he didn’t surprise himself.
“Rankings don’t mean anything,” he said. “I felt I was better than some of them.”
Wynn has reason to be optimistic heading into the finals. He’ll face the same person he beat (8-3) last week in a sectional championship match, Springfield’s Randall Taborn.
For Centennial coach Ed Mears, it will mark his first time in his 18-year tenure to accompany a wrestler in the Grand March. The credit for the success of Wynn and 126-pound teammate Austen Schott goes beyond his teachings.
“Nick Morphew (assistant) has been with me since 2004,” Mears said. “He’s incredible. He’s a fantastic coach and we’re lucky to have him.”
Wynn moved into the semis by virtue of a 5-2 decision against fourth-ranked Jose Champagne, from Montini. Wynn registered takedowns in each of the first two periods. His lengthy winning streak has promoted confidence.
“I feel like I can take anybody,” Wynn said. “My game plan is to keep going fast.”
In his seventh postseason match, in the quarterfinals, Mammen allowed his first (and only) point (on an intentional escape) en route to a 16-1 technical fall win that moved him into the semifinals for the second year in a row. Since the tournament series began, Rock Island’s Michael Cole was the first opponent Mammen had not pinned. The unbeaten Mammen needed 2:45 to finish the match.
“No disappointment,” Mammen said about not earning a pin. “That kid is good and a technical fall is pretty much the same thing as a pin to me. I don’t worry about pins. If it comes, it comes.”
Centennial’s Schott recovered from a quarterfinal loss to top-ranked Cameron Kennedy, from Richmond-Burton, at 126 pounds to continue his climb up the charts for school records. A day after becoming the Chargers’ top career winner (he now has 129 victories) he tied Archie Williams’ mark for career pins, obtaining No. 70 in 3:26 in his first wrestleback.
He had help in refocusing.
“My parents gave me words of encouragement and when my friends (semifinalists Wynn and Mammen) came in the tunnel (during his warmup), it gave me an added boost,” Schott said.
Mears noticed the difference.
“It was nice his friends were here supporting him,” Mears said. “They fired him up.”
In his first match today, shortly after 9 a.m., Schott will take on Mahomet-Seymour senior Tyler Moxley. The winner is guaranteed a state medal.
Moxley was all smiles after stunning top-ranked Erik Nord, from Belvidere North, 4-1.
“I’m pretty relieved,” Moxley said. “I’m glad to get a win at the Hall.”
A three-year state-qualifier, the unranked Moxley was 0 for 4 in his state career before collecting both takedowns in the win against Nord.
Wynn, Mammen, Schott and Moxley are the area’s only 2A athletes who will be active on the third day of state.