Downs, Elliott among 5 title-winning area grapplers

Downs, Elliott among 5 title-winning area grapplers

CHAMPAIGN — Micah Downs' first action at the conclusion of Saturday night's Class 1A 182-pound state championship match wasn't one of celebration.

He didn't pump his fist or chuck his headgear in the air. Either would have been acceptable, considering the Clinton junior just won his first state title.

Instead, Downs approached Unity junior Cade Scott, who Downs defeated by 8-4 decision on Mat 1 inside State Farm Center.

Downs helped Scott to his feet while simultaneously shaking hands with the Rockets athlete, and then the two shared a mini-hug as they walked toward the IHSA logo at the center of the mat.

"I wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for me practicing with him all summer," Downs said. "I think that goes both ways. Win or lose out there, we're going to come back, be practice partners again and hopefully be in the same spot next year."

In a battle of the No. 1 seed versus the No. 2 seed, Downs proved why he possessed the former.

He recorded a first-period takedown and punctuated his effort with another late two points, stifling a rally bid from Scott.

"It's tough because you want your friends to do the best they can, and you have your own goals to accomplish," Downs said. "But you've got to get your mind right and get the job done."

Downs wasn't the only local star to follow that advice Saturday night.

Hoopeston Area senior Ezra Elliott came through on his longstanding potential, mostly dominating Heyworth's Andrew Sims en route to an 11-4 decision in the 1A 138 finale and a 41-0 season.

"I felt like a state champ before the tournament started," Elliott said. "I felt like a state champ since I was a freshman. Same guy, just now I've got the bracket board to back my name up."

Prairie Central also had two state champions in 1A for the second consecutive year.

Sophomore Brandon Hoselton repeated at 195, pinning Riverdale's Bryan Caves, and sophomore Hawk Logan Deacetis staved off Oakwood/Salt Fork's Mason Ajster in a 7-2 decision for Deacetis' first prep crown. Both Hoselton and Deacetis finished the year without a defeat.

"It feels pretty good," Deacetis said. "Haven't had that many undefeated state champs at Prairie Central. It feels good to have another one."

Both Danville senior Anthony Turner and Unity freshman Tavius Hosley fell short of their state title aspirations, however. Each lost by one point in a decision, with Hosley losing 3-2 to Joel Mylin of Aurora Christian at 1A 106 and Turner losing 1-0 to Burlington Central's Nick Termini at 2A 145.

★ ★ ★

Parents bragging about their children — it's as close to a guaranteed event as death and taxes. That's especially true when a couple can say its two kids are state wrestling medalists.

Steve and Erinn Hall sat along a back row between State Farm Center's 119 and 120 sections throughout the three-day showcase, relishing the opportunity to root on junior son Dalton and freshman son Carter at 160 and 113 pounds, respectively, in the 2A state meet.

Things went pretty well for the Hall brothers. Despite neither advancing past the quarterfinals, Dalton secured third place on Saturday afternoon, and Carter placed sixth.

"We're super proud of them," Steve said. "Tremendously proud of the mental fortitude they were able to put forth to wrestle some of their best wrestling on this weekend."

After the siblings were knocked from title contention in their respective brackets, Dalton and Carter combined for six victories in wrestlebacks.

"It was nice to see Dalton and his spirit after he was able to come back and wrestle (Centennial's) Cam (Nesbitt) in a really good match," said Steve, referencing a wrestlebacks semifinal between the longtime rivals. "For Carter, his ability to take a tough loss in the first round and then wrestle all the way back to a placing match ... was huge."

Erinn said the atmosphere was electric at the Hall residence prior to Thursday's first day of state. Aiding that were Dalton and Carter's younger sisters, Avery and Nora.

"They are huge fans of their brothers," Erinn said. "The youngest (Nora) is here, and boy, she gets excited. She knows more about the rules than I do."

Avery was tied up with a volleyball event elsewhere, but perhaps she can catch Dalton and Carter on this stage next year.

Given how well they fared this time around, there's nothing to suggest the Halls won't make a return visit to the home of Illinois basketball.

"We were able to do this all as a family," Steve said. "Everyone up here was family."

★ ★ ★

Jacob Conaty wanted to go out with a bang. As a senior for the LeRoy/Tri-Valley wrestling co-op, that was a given.

The reason he wasn't a state qualifier as a junior, though, provided Conaty even more fire.

"I tore my ACL two weeks before regionals," Conaty said. "But I made it as a sophomore."

As a 10th-grader, Conaty fell short of the 1A 160-pound podium. His latest state berth yielded a much better return, with Conaty racking up third at 170 in 1A via a 6-0 decision against East Alton-Wood-River's Jake Erslon in the third-place match.

"It was really important (to be at state)," Conaty said. "Last year, it was just within my grasp and I lost it, so I really wanted to make it here one last time."

★ ★ ★

Westville/Georgetown-Ridge Farm coach Kirk Edwards wanted to make one thing perfectly clear to Tigers junior Dawson Pruitt.

If you hit the weight room hard, Edwards said, "I promise you'll be a state champion."

A big aspiration, to be sure.

But considering Pruitt had just topped St. Laurence's Sean Burns by an 8-5 decision to capture fifth place at 220 pounds in 2A, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

"I just had to work my (butt) off in the room and out of the room," Pruitt said. "My cardio was up after a while, and I just went out there and did the best I can do."

This was Pruitt's first trip to the state meet, but something about him made an impression before he ever locked up.

In a weight class filled with titans, Pruitt stands just 5 feet, 7 inches.

"Sometimes I wish I could be taller for certain occasions," he said. "But, you know, once I finish on things and I'm able to maneuver with the long bodies, I actually like it a little bit."

★ ★ ★

Mark McCusker tried to balance disappointment with the fact two of his Rantoul/Paxton-Buckley-Loda grapplers had just earned fourth-place medals.

"It's always nice when you can have medal-winners at the state tournament," the Eagles coach said. "But ... we were a little short on what we wanted them to do."

Senior Peter McCusker, Mark's son, landed fourth at 145 pounds in 2A for the second consecutive year, while senior Nolan Roseman brought home his first piece of state hardware by taking fourth at 152.

The thing is, each athlete maintained champion-level aspirations throughout their time at Rantoul.

After the dust settles, however, the younger McCusker and Roseman have plenty to look back upon fondly.

"They both have over 100 wins, two years in a row 40-plus wins," Mark McCusker said. "They have nothing to be ashamed of and have worked really hard."

★ ★ ★

Billy Tay's advancement to the 1A 106-pound semifinals Friday night meant the Ridgeview/Lexington sophomore would garner a state medal.

That's a significant achievement — not only because of Tay's relative youth, but also because neither school had ever before sent a kid to the podium.

After Tay's setback versus Unity's Tavius Hosley in the semis, Tay rolled through a pair of wrestleback foes to finish third in his bracket.

"It means a lot," Tay said. "That's pretty good for a sophomore, especially because I didn't make it last year."

Tay has plenty upon which to build the next two campaigns, as he permitted just three offensive points against during the entire postseason.

"This summer, I hope to get up to 125 (pounds) on muscle," he said. "Hopefully that'll make me a lot stronger and better."