ST. JOSEPH — Success stories, each and every one.
Fourteen in all, representing the number of individual weight classes in Saturday’s Class 1A wrestling regional at St. Joseph-Ogden.
There were the historic champions.
Bismarck-Henning’s Jarod Noel (170 pounds) and St. Joseph-Ogden’s Austin Hedrick (152) each picked up their 100th career victories. Hedrick’s came by pin (2 minutes, 47 seconds) in his final bout in his home gym.
There were the repeat champions.
Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac’s Antonio Alvarez (132) won a third consecutive regional crown, as did Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher teammates Cameron Schwing (120) and Josh Wallick (285).
There were the dramatic winners. None was more tantalizing than GCMS/Fisher’s Hunter Lowry (106), who trailed 4-2 with nine seconds remaining when a stalemate was called and the wrestlers restarted.
“I caught him,” Lowry said. “The way I rolled, he was flat on the mat.”
Lowry won by pin in 5:59 to win a second successive regional title at the lightest weight.
There were also unexpected champions. SJ-O teammates Gage Haga (138) and Wesley Kibler (195) had to beat the top-seeded grapplers in the finals to secure their crowns. Kibler took extra satisfaction in reversing the outcome from 2013, when he was pinned in the regional finals.
“I’m stronger this year — and a lot smarter,” he said.
St. Thomas More’s Alejandro Griffin one-upped everyone. He took care of the top-seeded 220-pounder with a semifinal pin in less than a minute.
Competing at a weight class in which he hadn’t won a match all season — it’s not like it appears — Griffin enjoyed a three-match, three-pin day.
Throughout the season, Griffin was behind Brett Roos and competed in the 285-pound division. When Roos suffered a season-ending injury in the Twin City meet, it opened a spot for the 216-pound Griffin in a lower weight division.
“I was very excited,” he said. “To wrestle someone my weight instead of 50 or 60 pounds heavier is much easier. I have a chance to use my quickness.”
Griffin has been a quick study in the sport. He played basketball as a freshman but was convinced by his football friends to try the other winter sport.
“It was hard to get used to a sport that was completely new,” Griffin said, “but I’m so glad I did because it’s an awesome sport.”
There was one champion unlike all the others (besides the obvious weight differences). SJ-O’s Griffin Meeker (145) was the lone freshman champion in the 10-school tournament. Meeker pinned his way to the finals, where he posted a 6-2 decision.
“Coming off last year (sixth in the junior high state meet), I expected to do well, but I don’t know if I expected to do this well,” said Meeker, who has a 32-3 season record.
GCMS/Fisher had 13 of its 14 wrestlers finish among the top four and secured team honors with 201 points. The runner-up Spartans (1681/2) had the most individual titlists with four.
GCMS/Fisher gets to return home for the team-dual series, which resumes the Tuesday after the state finals conclude.
The Falcons’ Schwing was the only champion to win by technical fall in the finals. He brings a different mind-set to the mat this season.
“This year, I’m trying to have fun with it, and it relieves pressure from the previous years,” he said. “I tell myself to do the best I can possibly do, and if it happens, it happens. Life will still move on, and I can still have a good future even if I don’t meet my goals in wrestling.”
Wallick, the defending state champion, pinned his way to the finals and won 5-0. He was unscored upon at the regional.
“Compared to last year, I have a lot more conditioning and more mobility and the same amount of strength,” Wallick said. “This year, people expect things from me, and that has pushed me to do extra things.”
Hedrick said there was never a doubt about wrestling even after his football season ended prematurely with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He will need knee surgery once the wrestling season is over.
“They weren’t going to tell me I couldn’t wrestle, Hedrick said. “The main thing (from being sidelined) is getting in shape and getting my cardio up. I’m doing extra running after practice.”
The 100th win was nice, but Hedrick added, “My focus is not 100 wins but to get to state.”
Noel’s 100th win came in the semifinals. He followed up with an 8-2 win in the finals.
“Awesome,” he said. “I did not see myself at this level, but I’ve worked hard, have great coaches and a good team.”
Alvarez missed more than a month of the season with a hip-flexor injury. He was cleared to compete five days ago and started Saturday with a 10-2 season record.
“My conditioning is not up there, but I’ve got heart and I kept my composure,” Alvarez said.
He scored the winning point in a 6-5 win with an escape with 18 seconds remaining.
SJ-O’s Haga resumed wrestling last year as a freshman after a six-year layoff. This year, he said, “I’m a lot more comfortable in close matches, and I’m not as sporadic.”
In other Class 1A regionals:
At Shelbyville. Brendan Menacher (182) of Monticello and the Argenta-Oreana duo of Nate Jozsa (138) and Tyler Ortmann (285) marched to regional titles to remain undefeated for the season.
Menacher improved to 34-0, while Jozsa moved to 36-0 and Ortmann to 35-0.
Five Monticello wrestlers won their weight classes, and four others advanced to sectionals. The Sages finished second in the eight-team standings. Teammates joining Menacher atop the medals podium were Nick Tankersley (106), Logan Knisley (113), Jacob Burton (160) and Matt Baker (195).
Argenta-Oreana finished third while producing five title-bout wrestlers and nine sectional qualifiers.
Chad Hinton (132) of fifth-place Unity also finished first.
At Mackinaw. Six LeRoy wrestlers won their weight classes, and four others will join them in sectionals. The Panthers captured the nine-team regional by 48 points against runner-up Olympia.
Earning titles for LeRoy were Trevor Bulington (106), Tyler Walsh (126), Caleb Wilson (170), Mike Edwards (182), Lane Lindstrom (195) and Ty Sandy (220).
Third-place Prairie Central matched LeRoy’s total of seven title-bout wrestlers and produced four champions: Josh Hartke (132), Paul Garcia (145), Sam Schuler (160) and Brett Bennett (285).
In Class 2A:
At Bloomington. Champaign Central produced two champions and advanced 10 wrestlers to sectionals while placing second in the nine-team Bloomington Regional.
Brandon Klein (182) and Toby Rivera (220) of the Maroons won their weight classes. Riley Staab (106), Trystyn Schoonover (160) and Joe Goode (170) of Central also made it to the title round.
Third-place Mahomet-Seymour crowned two champions and advanced six wrestlers to sectionals. Kolton Taylor (126) and Derek Grant (170) finished first for the Bulldogs.
Two other area teams produced champions. Javontae Crider (120) and Travon Wilson (152) of sixth-place Danville emerged with titles, as did Demetrius Jackson (138) of seventh-place Urbana.