CHAMPAIGN — Seniors Brendan Menacher and Josh Wallick understand the axiom of tournament wrestling: championships aren’t won on the first day, but they can be lost in the opening round.
Menacher, a 182-pounder from Monticello, and Wallick, a 285-pounder from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher, were efficient Thursday in their first-round Class 1A IHSA state tournament matches at State Farm Center.
Both entered the 77th annual meet as the top-ranked individual in their weight classes. Menacher scored two first-period takedowns and topped Alexander Velasquez, from Chicago Agricultural Science, 8-2. Defending state champion Wallick started defense of his title with a 55-second pin.
“Every kid here is good, and you constantly have to keep the pressure on,” Menacher said.
“At state, it’s a different kind of tournament; more intense,” Wallick said. “It’s good to get the first one out of the way quickly.”
Menacher and Wallick were among 32 Class 1A area athletes who qualified for state. They were among 13 who will compete in quarterfinal bouts Friday morning in a session that begins at 8:30.
The Sages and Prairie Central had the best success, each advancing three of their qualifiers. Joining Menacher for the Sages are Nick Tankersley (106) and Dylan Knisley (152). PC’s contenders are Tyler Bergstrahl (138), Sam Schuler (160) and Brett Bennett (285).
Knisley needed a third-period reversal to pull out a 5-4 win against Herscher’s Austin Renshaw.
“It wasn’t the match I wanted to start
off my senior year at state, but I’ll take the win,” said Knisley, who reached the quarterfinals for the first time. “We practice hard enough that when we get in those positions (needing points late), we can fight through it.”
Tankersley built a 9-1 lead over Lisle’s Drew Sonnefeldt and finished him off with a pin in 2 minutes, 26 seconds.
“It was a nice start,” the sophomore said. “I just went out doing what the coaches have taught me.”
Though he’s a first-time qualifier in the IHSA event, Tankersley wasn’t in awe of the surroundings.
“I’ve been in situations before where there’s pressure, and I’m pretty calm, for the most part,” he said.
Argenta-Oreana’s Nate Jozsa (138 pounds) continued his record-setting season. The unbeaten senior added to his state-record total for technical falls, making Beardstown’s Martin Orduno his 33rd victim with a 19-4 decision. Jozsa scored his first takedown three seconds after the match started and totaled five takedowns.
“I had to set the pace early, or otherwise you’re letting the other guy control the match,” Josza said. “I’m always trying to add to the technical-fall record. I think a technical fall is a better win.”
Though he has won all 40 of his matches this season, Jozsa isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“If you’re thinking about the finals, you’re thinking too far ahead,” he said. “It’s one match at a time here.”
His unbeaten teammate, 285-pound Tyler Ortmann, suffered his first loss when Aurora Central Catholic’s Eduardo Gonzalez scored a buzzer-beating takedown at the end of the match for a 3-1 triumph.
LeRoy’s two quarterfinalists are Alex Matlock (113) and Caleb Wilson (170). Matlock pulled out a dramatic 2-1 decision over Monticello’s Logan Knisley on a reversal with 16 seconds remaining in the bout.
“I’d never won a match in the championship round at state,” said Matlock, whose victory was sweeter because he was 0-3 against Knisley this season. “He’s a great wrestler. It feels great to still be in it.”
Wilson’s win wasn’t a last-second variety, but the returning state placer needed two third-period takedowns to break a 1-1 tie and get past Reed-Custer’s Jonathan Costain, 5-2.
Unity, St. Joseph-Ogden and Bismarck-Henning each have one wrestler in contention for a championship.
The Rockets’ Colton Reed (182) was tied with Wilmington’s Dexter Fierro 3-3 with less than 15 seconds to go in overtime when he registered a takedown and near fall for an 8-3 victory.
“Pretty nice to get that my first time at state,” Reed said. “I was nervous for the first match, but you can’t let it get in your head how big the place is.”
Bismarck-Henning’s Jarod Noel gave up a takedown with less than 30 seconds remaining, but a late reversal lifted him into an 8-7 triumph at 170 pounds over Coal City’s Riley Kauzlaric.
SJ-O’s Wesley Kibler (195) trailed Rock Falls’ Lucas Newburgh until a late takedown provided the decisive points in his 6-5 advancement.