URBANA — Champaign Central’s wrestling team is filled with feel-good stories, even for some athletes who aren’t feeling well.
The Maroons recaptured the Twin City wrestling title they lost a year ago, winning dual meets against all three local opponents Saturday. The crown is their 14th in the past 15 years.
Junior Deondre Lemons is one of Central’s success stories. The 220-pounder went 3-0 to claim individual honors at his weight.
Lemons couldn’t crack the varsity lineup as a sophomore, and coach Dan Warner said “he didn’t win a match all of last year” at the junior varsity level.
Lemons didn’t get discouraged.
“I worked hard, and I’m in better shape,” he said. “All of the coaches motivated me.”
He also had support from within his family. “My brother (Ronald) wrestles, and he showed me some moves,” Deondre Lemons said.
Lemons posted two pins along with an 8-7 win. He didn’t know what to expect during weigh-ins.
“I was tired going into my matches,” he said.
A month ago, Deondre Lemons started a News-Gazette paper route with his father. They arose Saturday at 3 a.m. to start their nearly 200 deliveries.
“It took until 5,” Lemons said.
His season record is now 7-7.
“He has gotten so much better and has made a great turnaround,” Warner said. “His wins against Centennial and Urbana gave us huge points.”
Central’s Brandon Klein didn’t win his 182-pound weight class. The fact that the athlete who was a state qualifier as a freshman won two of three bouts was significant.
He suffered a torn labrum in a Dec. 4 match vs. Normal Community (which he won) and will have season-ending surgery Wednesday.
In his final day of wrestling as a sophomore, one of Klein’s wins was by pin. His final record is 8-4.
Klein was one of the people Warner had in mind when he said, “This was a combined team effort.”
Junior Toby Rivera was the Maroon on the spot in the dual meet against Urbana. His 195-pound match was the meet’s final one.
Entering his weight class, Central’s lead was 37-33. An Urbana win by pin or technical fall would swing the team outcome in the Tigers’ favor.
Rivera concluded the match like he did both of his other ones Saturday, with a first-period pin. He took care of the Tigers’ Chris Hamilton in 25 seconds.
“Today could have went either way with all three,” Rivera said. “I had to lay everything out.”
Rivera is 13-1 for the season. His setback was by two points against Class 2A’s second-ranked wrestler.
Though Central forfeited two weight classes and had three junior varsity wrestlers in the lineup, Warner was confident.
“We wanted to win the Twin City back,” he said. “Last year was hard to take. I won’t say we were focused on Twin City, but the last two weeks, there was a definite theme in the room. Last year, I felt I failed the kids. I didn’t have them ready. It was important to get it back to Central. There’s a lot of weight put on the bragging rights.”
Central started with a 47-24 verdict against Centennial,winning 10 of 14 matches, and followed with the 43-33 triumph against Urbana, winning eight matches. The team closed it out by winning 12 bouts, topping St. Thomas More 72-12.
Every Central wrestler who took the mat posted at least one win.
“We’ve had so much adversity,” Warner said. “Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and yet we’re still all right.
“If we ever get healthy, who knows what we’re capable of.”
The Maroons are 8-6 in duals.
Kenton Walker (126 pounds) was one of Central’s individual winners who pulled through at the end. He needed a takedown with 2.4 seconds left to edge Centennial’s Terrace Davis 3-2.
Urbana had three repeat Twin City champions in the upper weights. Seniors Cameron Mammen (170), Alex Lynch (182) and Josh Pratt (285) were the triumphant Tigers. Lynch trailed Central’s Klein 4-2 entering the last period but won 5-4.
“I had the mind-set, ‘I don’t want to lose,’ ” Lynch said. “That’s how most of my matches have gone.
“I don’t like it to be normal, but it has happened before and I know how to react.”
Pratt won twice by pin and had a technical fall to capture his weight class for the third year in a row.
An All-Area football player, Pratt’s confidence from the fall has carried into the winter.
“I expect to dominate anybody I wrestle,” Pratt said.
Mammen became a four-time Twin City champion, posting two first-period pins to go with one forfeit win. Though he is 12-0 and has only been extended to the full six minutes in one match this season, he’s not yet satisfied.
“I need work on my technique, my shots and conditioning,” said Mammen, who has 93 career wins.
Tigers coach Charles Trabaris doesn’t like fast falls for Mammen.
“Getting some mat time is generally pretty good; the more the better,” Trabaris said. “We’re struggling to get him quality matches and want him to work on his moves.
“If he feels he has a good workout in, go ahead and finish it.”
Mammen’s pins were in 1:10 and 1:36 and came after he built leads of 12-1 and 10-2, respectively.
Centennial had six athletes win or share top honors in their weights. Two Charger seniors, Austen Schott (138) and Darren Wynn (145) were victorious.
They have each certified for the postseason at a lower weight, but coach Ed Mears said, “They are good enough they can go up a weight and be successful. Austen and Darren put a performance in.”
Another noteworthy win was by 120-pound junior Samuel Lack. He ended the day unbeaten following a 9-6 win over Urbana’s Chanc McQueen (who was 18-1), an opponent he lost to a week earlier at a tournament in Springfield.
Meet the champs
Meet champion Champaign Central had wrestlers win or share individual titles in seven of the 14 weight classes at Saturday’s Twin City meet at Urbana:
WEIGHT NAME SCHOOL YR. RECORD
106 Braedon Clopton Champaign Central Fr. 3-0
113 Joey Schott Jr. Centennial So. 2-1
113 J’Million Washington Champaign Central Jr. 2-1
120 Samuel Lack Centennial Jr. 3-0
126 Kenton Walker Champaign Central Sr. 3-0
132 Corbin Arnette Centennial So. 2-0
138 Austen Schott Centennial Sr. 3-0
145 Darren Wynn Centennial Sr. 2-0
152 Jarrod Rivera Champaign Central Sr. 3-0
152 Ethan Zinchuk Centennial So. 3-0
160 Indy Whalen Champaign Central Sr. 3-0
170 Cameron Mammen Urbana Sr. 3-0
182 Alex Lynch Urbana Sr. 3-0
195 Toby Rivera Champaign Central Jr. 3-0
220 Deondre Lemons Champaign Central Jr. 3-0
285 Josh Pratt Urbana Sr. 3-0
1. Champaign Central 3-0; 2. Centennial 2-1; 3. Urbana 1-2; 4. St. Thomas More 0-4.