Class 1A wrestling storylines for Monticello's team-dual state tournament debut today (11 a.m.) and for LeRoy's third appearance in four years (also 11 a.m.) in separate quarterfinal matches at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum:
Should the finals be seeded?
Granted, to be the best, a team has to beat the best, so in order for No. 2 LeRoy to win a state title it would most likely have to beat No. 1 Wilmington somewhere along the way. But that matchup taking place in the quarterfinals — with only the winner assured of a trophy — is truly a shame. Instead of pairing teams by blind draw, seed them and put the LeRoy and Wilmington teams where they belong, in the opposite bracket, so each can get what they deserve: some hardware from state. LeRoy coach Doug DeWald takes the diplomatic approach to the controversy. "The team that wrestles the best will win," he said. "We feel as though we are ready to get after it and see what we can do. That being said, I could see where it would be very easy to seed our state dual-team tournament."
A good position
In Monticello's first team-dual appearance, the Sages will take on another newcomer to the Elite Eight, fifth-ranked Mercer County, from Aledo. Andy Moore doesn't mind that his 20th-rated team (by the Illinois Best Weekly) has a tough draw. "I would rather be the underdog than the one with the obvious target on my back," Moore said. "We definitely have our hands full, but that's what it's all about once you get this far." The Sages' lineup features seven 20-match winners, and another (Mike Redwinski) who is one win shy of that milestone.
A loaded lineup
LeRoy has wrestlers with at least 20 wins in 12 of the 14 weight classes, and Lane Lindstrom needs just one more victory at 182 pounds to join the club. The Panthers haven't wrestled patsies to compile those records. Of the Elite Eight entries, LeRoy has wrestled all but Lena-Winslow and Sandwich in duals, coming out 4-1. The loss — the only one of the season in 25 duals — was by two points to Wilmington in a bout where each school captured seven of the weight classes.
Motivated for more
The Panthers had eight individual state qualifiers and five placers, but the entire group lost matches it considered winnable. DeWald expects to see a ferocious effort from his squad. "In the past, we have been pretty good when we have something to prove," he said. "This is one of those times." Monticello, which will fill 13 weight classes, came up empty-handed as far as state medals last week, but Moore sees a drive in his squad to finish strong this weekend. "Our goals this season were to win conference and regionals, so we surpassed those expectations," he said. "As we won a few tough matches against quality opponents, we started to reach a little further down and elevate the expectations for ourselves."
The key matches
DeWald and Moore believe the difference could go beyond who wins and who loses in particular weight classes. "To win a tight dual," DeWald said, "our kids are going to have to keep things close in weight classes where maybe they are outmanned a little and score bonus points (by pins, technical falls or major decisions) where we can." From that same mind-set, Moore added, "Every match will be a key. We got to where we are based off of our entire team doing a great job scoring and/or minimizing bonus points in each match. It will take a complete team effort to win."
Class 1A pairings
Sandwich (No. 10) vs. Eureka (No. 13), 9 a.m.
Lena-Winslow (No. 4) vs. Vandalia (No. 18), 9 a.m.
Wilmington (No. 1) vs. LeRoy (No. 2), 11 a.m.
Mercer County (No. 5) vs. Monticello (No. 20), 11 a.m.
NOTE: All semifinal matches will be at 2 p.m.; third-place and championship matches will be at 6 p.m.