Better late than never for Mammen
MOUNT ZION — The question to Cameron Mammen was simple and direct: Do you consider yourself more of a wrestler who also plays football or a football player who also wrestles?
The Urbana High School junior, who has won every match he has wrestled this season at 170 pounds, answered without hesitation.
"A football player who also wrestles," Mammen said.
Mammen's sentiments were expressed prior to a sensational Saturday when — in back-to-back matches — he defeated the state's top-ranked and previously unbeaten 170-pounder and then another high-ranked opponent whom he'd lost to in 2011.
There was no changing of the mind of an athlete who has already visited Nebraska for the gridiron sport.
Mammen was one of nine area athletes to qualify for state from the Class 2A Mount Zion Sectional. He is one of four who earned sectional crowns. Centennial teammates Austen Schott (113) and Deonte Adams (195) dominated their weight classes, while Mahomet-Seymour's Austin Armetta (160) became a four-time state qualifier.
Mammen followed the same script — but with different strategies — in his two Saturday wins.
Against Triad senior Jake Tindle in the semifinals, Mammen overcame a 3-0 deficit to create a 3-3 tie with a last-minute takedown, As the clock ticked down to the final 20 seconds he allowed Tindle to escape, though it wasn't a popular move to put himself in a 4-3 deficit so late in the match.
"I could hear the crowd say, 'What are you doing?' " Mammen said.
Even the Urbana coaches were curious.
"I looked at the coaches and they were shaking their heads (no)," Mammen said.
The maneuver worked when he registered a buzzer-beating takedown to win 5-4.
"He felt something," Urbana coach Charles Trabaris said. "We like to give our kids a chance to wrestle their style."
The Mammen-Tindle match was the day's marquee bout. It featured the only two wrestlers — in any weight class — who hadn't lost all season.
"It was basically a dream come true," Mammen said. "I'd never taken down the No. 1 kid in state before."
Before he could establish himself as the state favorite at 170 pounds, Mammen had a title-match showdown against Chatham Glenwood's Alex Bee, a senior whom he was 0-1 against in his prep career.
Like Tindle did, Bee scored the first takedown and carried a lead (5-2) into the final period. This time, Mammen chose not to let Bee escape, instead spending more than a minute attempting to get his opponent on his back.
Mammen succeeded, posting his 16th pin in 26 matches.
"I was confident I could turn him," Mammen said. "I had a lot of momentum, and I felt unstoppable at the moment."
Of the 14 sectional champions at Mount Zion, Centennial's Schott was the only one to pin his way through the tournament.
In the semifinals and the finals, the junior required less than 90 seconds to finish off his 113-pound foes.
"I expected when I dropped (from 120) I would be stronger than the competition, and it has worked," Schott said.
His toughest challenge occurred before his quarterfinal match Friday.
"I was blessed to make weight. I had trouble," said Schott, who was 2 ounces over weight with less than 30 minutes before weigh-ins ended. "It was hard, but I got through it.
"It feels amazing to return to state."
Teammate Adams followed up on his regional crown by decisioning all three of his 195-pound foes. The senior bumped up a weight class for the postseason when teammate Archie Williams dropped to 182, the weight Adams carried Saturday at weigh-ins.
They didn't wrestle off for the position, but Adams has a good idea what would have happened had he challenged Williams.
"He'd beat me," Adams said. "He's stronger and more athletic."
Williams, who lost in the sectional finals to the same person who beat him in the regional finals (Bloomington's Stephon Rudicil), is responsible for Adams' tournament run.
"Everyone is trying to slam me because I'm so little," the 5-foot-6 Adams said. "Archie has been showing me how to not get thrown."
Williams returns to state with a different mantra than he held as a junior.
"Not be satisfied being there," he said.
His 8-5 championship-bout loss won't be a deterrent to his confidence.
"You don't have to win sectional to win state," said Williams, who is 37-2 this season.
Armetta had his way at 160, posting major decisions in the semifinals (15-5) and finals (14-3) after winning his sectional opener by pin.
"There's no reason to make a match close if you can beat 'em by more," Armetta said.
Ranked second in the state, Armetta polished off No. 10 Alex Vosburgh of Mount Vernon in the finals. He scored all four of the bout's takedowns and had two final-period near-falls.
"That match was one of my best, as far as how I performed," Armetta said.
He's not dwelling on the fact that this is his final chance for a state medal.
"I'm trying to make the most of my senior year," he said. "It's my fourth chance and I hope to capitalize, but it's not anything to worry about or be more stressed about than in the past."
Other area qualifiers are Centennial's Darren Wynn (second at 126 pounds), Champaign Central's Nate Volk (second at 152), Mahomet-Seymour's Tyler Moxley (fourth at 120) and Central's Brandon Klein (a freshman at 170).
Wynn posted one-point wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals. He had no difficulty handling the six-minute periods.
"I run 20 minutes a day on a treadmill, after practice," he said. "Last year I fell short (of state), but this year I feel mentally and physically tougher. I feel I can compete."
The sixth-ranked Volk secured his third berth at state. He lost 8-4 to fourth-ranked David Frazier of Cahokia in the finals.
"It was a tough loss, but at that point I'd already made it to state," said Volk, who has a 37-3 season record.
"Any time you make it to state it's a big deal. Going three times is a good feeling."
Moxley, a junior, and Klein worked their way through wrestlebacks to continue their seasons at state.
"I praise God when I win and I praise God when I lose," said Moxley, who was 3-2 at sectionals to hit the 30-win mark for the year. "I knew it would be a tough road, but I had good support."
Klein (27-15) had an equally challenging route after losing in the first round. He survived elimination matches, which included a 4-2 overtime triumph and a 7-4 win in a bout tied during the final 10 seconds.
LeRoy shines. Second-ranked LeRoy qualified eight athletes for state, including four sectional champs: Devin Bulington (126), Justin Meyers (138), Josh Johnson (152) and Brad Simmons (220).
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher advanced three wrestlers, including 132-pound champion Chet McClure. Hoopeston Area's two qualifiers included 160-pound winner Robbie Irvin. Bismarck-Henning will have three representatives at state.
Dunn continues. Monticello's Luke Dunn (152) was the only area titlist, but two others (St. Joseph-Ogden's Kenny Lindsey, 195, and Argenta-Oreana's Aaron Ford, 220) lost three-overtime decisions in the finals. SJ-O will send four to state, Monticello three, A-O and Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac one each.
Hawk advances. Prairie Central's Evan Bahler (fourth at 138) was the lone area qualifier.