HOOPESTON – Westville's playoff run to the Class 2A state title football game last fall took its toll on junior Dusty Zaayer.
In December, the 171-pound standout was diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his neck, a popped disk in his back and a minor spinal injury that cost him three weeks of the wrestling season.
Zaayer returned to the mats three weeks ago and Saturday looked to be nearly all the way back in winning the 171-pound weight division at the Eastern Illinois Invitational.
"I'm not completely healed, but I'm extremely close," Zaayer said after topping Lawrenceville's 29-match winner Lance Marley by decision in the finals. Zaayer (21-2) defeated Rantoul's Travis Deem and Robinson's Jordan Deckard in route to the title.
"This was real big for me," Zaayer said. "I really needed a win. It boosts your confidence going into regionals, and it lets me know that I have a tournament trophy just as any other guy I'll face (in the postseason)."
Oakwood senior Blake Warren avenged two prior defeats against Bismarck-Henning senior Joe Aquino (32-2) with a 5-1 win.
"I just used my strength," Warren (23-5) said."He's beat me twice this year, and I finally got him back. This is big. I feel like I'm at the top of my game, and I'll be seeded first for regionals."
Warren, who split four matches with Aquino a year ago, had a first-period takedown and was able to control.
"He wrestled him tough," Oakwood coach Dave Markwell said. "Every time he has gotten closer, and today he beat him. The third time was the charm."
The tournament was brought to a halt twice because of scoring glitches. Oakwood continued its school-record run (19 wins) by claiming an impressive 72-point victory against Vermilion Valley Conference rival Bismarck-Henning (163.5) in the team standings.
"We have got on a roll, and it's been a fun ride," Markwell said."We hope it doesn't end for a while."
Rantoul's Lamont Miller (125 pounds) and Isaiah Butts (130) claimed individual titles, as did Bismarck-Henning's Myles Mitchell (103), Oakwood's Austin Patton (119), Rayse Clendenen (135), Brendan Hafner (140) and Salt Fork junior Sean Nicholson (215).