STANFORD – Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Ryan Birt instructs his wrestlers to practice as if they are competing in a meet.
The intensity in the practice room paid off for the Falcons as GCMS will send four grapplers to the IHSA state finals next weekend at the Assembly Hall after a successful day Saturday at the Class 1A Olympia Sectional.
"I think the practice room is definitely where it's at," Birt said. "We have a lot of battling in that room, which helps us against top competition like today."
GCMS senior Colten Unzicker (36-2) took the 160-pound sectional title, defeating Macomb's Jesse Kugler by technical fall 19-4.
"Our practice room is pretty intense," Unzicker said. "It has been an attitude. Winning is a must now at Gibson City."
Fellow Falcon Guy Kirby (35-3), a sophomore, took down previously undefeated Wes Walker of Illini Bluffs 4-0 in the 135-pound final, and junior Colin Kirkpatrick (35-5) lost in the 145-pound final.
GCMS senior Tyler Flynn (28-12) finished second in the 171-pound class.
St. Joseph-Ogden senior Lukas Graves has placed at state the past two years, but he's looking to be the top dog this time around after winning the 140-pound sectional crown.
Graves (37-2) pinned Oakwood senior Brendan Hafner (33-5) in the final and allowed two points in three matches Saturday.
"There's only one thing I'm thinking and that's state champ, so I'm going to go get after it," Graves said.
Like Graves, Unity senior Dustinn Brown (119) hopes his third trip to state is a charm. Brown (37-2) defeated Illini Bluffs senior Steve Ferman 10-6 to win his class.
In other action, Monticello senior Kyle Dooley (152) kept his hopes alive for back-to-back state titles after pinning Macomb's Emmett Hall in the final. Dooley (40-1) said he was nervous after Hall took a 7-6 lead early in the second period but said he doesn't feel much pressure from being a favorite to win the 152-pound title.
"You know, we're just going to go out there, we're going to have fun and hopefully come out on top again," Dooley said.
Argenta-Oreana senior Bryce Bowman (38-1) pinned LeRoy senior Jim Nearhoof (29-14) in 57 seconds for the 189-pound title.
Prairie Central freshman Andy Hoselton qualified for the Class 1A state meet with a second-place showing in the 125-pound class Saturday at the Plano Sectional.
He will be joined by teammate Josh Smith, who took third at 119 pounds.