Sages put 13 in medal matches en route to title repeat

Sages put 13 in medal matches en route to title repeat

TOLONO — When Andy Moore's Monticello wrestlers left rival Unity's Rocket Center on Jan. 21, they were settling for third place in the Illini Prairie Conference Meet.

One spot behind the hosts.

With league-champion Prairie Central not involved in Saturday's Class 1A Unity Regional, the door was open for another battle between the Rockets and Sages.

This time around, Monticello found the winning combination.

Ethan O'Linc and Matt Kerr collected weight-class titles as two of 13 Sages grapplers to reach a medal match, and Monticello snared its second consecutive regional plaque by outlasting Unity 193.5-173.

"These kids have tried to put together the best team all year, and it never seemed to go our way," Moore said. "Every single person on the team won a match (Saturday), scored us some points, and we wrestled very well."

O'Linc took down St. Joseph-Ogden's Isaiah Immke by fall at 132 pounds for his second straight individual regional win, and Kerr pinned Unity's Connor Eastin at 195.

"It feels great that I get to experience it not once, but twice," O'Linc said. "(I had to) come out hard, strong and fast."

"Amazing," Kerr added. "I love winning for this team. I love leading this team. Everything about it's just perfect."

Other Sages advancing to this upcoming Saturday's 1A Carterville Sectional were Aiden York (113 pounds), Griffin Gustafson (120), Austin McConaha (138), Collin Jones (145), Kaleb Reid (152), Jack Spence (160), Seth Menacher (182) and Lonnie Jordan (220).

On paper, Reid's success was the most intriguing. He entered his bracket with a 2-6 record, but after falling to St. Thomas More's J.D. Sexton — the eventual weight champion — Reid posted triumphs by pinfall and major decision to cap his day.

"I won't lie to you: He's been fed to the wolves a couple times," Moore said of Reid. "It's just one of those situations where we used him when we needed him ... but you saw what he's capable of out here."

Monticello heads into the sectional with a great chance to send multiple athletes to state, in which the squad hasn't had a medalist since 2015.

"We have pretty good, solid kids throughout the lineup, and they know how to compete," Moore said. "We have that tough schedule, and now it's paying off."


Albaugh makes history. Judah Christian didn't possess any representation in last season's IHSA wrestling playoffs.

Simple reason: The Tribe didn't field a grappling group until this school year began.

But it didn't take long for the newcomers to send a competitor through the regional round.

Grant Albaugh, the freshman son of coach Nate Albaugh, outlasted Unity's Quinn Shannon in the 170-pound title bout, collecting the win by a 3-2 decision.

"Our goal was to ... keep a high moral, because there's not much you can expect out of a first-year wrestling program," Grant Albaugh said. "But if anyone does move on, that's a plus."

Albaugh and teammates Jonathan Bailey (126 pounds) and Kyle Stone (152) notched the first three victories in Judah wrestling postseason history before the second-seeded Albaugh rolled into his championship showcase with No. 1 Shannon.

Rockets rooters will remember the match for a different reason, though.

With less than 10 seconds remaining in the decisive third period, Albaugh was trying to ride out Shannon and escape with the top prize.

"He flipped me over right at the buzzer and established control," Albaugh said.

Albaugh fully believed he'd lost the match. The raucous atmosphere inside the Rocket Center suggested everyone else felt the same.

Everyone, that is, except the presiding official.

"I shake the other guys' hand. I'm like, 'Good match,'" Albaugh said. "Then the referee raises my hand, and I have this surprised look on my face. ... I won't argue with it."

Albaugh is trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, who placed third for Monticello at the 1996 state in the 140-pound class.

And the younger Albaugh welcomes the opportunity to go through Shannon again in the sectional to reach that stage.

"Oh, totally," Albaugh said. "Looking forward to it."


Akins surprises field. Jacob Akins faced an uphill battle with Saturday's 160-pound bracket.The Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin/Armstrong-Potomac junior received the No. 4 seed. After dispatching Unity's Deven Green in the first round, Akins would have to go through top-seeded Mason Ajster of Oakwood/Salt Fork.

Not only did Akins pull that off, he also decisioned Monticello's Spence in the championship match to top his regional podium.

"I'm still kind of shocked by it, kind of mindblown," Akins said. "I came in here expecting to try to fight as hard as I can for a (third-place finish)."

With two-time state medalist Cody Miller out of the Blue Devils' fold, Akins is the kind of face coach Andy Head can build around moving forward.

"I've been having to try to lead this group like Cody did," Akins said. "I knew that if I could've done my best, I could come out as champion."