CHAMPAIGN — Cameron Schwing, Zach Martin, Austin Upton, Aaron Ford and Josh Wallick had goals similar to all other qualifiers in the 75th IHSA state wrestling tournament.
They want to be the best in the state at their individual weight classes.
In today's Class 1A quarterfinal round at the Assembly Hall, they get the chance to wrestle the person who was ranked as the best in his weight class prior to Thursday's first-round matches.
They set up those bouts by posting first-round wins. Schwing, a 106-pounder from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher, won 13-5. Martin, a 126-pounder from Bismarck-Henning, registered a pin in 4:28. Upton, a 160-pounder from St. Joseph-Ogden, rallied in the final seconds and secured a pin in 5:53. Ford, from Argenta-Oreana, also had a pin as did GCMS/F 285-pounder Wallick.
Schwing wasted no time taking the lead against the person he beat in his second match of the season. Before the first period ended against Roxana's Jeremy O'Gara, he had a takedown and near-fall and led 5-0.
Though a first-time high school state qualifier, Schwing learned from previous experience.
"In Kids' Club, I qualified for state four times but didn't place," he said. "Nerves then were the main reason."
To get in the proper mind-set for his high school state debut, Schwing listened to music.
"A mix: rock and hip-hop," he said. "If I listen to the same kind, it doesn't pump me up as much."
His quarterfinal opponent is top-ranked Gunner Wenger, a freshman from Lena-Winslow.
"I'll wrestle my heart out and see what happens," Schwing said.
Martin held a 5-0 lead at the time of his pin.
"I wanted to push the tempo and try to gas my opponent," Martin said.
His first takedown came at the first-period buzzer. "That boosted my confidence," said Martin, who will take on top-rated J.J. Whaley of Stillman Valley.
Upton trailed 7-5 in the final 30 seconds before turning Riverdale's T.J. Lowe on his back and gaining a pin with seven seconds remaining.
"I have confidence I can do it, but it's not always the easiest," Upton said. "I was pretty worried."
As for going against No. 1 Billy Chancey, from Reed-Custer, Upton said, "I'll have to wrestle the best match I can."
Ford, who placed third last year, goes against last year's state runner-up, McNamara's Channing Dolliger, today. Both 220-pounders had first-round pins.
Wallick started strong against Anna Jonesboro's Mike Dillman, scoring a takedown and near-fall in the first 17 seconds.
"My first win, my first time at state. It's amazing," said Wallick, who had felt ill all day. "This will set the pace for the whole tournament."
LeRoy, which had the most qualifiers among Class 1A state schools (eight), had the most first-round winners (six). The advancing Panthers include two-time state runner-up Justin Meyers (138) and two-time medalist Devin Bulington (126) as well as third-time state qualifiers Austin Matlock (120) and Brad Simmons (220). Also staying in the winners' bracket were Josh Johnson (152) and Caleb Wilson (160).
Matlock's next win will be the 100th for the junior. He gave up the first takedown but finished strong. His escape and third-period takedown accounted for the points he needed in a 5-4 comeback.
"I've been there (trailing) before and knew to keep my composure," said Matlock, following his first state meet win. "You can come back at the end. Kids get tired in the third period."
Meyers is competing two weight classes higher than he did as a junior. He's comfortable with that decision.
"It's a lot easier to keep my weight under control, and I have a lot of energy," he said after a 7-1 first-round win. "I usually weigh in a couple pounds under so I can eat good at night."
Overall, the area's Class 1A competitors compiled an 18-9 first-day record.
Athletes from SJ-O and GCMS/F each went 3-1. Andy Bensyl (182) and Kenny Lindsey (195) joined Upton as advancers for the Spartans.
Chet McClure, seeking to become his family's third medalist in the past three years, was the Falcons' other winner. The 132-pounder won 3-2 after not allowing his opponent an escape during the final two-minute period.
He was willing to accept the consequences of his choice had he not prevailed.
"If you choose wrong, you have to live with it," he said. "I felt I could ride him out."
He avenged an early-season 3-1 loss to Mercer County's Tristan Finch.
"That felt good," he said.
Hoopeston Area teammates Zach Drollinger (152) and Robbie Irvin (160) are seniors with similar backgrounds and a shared quest. They have each won more than 100 matches in their prep careers, including at least 30 this season, but were rookies at state.
They had similar fates, both winning decisions.
Drollinger, who missed the entire postseason in 2011 with a torn meniscus, earned a 10-8 win in a match that featured six reversals (that accounted for 12 of the 18 total points).
"That kid (Erie's Nick Stoddard) was strong, and it was hard to hold him down," Drollinger said. "When I got the first takedown, I thought it would be easy."
Irvin wrestled on the same mat — Mat 2 — immediately after Drollinger was victorious.
"Zach's win took away my jitters and gave me more motivation," Irvin said. "This is my first year here and to go home 1-0 after the first day feels amazing."
Also staying in the winners' bracket were Monticello's Luke Dunn (152) and Bismarck-Henning's Morgan Supergan (285).
Dunn won by pin in 2:53 over Seneca's Tommy Lovett.
"I'd never seen him until we were in the tunnel (for warmups)," said Dunn, whose first points came on a takedown with 10 seconds left in the opening period.
In the second period, he chose not to release Lovett and got the pin 53 seconds later.
"I always think about going on my feet," Dunn said. "That's where I'm most comfortable, but I'll look to turn him first. If I feel I'm not getting anything done, that's when I will go with something new."
Antonio Alvarez, from Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac, is one of eight freshmen in Class 1A's lightest weight class (106 pounds). Alvarez was a tough-luck loser. He carried a 5-2 lead into the final period but gave up a takedown and was pinned seven seconds before his six-minute bout was to end.
Another hard-luck loser was GCMS/F's Dylan Donner (120), who allowed a takedown with two seconds left in the first period of an 8-6 overtime loss to Sterling Newman's Garrett Webb.
All competitors who suffered losses Thursday will get the chance to wrestleback if the person who beat them advances to the semifinals. Today's semifinals will start at 7 p.m. in all three classes.