Chart toppers: Fantastic freshman wrestlers, courtesy Fred Kroner
In wrestling, it is expected that the lower weight classes will be filled by ninth-graders. However, not all of the area’s elite freshmen this year are competing at 106 or 113 pounds. Here are five who have excelled throughout the season:
A product of SJ-O’s youth program (and a state medalist last year in the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation finals), Kibler (20-10) has stepped in at the upper weights and made an immediate impact. He has split time between the 182- and 195-pound weight classes. “He has the potential to have a career similar to Austin Upton (a senior who has a 34-1 record and qualified for state a year ago),” Spartans coach Richard Vetter said.
An IESA state champion as an eighth-grader, Roop has been a fixture in the varsity lineup since recovering from a football injury and is wrestling at his best the second half of the season. He has a 15-4 record, and LeRoy assistant Jeff Baughman said, “He’s a very unique freshman, mentally tough, physically mature, athletic and hardworking.” Roop is one of three freshmen (joining Brock Danko at 113 and Mason Beadles at 138) who’ve been in the lineup for the state-ranked 10-1 team.
St. Thomas More, 106
Cinnamon hasn’t had a concern about making weight this season. He tips the scales at 97 pounds but has compiled a 20-10 varsity record. His wins include one against a state-ranked opponent from Midwest Central, and he was the runner-up at Unity’s invitational and placed fourth at Urbana’s tournament. He was a three-time IKWF state qualifier, and Sabers coach Cord Schroeder said, “He has improved every week, and we look forward to what he will become.”
Weaver’s first varsity season features a 21-12 record and includes six losses, each by one point. “Aaron is a late starter in his matches,” Vikings coach Terrence Tetter said. “He doesn’t get started wrestling until he’s two or three points down. Aaron would have a much better record if he didn’t have this nasty habit.”
No. 5 (tie)
John Shobe, Mason Witzke
Clinton, 126 and 113
Shobe has a 23-13 record, and Mason Witzke is 24-12. “Both of these guys have been tough, hard-nosed kids who are putting in the work to get better each day,” Clinton coach Rob Meadors said. “They ran into some tough competition on our schedule and experienced some frustration. They are both pretty resilient kids and have done a great job moving past losses and learning from them.”
NEAR MISSES: Mahomet-Seymour’s Kody Hitchins, who is 12-7 on varsity at either 113 or 120; Danville’s Javeonte Crider, a 113-pounder with a 16-3 record whose losses are all to state-ranked grapplers; Hoopeston Area’s Gage Foster, who has a 16-5 record at 132.